Massachusetts parishioners file emergency motion to keep church open

Parishioners occupying a Massachusetts Catholic church for more than a decade have been granted a few more days to stay in the building by a state court.

On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Appeals Court issued a stay of a lower court's injunction that required parishioners to leave St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church in Scituate by 5 p.m. Friday until their emergency motion asking the court to keep the Boston archdiocese from evicting them parish property is heard.

The appeals court scheduled a hearing on the motion for 11 a.m. June 11.

Jon Rogers, a leader of Friends of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church, said the group disagreed with the May 14 decision of Norfolk County Superior Court Judge Edward Leibensperger, who gave parishioners 15 days to leave the church after hearing arguments in a lawsuit filed by the archdiocese seeking to remove parishioners from the property.

Rogers and his supporters filed an earlier emergency motion seeking a suspension of Leibensperger's original order pending an appeal. The judge denied the motion May 29 and set 5 p.m. on June 5 as a new deadline for parishioners to leave.

"We're praying for some resolution here," Rogers told Catholic News Service on Monday. "The thing we need to do is stop the archdiocese from destroying our church."

Rogers and a group of parishioners have held an around-the-clock vigil at the church since October 2004, when the archdiocese ordered the parish's closing under a broad restructuring plan.

Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley welcomed the May 14 judgment in a brief statement.

"We appreciate the court having taken the time to review this matter and issue a clear and thoughtful ruling. We ask the Friends of St. Frances to respect that decision and conclude the vigil. The parishes of the archdiocese welcome and invite those involved with the vigil to participate and join in the fullness of parish life," the cardinal said.

Terrence J. Donilon, archdiocesan director of communications declined additional comment after Leibensperger's May 29 decision.

Rogers said he was unsure of what parishioners would do come June 5.

"The last thing we want to do is be arrested," he said. "I think arrests and jail should be reserved for pedophile priests."

About 50 parishioners gathered for Mass May 31 in what could be the last gathering in the church for the group. Rogers declined to elaborate on other plans that parishioners may undertake.

"There's a ton of anger around here," he said. "There's anger that this organization [the archdiocese] has been allowed to destroy lives of individuals, families and communities. When does the destruction stop?"

Rogers expressed concern that the archdiocese would raze the church soon after the June 5 deadline passes. "What will we be fighting for? A vacant parking lot?" he asked.

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