Fire engulfs 163-year-old Catholic church in Scotland

St. Simon’s, Partick, in Glasgow, Scotland St. Simon’s, Partick, in Glasgow, Scotland./ Lirazelf via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

More than 30 firefighters tackled a devastating fire at a Catholic church in Glasgow, Scotland, in the early hours of Wednesday.

One person was rescued after the firefighters were called out following reports of a fire at St. Simon’s, Partick, on July 28.

Photos shared on social media showed flames shooting out of a church window and into the street.

The incident occurred two days after a Catholic priest was attacked by a man wielding a glass bottle as he prayed at a cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city.

Scotland’s Health Minister Humza Yousaf referred to the assault as he expressed his sympathy for the Catholic community following the fire.

“What a devastating couple of days for Catholics in Scotland,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “First a cowardly attack on a priest in his place of worship, followed by this. I know St. Simon’s had a special place in the Polish community’s heart.”

“Solidarity with our Catholic community in Scotland.”

Pope Francis is expected to visit Scotland “for a very short time” in November, a spokesperson for the country’s bishops’ conference said earlier this month.

The pope is likely to attend the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) taking place in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, on Nov. 1-12.

According to the parish website, St. Simon’s is the third-oldest Catholic church in Glasgow after St. Andrew’s Cathedral and St. Mary’s in the city’s East End.

It was opened in 1858 by Fr. Daniel Gallagher, an Irish priest who taught Latin to the explorer David Livingstone, enabling him to enter medical school.

The church, originally called St. Peter’s, was used by Polish soldiers during the Second World War and became known as the Polish Church. Masses in Polish continue to be celebrated at the church.

The church was fully restored between 2005 and 2008 for its 150th anniversary.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said: “We were alerted at 2.40 a.m. on Wednesday, July 28 to reports of a fire within a church on Partick Bridge Street, Partick, Glasgow.”

“Operations Control mobilised six fire appliances including two height appliances and more than 30 firefighters are in attendance and working to extinguish the fire.”

“One person was assisted from the property and given precautionary treatment at the scene. Adjacent properties have been evacuated as a precautionary measure and nearby residents are advised to keep windows and doors closed due to smoke.”

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“Road users should avoid the area to allow access for emergency service vehicles and due to road closures.”

“Crews are expected to remain in attendance for some time.”

The cause of the fire is being investigated.

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