TWO churches have been shut within Scotland's largest Catholic diocese as congregations brace themselves for a wave of parish closures and mergers across the west of the country.

All Saints in Glasgow's Barmulloch area closed in recent weeks, with a service presided over by the country's leading Catholic cleric, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, marking the event.

The church was built in the late 1960s and sits in the shadow of the notorious Red Road Flats, which are earmarked for imminent demolition.

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With all but one of the high-rise blocks now empty, numbers attending All Saints have dropped dramatically in recent years.

The closure was preceded by that of St Philips in Ruchazie, in the north-east of Glasgow.

That church also suffered from dwindling congregations and was shut in May, with the parish merging with nearby St Maria Goretti,

The leading archdiocesan cleric overseeing the review of parishes said "there was no advantage in holding off" on their closures, which were "sad but inevitable decisions".

Shrinking congregations, most notably in council schemes built in the 1950s and 1960s, and a shortage of priests, are behind a major rationalisation programme.

As many as half the parishes across the west of Scotland have been at risk of closure and merger,

The Archdiocese is expecting to have just 45 priests within two decades, enough for fewer than half its current number of parishes.

Detailed options being discussed in each of the Archdiocese's nine deaneries suggest dramatic change is on the way.

In recent months talks have taken place with each deanery, essentially a cluster of parishes, with reports and recommendations now forwarded to Archbishop Tartaglia.

Monsignor Paul Conroy, Vicar General of the Archdiocese, said: "These two cases were ­exceptional, and were considered outside the wider consultation.

"That wider consideration of parish provision is ongoing. We have now consulted every area of the archdiocese, asking people to give us their ideas about how best the Church should deploy its resources in the years ahead.

"The Archbishop will now consider the responses which have been received and they will form the basis of the next steps in the process.

"While this will inevitably involve further parish closures and mergers we will ensure that no community is left without the best possible level of ministry and pastoral care."

All Saints, which shut its doors on July 13 with a procession around the parish, first opened in autumn 1971, catering for a huge congregation drawn from those who had moved into the Red Road Flats in the late 1960s.

Initially thriving, with choirs and community groups, much of the congregation drifted away over the years, although some All Saints parishioners from day one remained.

Speaking to the Archdiocese monthly newspaper Flourish, parishioner Mattie McCormick said the closure had been an emotional experience.

She said All Saints had been "second to none in its friendliness and its welcoming atmosphere".

She added: "We were a poor parish but we had many genuine selfless people and were blessed by a succession of good priests."

Archbishop Tartaglia added: "All Saints will not die.

"The people, the patrimony, the roots, will become part of St Catherine's."