Saints relics in the altar and the de-consecration of a church

Not sure this is the correct forum but hoping that somebody can answer. In 1998, the church building of the parish next door to mine was closed because it was structurally unsafe and the financial cost of repairing it was too great. Also, the church was what is referred to in England as a “Grade 2 Listed Building” which places certain limitations on the kind of work that can be done on the structure.

The church itself was “deconsecrated” by the bishop and a side altar was removed into a room in the social centre, which is now used for Mass, etc. However the large high altar of the old church, which I’m assuming should have contained the relics of saints, had a large granite mensa with no obvious altar stone to contain them. So I’m assuming that the relics must somehow have been “built into” the altar. The church building has been closed ever since, has become derelict and has been used by e.g. drug users. The plaster is crumbling from the walls and the high altar has been sprayed with graffiti.

My question is, what is involved with deconsecrating a church? Could/should any relics have been removed from the church? ANd is there some issue of sacrelige if anything like relics has remained in the church considering the details I’ve given?

I’ve heard of all sorts of deconstruction procedures in closed churches, among them transferring relics to other parishes, but haven’t researched the religious implications or regulations involved.

There are church salvage companies who will only sell church items to other churches or to members of the clergy. There are also secular salvage companies who sell items to antique dealers, architects, and the general public. I’ve seen holy water fonts from closed or renovated churches sold on ebay.

For example, a large cathedral in the city near where I live now was demolished in the late 1970s. I was a little shocked when I went to a high end restaurant and noted that one of the confessional booths had been repurposed into a bank of phone booths.

It’s a good question: Our current bishop is closing quite a few churches and merging parishes.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.