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LEDGER UPDATE: Easter service at closed church

By DENNIS TATZ | The Patriot Ledger

Eight hundred and ninety-three days have passed since parishioners of St. Frances Cabrini Church began an around-the-clock vigil to prevent the Boston Catholic Archdiocese from shuttering their church.

And if yesterday’s Easter service, attended by more than 200 people, is any indication, they are ready to go 893 more days to persuade Cardinal Sean O’Malley to keep their church open.

‘‘We are still holding strong,’’ said Jon Rogers, spokesman for the parishioners. ‘‘We want our parish back and a fully functioning church.’’

The service was led by a lay member, and an unnamed priest blessed the hosts in advance so parishioners could receive Communion.

‘‘I’m overwhelmed by the support and dedication from the people who have been there from day one and the new faces,’’ Rogers said. ‘‘The commitment of the people is strengthened. Rather than sitting in the sidelines, they are joining us.’’

Archdiocesan spokesman Terry Donilon did not return a phone call seeking comment yesterday.

The Scituate church was one of 67 parishes ordered closed by the archdiocese as part of a cost-cutting reconfiguration in 2004. St. Albert’s Church in Weymouth later won reinstatement.

In January, a Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the parishioners against Cardinal O’Malley.

The court ruling is being appealed, Rogers said. A hearing date has not been scheduled.

Rogers said the parishioners hope to present their case to a jury.

‘‘It’s important that the people finally get to speak on this,’’ he said.

Parishioners at St. Frances and four other closed churches have argued in civil suits that they - not the archdiocese - should be declared the owners of their churches.

Three of the five cases have been dismissed.

The Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s appeals court, has agreed to hear St. Frances parishioners’ arguments for reopening their church.

Colin Riley, a parishioner at St., Albert’s, said yesterday that St. Frances churchgoers should be praised for their perseverance and that other Catholics should support their efforts.

Riley said some parishioners from St. Albert’s traveled to St. Frances Cabrini and other closed churches in Everett, Wellesley, Framingham and East Boston that were holding vigils on Palm Sunday last week.

‘‘What they have done is rather extraordinary,’’ he said. ‘‘It bothers me that here on Easter Sunday, the holiest day of our year, the archdiocese still hasn’t seen fit to resolve these issues in recognition of the faith these people have shown.’’

The church-closing process was flawed and the archdiocese should admit that it made a mistake, Riley said.

‘‘It’s heartbreaking,’’ he said. ‘‘ We pray for them every week.’’

Dennis Tatz may be reached at dtatz@ledger.com .

Copyright 2007 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Monday, April 09, 2007