Pope denies appeal of Boston parish closings

January 5, 2011

(RNS) After a lengthy appeals process, the Vatican has ruled that
nine Boston-area Catholic parishes should be closed despite six-year
vigils and other forms of protest from parishioners.


In a letter dated Dec. 15, the Vatican's Secretariat of State said
Pope Benedict XVI had "decided not to accept" an appeal from the Council
of Parishes, which represents parishioners fighting to keep their
churches open.


The decision brings new pressure to end a drawn-out standoff between
the Archdiocese of Boston, which closed 66 parishes in the wake of the
clergy sexual abuse crisis, and groups of disgruntled parishioners who
continue to occupy five church buildings after years of round-the-clock
vigils.


Peter Borre, chairman of the Council of Parishes, said the
Archdiocese could still reverse its decision, as it has in past cases,
and re-open the parishes in question. He's working toward that outcome,
he said.


Vigil keepers, meanwhile, remain resolute. Jon Rogers, spokesman for
the vigil at St. Francis X. Cabrini Parish in Scituate, said his group
could potentially negotiate to buy the property or to see it put to a
new diocesan use. Either way, the building must remain a site of
worship, he said, and his group has a separate appeal pending with the
Vatican.


Archdiocesan authorities "can give us what we want," Rogers said.
"Or they can arrest us."


The archdiocese is "not interested in applying pressure," according
to spokesman Terrence Donilon, but "would welcome additional talks" to
end the impasse.


"We're getting to the point where it's really time to move on,"
Donilon said. "That should not come as a signal that we're ready to take
some kind of aggressive action. We're not. We're not interested in that.
But we do have to find a way to end these" vigils.