CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) - A decision by the Vatican has ensured that three closed Catholic churches will not re-open as parishes.
Mark Dupont, spokesperson for the Diocese of Springfield, told 22News that the closures of St. Patrick's Parish and St. George's Parish in Chicopee, and St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in Adams have been upheld by the Apostolic Signatura, which is the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church next to Pope Benedict XVI himself.
A ruling earlier in the year by the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy had found that the Diocese had not provided "necessary grave motivations" for closing the churches, but there was no timetable set to re-open the churches. The Diocese had sought clarification from the Vatican.
Though the Signatura upheld the closing of the three parishes, it also found that the Diocese "did not provide sufficient cause to reduce the churches in question to ‘profane,'" meaning that the church buildings cannot be used for non-religious purposes. Dupont says that this finding does not mean that the buildings must be used regularly for religious worship.
Monsignor John Bonzagni told 22News Rome can't relate to their troubles, because churches there are paid for by the government, not the diocese. "When this issue from America was first brought to the congregations they kind of went, 'well why don't you do what we do, have a concordat with the state government and have the state take it over?' So we had to have a civics lesson in the First Amendment and separation of church and state."
In a statement, Dupont says that even occasional use of the church buildings could put a financial strain on the parishes that replaced them. He says that the Diocese will work with canon lawyers and those successor parishes about what to do next.
The three churches were closed more than two years ago, during a round of parish closings and mergers. Parishioners at St. Stanislaus Kostka had been holding vigil at their church building since December of 2008.