The Vatican has denied an appeal by parishioners holding vigil at the long-shuttered St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church in Scituate to reverse the deconsecration of the church, according to a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston.
The parish was closed and the doors locked by the archdiocese in October of 2004, but parishioners slipped in through a forgotten door and have been holding a round-the-clock vigil ever since.
The church was deconsecrated last July. Deconsecration turns a house of worship into a secular building.
Despite the Vatican’s ruling, parishioners vowed to keep fighting.
“The story hasn’t changed,” said Jon Rogers, a spokesman for the St. Frances group, who received the denial on Monday. The document is dated May 4, he said.
The Vatican's decision will not change the parishioners’ resolve, said Rogers. “We plan to exhaust every appeal open to us.”
The group has previously appealed the closing of the church, according to the archdiocese. The Vatican denied that appeal.
A spokesman for the archdiocese called for the vigil to end.
“The Archdiocese continues to work toward a peaceful and prayerful resolution to this vigil. The reality is that those who are participating in this protest are missing out on the fullness of parish life by refusing to end their protest,” said spokesman Terrence Donilon in an email. “Out of pastoral concern for all impacted by the closing of St. Frances, the Archdiocese has allowed the vigil to continue for several years. For the good of our Catholic family the time has come for this vigil to end.”
Rogers said that parishioners have no intention of giving up their parish. They have been in vigil for 2,757 days, according to a ticker on their website that updates by the second.
“Our next appeal process is to the Apostolic Signatura [the highest court of the Vatican], we anticipate doing that,” he said. “That is something we’re committed to do. We made a promise from day one, and we keep our promises, that we will use every appeal process available to us until the very end.”
Rogers said he wanted time to study the decree before he would comment further.
St. Frances is one of just a handful of churches still in vigil after the 2004 reconfiguration of the Archdiocese. Before that, there were 357 parishes in the archdiocese, according to Donilon; today, there are 288.
Eight of those shuttered churches began vigils. Today, only three – including St. Frances – remain occupied. St. James the Great in Wellesley and St. Therese in Everett are also still in vigil, according to the archdiocese.
The archdiocese has repeatedly called for the vigils to end, and recently has begun moving to make it happen.
Last month, the archdiocese changed the locks at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in East Boston, effectively ending a vigil there.
In early April, the archdiocese signed a purchase and sale agreement with the town of Wellesley for the sale of St. James the Great Church, which has been occupied by parishioners since its closing in 2004. The sale is dependent on Town Meeting approval.
Like St. Frances, St. James was deconsecrated last July, and the Vatican denied an appeal by the parishioners to reverse the deconsecration. A spokeswoman for the group said they are still considering whether to pursue a final appeal with the Vatican’s highest court.
The archdiocese sold the rectory at St. Frances at the end of January.
Donilon said that the St. Frances parishioners are pushing for a confrontation that the archdiocese does not want. He declined to say whether the archdiocese would consider changing the locks on the parish, calling it hypothetical, but said that the vigil has to end at some point.
“The Archdiocese has been extremely patient throughout this process,” said Donilon. “We said we would take no action while the closings were under appeal… that process concluded in late 2011. We made no such promises with regards to the profane use appeals.”
Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org