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Vatican high court rejects final appeal of closed churches

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BRAINTREE -- After a nearly decade-long resolution process the former parishes of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in East Boston, St. Frances X. Cabrini in Scituate and St. James the Great in Wellesley lost their last canonical appeal to stop deconsecration of their church buildings when the Church's highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, ruled on the cases in June.

Archdiocese of Boston spokesperson Terrence Donilon said the documents from the Apostolic Signatura are issued in Latin and are still in the process of being translated and analyzed. He said the archdiocese would not comment on the specifics of the decision before having full knowledge of what the documents contain.

In its 2004 Parish Reconfiguration the archdiocese "suppressed," or legally dissolved, 70 parishes and subsequently closed most of their church buildings. After several rounds of appeals, the Vatican ultimately upheld the archdiocese's right to dissolve the parishes.

Former parishioners then turned their appeals to stop church buildings from being "relegated to profane but not sordid use."

"Relegation" allows the church building to be used or sold for secular purposes but not for "sordid use," one that is immoral or offensive to Catholics.

The decision from the Apostolic Signatura completed the canonical legal process.

"We can theoretically make a decision about what we want to do with the property," Donilon said.

Peter Borre, who helped advise some parishes throughout the appeals process, indicated that he understood the finality of the ruling.

"It was sadly predictable," he said.

"The canonical process is over. There is literally no higher level to which one is entitled to go under canon law," Borre said.

Borre has called upon former parishioners to make a direct plea to Pope Francis.

"What I have recommended is that they send a petition to the Holy Father, asking the Holy Father to intervene. Now to be very clear, this is beyond the canonical process. It's a plea for mercy, and as such there is no binding deadline, however it's better to move, if people want to do this, in a reasonable time frame. And therefore, I am drafting such an appeal," he said.

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