BELMONT’S HOLY WAR
DAVID AND GOLIATH BATTLE AS PARISH PRIEST TAKES CHURCH TO COURT
A LOCAL Roman Catholic priest is taking the Archbishop of Perth to court over a dispute about the property on which his church is located, amid concerns services will have to stop if part of the land is sold.
In a writ filed in WA’s Supreme Court last month, Father Michael Rowe is seeking compensation or an injunction preventing Archbishop Timothy Costelloe from trying to sell the land without his consent.
The Perth Roman Catholic Archbishop is the registered owner of the land on which the St Anne’s Church in Belmont is located — as well as the presbytery, St Anne’s hall, St Anne’s office and St Anne’s garage.
Fr Rowe has been offering Mass at the church and paid for renovations — including repairs and the instalment of amenities such as air-conditioning, improved lighting and a gas barbecue outside the church — from St Anne’s collections, donations from the community and from his own pocket.
Last October Archbishop Costelloe amalgamated the Belmont parish with the nearby Redcliffe and Cloverdale parishes.
The priest of this new parish has requested Archbishop Costelloe permit the sale of a portion of the land — and according to the writ Archbishop Costelloe has suggested he might permit this sale.
According to the statement of claim, Fr Rowe and the church community would “suffer detriment” if this were to occur.
Fr Rowe claimed he and the church community paid for repairs and renovations based on the assumption that St Anne’s Community would hold property.
Fr Rowe claims the sale of even part of the land would make it practically impossible for services to be held there on a regular basis because of the the loss of toilets and parking space.
He is seeking a declaration that the Archbishop holds legal title to the land upon constructive trust for Fr Rowe and the St Anne’s Community.
Failing that, he is seeking compensation from the Archbishop or an injunction restricting him from attempting to sell the land without Fr Rowe’s consent.
In response to the claims, a church spokesman said: “The Archdiocese of Perth and Fr Michael Rowe, rector of Saint Anne’s Church in Belmont, are in ongoing discussions concerning the property on which St Anne’s Church is situated.
“It is hoped that a solution acceptable to all involved in this matter can be found as soon as possible.”
Turf war: St Anne’s Church in Belmont, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, below, and parish priest Father Michael Rowe, below right.