Parishioners of Closed Churches Try Last-ditch Appeal to the Pope

By Martin Finucane
Boston Globe
October 19, 2010

Parishioners from nine Roman Catholic churches that were closed by the Boston archdiocese are trying a last-ditch tactic to save them: a direct appeal to the pope, activists said today.

Peter Borre, head of the Council of Parishes, which represents Catholics opposed to closing the parishes, said he handed the appeal today to a member of the Swiss Guard at the Vatican. Borre said he was assured that the appeal would be routed to a top Vatican official.

"It is the last step in a process that's been going on for over six years," Borre said by cellphone from Italy this afternoon.

He said the parishes had exhausted their options under church law and were now making a policy appeal to Pope Benedict.

"We think that, as a matter of policy, it is unwise for the archdiocese of Boston to close strong, financially viable parishes," he said. "Many of the parishes that have been closed in the archdiocese have been closed simply to grab their assets -- bank account and real estate -- we object strongly to that and, hence, this is where we are."

Terrence C. Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said in an e-mailed statement that church officials had not had time to review the latest letter.

But he said that the appeal process under church law had been "a lengthy and thorough effort which included participation by the highest court in the Vatican, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura."

"When the Signatura makes a ruling it does so in the name of the Holy Father. ... There are no further appeals options available to the petitioners," he said.

Donilon also said the cost of not closing the churches is "not something we can continue to sustain for an extended period of time."

"The Archdiocese continues to seek a peaceful and prayerful resolution to the vigils," he said.

The archdiocese announced six years ago that it was closing dozens of parishes in an effort to address a priest shortage, tight finances, and dwindling Mass attendance. In some cases, parishioners balked, holding vigils in the churches to keep them open.

Now, the days of the last five remaining vigils appear to be numbered, the Globe reported last month.


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