Parishioners at St. James the Great in Wellesley this week suspended their vigil, which began more than seven years ago to protest the Archdiocese's decision to close the church.
The Apostolic Signatura has agreed to review the parishioners’ final appeal, but the Vatican's high court asked protesters to stop their occupation during the process, said Suzanne Hurley, a spokeswoman for the vigil group. They had held vigil at St. James since it was closed during a reconfiguration of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston in 2004.
Hurley said the group received the Vatican’s request on July 6 and agreed to suspend the vigil on Sunday. The protesters’ advocate now must file a brief to continue the appeal process.
“Our advocate has 30 days to file her brief,” said Paul Hughes, a parishioner and member of the vigil. “She has approximately 30 to 35 appeals right now, so she has requested additional time.”
The Town of Wellesley earlier this year agreed to purchase the 8-acre property from the Archdiocese of Boston for $3.8 million, but that sale is contingent on the completion of the appeal process. The Board of Selectmen plans to tear down the church and build a swimming pool, skating rink, and playing field.
The Vatican has denied the group’s past efforts to reopen the parish, said Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Archdiocese. He said the Vatican’s ruling on the current appeal will essentially determine if the St. James property can be used for anything other than a worship site.
Donilon said the Archdiocese was encouraged by the protesters’ decision to suspend their vigil.
“Our hope is that this is one step in a process toward concluding the protest,” he said.
Eight churches shuttered in the 2004 reconfiguration began vigils, and Donilon said today that two remain occupied: St. Therese in Everett and St. Francis in Scituate.