Contested Framingham church sold to Eastern Rite Catholics

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese of Boston has sold St. Jeremiah Church in Framingham to the Syro-Malabar Church, an Eastern rite of the Catholic Church that traces their roots to the apostle St. Thomas.

The $2 million agreement was finalized on Sept. 30 and included the church building, the rectory, parking lot and land.

The new Syro-Malabar parish will be under the auspices of the St. Thomas Diocese of Chicago, the only Syro-Malabar diocese in the United States.

"The completion of this transaction provides the Syro-Malabar community a much needed location for their parishioners," said West Region auxiliary Bishop Walter J. Edyvean in a statement released by the archdiocese.

Father Varghese Naikomparambil, parish mission director for the Syro-Malabars, expressed his "heartfelt" appreciation to Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley and the archdiocese for making the church available.

"As one of the largest Eastern Catholic Churches, it has been a tremendous blessing to continue the mission in New England with a centrally located and beautiful facility," said Father Naikomparambil.

St. Jeremiah is a former parish of the archdiocese that was suppressed in 2005 as part of a parish reconfiguration process. Most parishioners moved to the nearby St. George Parish, though a number have maintained a 24-hour vigil at the church since the closing, and joined in with an organization fighting archdiocesan parish closures.

In July of 2010, the Vatican notified the archdiocese that it had denied the appeals of nine shuttered churches, including St. Jeremiah. In late 2010, Pope Benedict XVI refused to reverse this decision.

In 2008, the Syro-Malabar community was granted permission from the archdiocese to use the facilities for liturgies and pastoral care for their community. Priests there have offered Latin rite Masses for the former parishioners of St. Jeremiah.

Cardinal O'Malley announced his intention to formally transfer the property to the Eastern Catholic Church in July, as part of a decision on the fate of eight former parish churches.

Bishop Edyvean and other archdiocesan officials met with members of the vigil group at St. Jeremiah's on the morning of Oct. 1 to notify them about the sale.

The archdiocese said the funds of the transaction will be used to support other parishes.

According to St. Jeremiah vigil co-leader Mary Beth Carmody, the vigil group has begun another appeal to the Vatican, and they plan to also appeal to the Massachusetts attorney general.

Carmody told the Associated Press that the latest appeal to the Vatican is based on transferring the church from one Catholic rite to another.