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Pressure grows on vicar's future; Bishop says popular minister 'must go' on 70th birthday.

Byline: ALAN WESTON @alanweston

THE Bishop of Livei rpool was facing mounting pressure today to reverse a decision to force through the retirement of a popular innercity vicar.

The Rev Robert Gallagher, w r ho has been in charge at St Margaret's church, in Toxteth, for 23 years, has been battling a ruling which says he must retire when he reaches his 70th birthday later this month. Although Church of England rules state that a vicar should step down when he reaches the age of 70, the bishop has the discretion to extend his tenure by up to two years under "exceptional circumstances".

A petition calling on the Rt Rev James Jones to allow the vicar to remain has so far reached around 600 signatures.

Campaigners said Rev Gallagher was a key member of the community served by his church.

Despite this, the Diocese of Live i rpool has reiterated its determination to force Rev Gallagher to step down on August 19 - the day after the Bishop of Live i rpool himself voluntarily retires on his 65th birthday.

The Rev Gallagher said: "In this day and age, I see no reason why I cannot work beyond 70 years, and the law of the land supports me, so I applied."

He said the actions of the Diocese were "unfair and unjust".

A joint letter signed by Ste Fleming, the church warden at St Margaret's, Maria Paul, assistant director at the Black-E community centre, and Sister Catherine Ordita, general secretary of Live i rpool Muslim Society, has now been sent to Bishop Jones.

It said: "We urge you to reconsider and reverse your decision, in adva d nceofthe receipt of a request for you to graciously receive i in person a growing petition seeking just such a change of heart."

The Diocese of Liverpool said Rev Gallagher would be allowe o d to stay in the vicarage for a limited period after his retirement, but he would no longer have a the right to conduct any church services.

A spokesman for the Diocese said: "We are aware of a campaign asking the Bishop to consider extending the Rev Robert Gallagher's time in office.

"While we acknowledge their feelings, it doesn't alter the fact that under ecclesiastical law there is no grounds for an extension and Father Robert will retire on August 19.

"We w W ill then announce details of how we intend to continue worship at St Margaret's Toxteth."

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BATTLE: The Rev Robert Gallagher, Vicar of St Margaret of Antioch Church, Toxteth Picture: ANDREW TEEBAY
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 8, 2013
Words:426
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