The Vatican has ruled that the Massachusetts diocese of Springfield did not adequately justify its decision to close two churches in Chicopee, St. Patrick and St. George, and a third in Adams, St. Stanislaus Kostka.
The complexly written, four-page decree from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy supports the appeal by St. Stan parishioners to keep the church open as a divine place of worship. The decree was signed by prefect Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, the Berkshire Eagle reports.
The decree upheld the right of Bishop Timothy A McDonnell to “suppress and merge” all the Roman Catholic parishes of Adams and to locate the newly formed Parish of Pope John Paul the Great at the former Notre Dame Church.
However, the decree takes issue with the closing of St. Stan’s church, stating that the reasons given by the diocese for the building’s closure in December 2008 were not justified.
The decree states the church building must be re-opened as a place of worship but does not define how McDonnell should proceed.
The Vatican decree gives the group 60 days to appeal the suppression of the parish to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura — which, apart from the pope, is the highest judicial authority of the Catholic Church.
â€œAfter seven years, we have scored a major win,â€™â€™ Peter Borre of the Council of Parishes, which has contested church closings in the Boston area, told Boston.com. â€œI believe this is a landmark ruling.â€™â€™
The Vatican said that Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell of Springfield acted appropriately in deciding to close or merge the parishes as legal units of the diocese, but not in converting the church buildings from religious to secular use. Supporters of the closed parishes suggested that perhaps they could continue to pray in the church buildings, but the buildings could be overseen by other existing parishes or directly by the diocese.
Mark Dupont, a spokesman for the Springfield Diocese, said canon lawyers are reviewing the Adams decision, but had not received rulings regarding the two Chicopee parishes.
In a press release, parishioners in Adams said the decision â€œoverturns the decree that resulted in the canonical closing of our church,â€™â€™ but acknowledged that diocese officials had wide latitude in how to implement it.
â€œOver 200 parishioners of St. Stanâ€™s have been in a 24/7 peaceful and prayerful vigil since Dec. 26, 2008,â€™â€™ said the statement, signed by Laurie Haas of Adams. â€œWe look forward to a respectful dialogue with Bishop McDonnell in an effort to bring our vigil to a conclusion and to reopen St. Stanâ€™s church in a manner that will best serve the interests of the Catholic Community of Adams, as well as the Diocese of Springfield.â€™â€™
Vatican halts closing of 3 Mass. parishes (Boston.com)
Vatican: St. Stan’s must re-open as place of worship (Berkshire Eagle)