01 July 2015, The Tablet

Manchester chapel saved from conversion to Muslim prayer room

Catholics in Manchester have won a battle to keep the chapel at North Manchester General Hospital from being turned into a Muslim prayer room.

More than 6,000 people signed a petition protesting against the Spiritual Care Chaplaincy team’s proposal to convert St Raphael’s chapel. The Catholic Chaplain, Fr Ray Matus, welcomed the decision, pointing out that the 15-year-old chapel was popular with patients and staff.

“The chapel is right on the main corridor. People love it – it’s very small, but much appreciated. Lots of people pop in who just want a quiet five minutes,” he said.

North Manchester General Hospital, which is in Crumpsall in the north of the city, currently has two chapels and two Muslim prayer rooms, as well as a Jewish Shabbat room.

The priest who started the online petition against the proposals, Ged Murphy, parish priest of St Patrick’s and St Malachy’s in Collyhurst, said that under the hospital’s original proposals Catholics and Anglicans would have shared a chapel.

Welcoming the hospital’s response on Tuesday he said: “Thanks to all for their support, including members of the Muslim community who signed the petition. We succeeded in persuading the Chaplaincy to change their mind. Hopefully, they can now make progress with providing a space for the Muslim community which suits everyone.”

A spokesman for the hospital, Revd John Hall from The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, confirmed that the Trust had no plans to close the “important and well used” chapel.

“As part of our efforts to improve our faith and spiritual care services across our hospitals, we are currently looking at how we can improve the access, availability and standard of our facilities for those of all faiths,” he added.

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