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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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Archbishops backing religious centre vision for Rose Castle

England's most senior clergymen are backing a campaign to buy the Bishop of Carlisle’s historic former home.

Rose Castle photo
Rose Castle

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are said to support the vision for creating a specialist religious centre at Rose Castle.

Plans have been unveiled for the Grade I-listed mansion, near Dalston, to become an international Christian centre for reconciliation.

That would see it become a base for work to break down divides between people of different faiths and encourage greater understandings between them.

The Rose Castle Foundation, chaired by the Rt Rev James Newcome, the current Bishop of Carlisle, was officially launched during an event at the venue on Sunday.

Those there were told: “The Archbishop of Canterbury has established the need for reconciliation as a top priority for the church. He and the Archbishop of York are fully supporting this future vision for the castle.”

The foundation, a not-for-profit organisation with charitable objectives, has been launched in a last-ditch attempt to buy Rose Castle.

There was an angry reaction in 2011 when the Church Commissioners’ assets committee agreed a sale in principle of the historic house.

Petitions were launched and campaigners rallied to save it, prompting the commissioners to postpone any sale “in recognition of local and national feeling and of the castle’s great spiritual, historic and architectural significance”.

The Friends of Rose Castle was founded to help raise the funds, and the group was given until this autumn to buy it. But various plans to install project officers, open it up to the public, and use it as a venue have never properly taken off. If the new foundation doesn’t raise the money needed to buy the castle by June, it will be sold.

A fundraising appeal has now been launched. People with legal, financial, business and cash-generating skills are being sought to support those efforts.

Detailing their hope for the castle, the foundation states: “Rose Castle has witnessed 800 years of conflict over contested territory, but a new vision for its future hopes to turn history on its head.

“The Rose Castle Foundation plans to reopen its doors as an international centre for reconciliation to which all are welcome, irrespective of belief or culture.

“The foundation aims to facilitate dialogue and joint action across religious-secular divides and within and between religiously diverse communities.

“Reconciliation is sought on the basis of greater understanding of difference, not artificial compromise.”

Faith leaders and religious experts from the universities of Cumbria, Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, Lancaster and London are already feeding into the programme of work that could be carried out at Rose Castle

Using the castle’s position on the edge of the Lake District National Park, supporters hope to base a conservation programme there.

Cumbria Building Preservation Trust is a key player in the foundation.

A spokesman said: “Trustees have campaigned to keep the building in public ownership and have negotiated a licence for access from Church Commissioners to enable them to find a solution.”

Bishop James is excited by the prospects for the castle and the centre plan.

Speaking last month, he said: “It will be very exciting for Cumbria – there are very few such places around.”

Anyone interested in supporting the Rose Castle campaign can contact Sarah Snyder on 017687 73430 or email bishop.carlisle@CarlisleDiocese.org.uk.

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