No Ruling in Mater Dolorosa Hearing

By Shannon Halligan
January 4, 2012

[with video]

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) - They packed the courthouse, but neither side of the Mater Dolorosa Church controversy got the answer they have been waiting for.

It's been over 6 months since the Springfield Diocese closed the Mater Dolorosa Church in Holyoke. But since then, parishioners have held a constant vigil inside vowing to stay.

Wednesday, a hearing was held to determine if these parishioners are in fact trespassing, but the judge has not yet made a decision.

More than 60 parishioners of the closed down Mater Dolorosa church poured into the Springfield courtroom.

Parishioners say it's their freedom of religion to be there. "There's a clash of rights here and since we are paid parishioners we believe we have rights here to be there and continue on until Rome decides on our appeal to keep our church open," said parishioner Victor Anop.

They've been holding a constant vigil at the Holyoke church for over 6 months now. Right now, Mater Dolorosa has a request into the Vatican to reconsider closing down the place of worship. But the Bishop of Springfield says these people are trespassing on their property.

Springfield Attorney John Egan, representing the Diocese, told 22News, "If we didn't do that then any church could be subject to trespassing they could do nothing about it so I'm confident that in the long run it will be decided that we have the same rights as anyone else.

This is the second time that the Bishop has taken parishioners to court, the first time was in October citing a restraining order saying that the steeple was inadequate. That time the judge denied that restraining order. This time the judge has not yet made a decision.

But parishioners hope to be back in their church at least until Rome makes their final decision. "I hope the parish can stay open," said Carl Zieminski, "I hope the Bishop leaves, we get a new Bishop and we open the church."

Right now there are 6 other churches in Massachusetts that are holding similar vigils.

Parishioners also brought up other stipulations such as the fact that the bishop never filled out proper paperwork to as head of the Springfield Diocese to be able to even file the lawsuit in the first place.

22News will continue to keep you updated on this battle as it unfolds.


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