Former Presbyterian church bought by Catholic order which celebrates Latin Mass
A former Presbyterian church in north Belfast has been bought by a Catholic order which celebrates the Latin Mass.
Fortwilliam and Macrory Presbyterian Church on the Antrim Road, which served as a place of worship for 133 years, closed in October last year.
The listed building has now been bought by the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.
Members of the order have recently moved to the north Belfast site. However, public Masses have not yet been celebrated.
The institute, which is also based in Limerick, operates separately from the Diocese of Down and Connor.
However, Bishop Noel Treanor has given it permission to establish itself in the diocese.
The Institute of Christ the King celebrates the Latin Mass according to the edition promoted by Pope John XXIII in 1962.
In 2007, Pope Benedict authorized the continued use of the 1962 Latin Mass, under certain conditions. Earlier forms are not approved by the Catholic Church.
Latin Masses are already said every Sunday at St Therese of Lisieux Church on Somerton Road in north Belfast.
It has not yet been decided whether these will be transferred to the Fortwilliam church after it opens to the public.
In a statement, the institute said the Latin Mass "attracts today an increasing number of people, especially young adults, students and families".
"The cost of purchasing the Fortwilliam and Macrory church has been met by an interest-free loan which the Institute of Christ the King will have to reimburse over the next five years," it said.
"The institute wishes to bring the uplifting beauty of sacred worship and genuine culture to all."
The institute established its Irish headquarters in Limerick in 2006.
The Fortwilliam church will have an emphasis on retreat days, culture, sacred music, spiritual direction, and charitable events.
The institute is known for promoting the arts, especially sacred music and architecture.
Founded in 1990, the order has 115 priests in countries including the United States, England, France, Spain, Italy and Gabon and more than 50 religious sisters, who live a semi-cloistered life.
A total of 90 seminarians are training for the priesthood at the institute's seminary in Florence.