Parishioners holding a peaceful protest at a closed Catholic church in Boston have been ordered by a Massachusetts judge to leave the property. The vigil, spanning over more than a decade, is likely to end soon, after the group’s request to suspend the court order was denied on Friday.
The protesters, known as the Friends of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church, have been holding their vigil at the Scituate, Massachusetts, church for nearly 11 years, ever since the U.S. Roman Catholic Church decided to close the parish. The decision came amidst a 2004 sex scandal that shook the Archdiocese of Boston, but the parishioners want to either see the church restored or sold to them.
Earlier this month, Norfolk County Superior Court Judge Edward Leibensperger labeled the St. Frances parishioners as trespassers and ordered them to leave the archdiocese property by the end of May. The group appealed the ruling, but all they gained was a few weeks delay. Judge Leibensperger stood by his decision, and now the protesters have until June 5 to leave the building.
“Defendants may, of course, continue their protest of the decision to close the parish, but they may not do so by an around-the-clock vigil in violation of the property rights established by neutral principles of property law,” the court ruling stated.
However, the parishioners don’t seem too down-hearted. They believe that after keeping the church open for the past 11 years, nothing can stop them to see the building restored to its former glory. Maryellen Rogers, leader of the Friends of St. Frances, argued they haven’t exhausted every legal option at their disposal.
“We just found out this afternoon and so we’re going to the court of appeals. We have to exhaust every level of appeal,” Rogers said. “I can’t even comment on that.” The group’s lawyers are preparing another appeal for next week, hoping to see an emergency suspension of the judge’s order.
The determination of the protesters is truly remarkable, as they managed to set a decade-long round-the-clock vigil by praying, quilting, even sleeping in the closed building. Some witnesses were impressed by their commitment and described the parishioners as truly living their faith.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston did not fully agree with judge Leibensperger’s delay, but so far remained silent on what it will do if the protesters refuse to leave the premises. Its spokesman refrained from making any comments after Friday’s ruling.
Image Source: WGBH News