A church in Scituate, Massachusetts, finally closed Sunday after parishioners brought their 11-year, 24-hours-a-day occupation of the building to an end.
Around 100 die-hard worshipers at St. Frances X. Cabrini Church had occupied the building ever since the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston officially ‘closed’ it in October 2004.
But their fight ended this month when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their final appeal. With nowhere else to turn, they held a final service Sunday before leaving the building.
Vigil: Parishioners carry quilts made to commemorate their 11-year vigil at the St. Frances X. Cabrini Church in Massachusetts. The church was officially ‘closed’ in 2004, but was kept open by the occupation
Closure: The church closed after a final Mass on Sunday. Locals had fought the closure all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled this month that the Vatican had the right to close the building down
Emotional: Many parishioners wept and hugged as the church they had worshiped at for decades finally closed. The closure order came after the child abuse scandal that began in Boston but spread across the U.S.
The parishoners – many of whom have attended the church for decades – called the service a ‘celebration of faith and transition,’ the parishioners said, before leaving the church.
Dozens of parishioners gathered in the church’s entryway ahead of the service, many of them embracing.
During the service, a handful of empty pews dotted a sea of churchgoers, many of whom openly cried.
About a dozen quilts, some of them depicting each year of the vigil, decorated the church’s walls. At the service’s conclusion, families retrieved the quilts and formed a procession, carrying them down the aisles and out of the building.
The case to keep the church open was heard in civil courts and went all the way to the Vatican, but the parishioners were unsuccessful in persuading church officials to keep St. Frances open.
Hugs: Losing the church was an emotional moment for the community, despite a history that saw it served by two priests tied to the child abuse crisis. One was defrocked and the other faced a lawsuit
A Superior Court judge ruled that the archdiocese was the legal owner of the church property and had the right to evict the parishioners occupying the church building. That ruling was upheld by the state Appeals Court.
St. Frances X. Cabrini was one of more than 75 parishes closed by the archdiocese to deal with declining Mass attendance, a shortage of priests and deteriorating church buildings.
The closings came after a clergy sex abuse crisis rocked the Catholic Church, starting in Boston but extending throughout the world.
Two priests who worked at St. Frances X. Cabrini were tied to the abuse crisis, The Boston Globe reported. One was defrocked and another faced a lawsuit.
A third priest, who was defrocked in 1998 and murdered in prison in 2003 after fondling a 10-year-old boy, also visited the church.
St. Frances X. Cabrini was not the only church facing closure that was kept open by a rebellious flock – at one point, nine churches were occupied by parishioners – but it was the last to remain occupied.
The archdiocese hopes the protesters will go to another parish within the district, its spokesman, Terrence Donilon, said.
Moving on: The archdiocese said it hoped that the parishioners would move on to worship at another church