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Cardinal rejects request for priest:

Protesters at St. Frances stunned, angry after getting decision on Christmas Mass

Cardinal O'Malley
above: Cardinal O'Malley

SCITUATE - Parishioners keeping vigil at the closed St. Frances X. Cabrini Church are accusing Cardinal Sean O’Malley (photo, left) of ‘‘picking and choosing who to take care of,’’ having been denied a priest for Christmas Mass.

Requests for a priest from two other churches where vigils are being held were granted, prompting St. Frances parishioner Jon Rogers to say, ‘‘The level of unfairness here is incredible.’’

Rogers and fellow parishioners have been holding an around-the-clock vigil to protest the closing of St. Frances.

He likened Cardinal O’Malley’s action on the priest requests to ‘‘looking at five children on Christmas Day and saying to two of them, ‘You, Johnny, you, Suzy, you’re getting presents, and you three, you’re getting nothing.’

‘‘We’re very disappointed, we’re upset, we’re hurt and we feel alienated. We feel that we’re getting ignored, and it’s frustrating.’’

Of the five parishes still holding around-the-clock vigils in protest, only St. James in Wellesley and St. Jeremiah in Framingham will get a priest for Christmas.

St. James also was allowed a priest last year. The Boston archdiocese has allowed a retired priest to celebrate Mass every Sunday at St. Jeremiah although the church has been closed since May of 2005.

A spokesman for O’Malley said in an e-mailed statement that O’Malley did not think allowing a Christmas Mass at St. Frances would be in the community’s best interest.
‘‘The Cardinal appreciates the faith and the prayer of those who requested permission for the Mass,’’ Donilon wrote. ‘‘However, as was the case last year, the Cardinal did not feel that it would be helpful to St. Mary of the Nativity parish’s outreach to the Catholic community in Scituate if he was to grant permission for Mass at St. Frances church.’’

Maryellen Rogers of St. Frances called the Cardinal’s actions ‘‘cruel and abusive.’’

‘‘What is most important to the cardinal?’’ she asked. ‘‘The property of St. Frances or the people of St. Frances? I think we know the answer.’’

Margaret O’Brien, another parishioner keeping vigil, said she was ‘‘stunned’’ that their request for a priest was turned down.

‘‘I’ll always be a Catholic,’’ she said, ‘‘but boy, it’s almost embarrassing to say you’re a Catholic in the Archdiocese of Boston because of what they do. They just don’t get it.’’

St. Frances Cabrini was one of 67 parishes ordered closed by the archdiocese in 2004 as part of a cost-cutting reconfiguration. Parishioners have been keeping vigil in the church since October of 2004.

They have appealed the closing of the church through civil and canonical channels. A hearing was held in July in Suffolk Superior Court; a decision is awaited. Meanwhile, the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s appeals court, has agreed to take hear the parishioners’ case.

Although disappointed by the cardinal’s decision, the parishioners say they’re not going anywhere.

‘‘Do not mistake our frustration and thinning patience for a weakness,’’ Jon Rogers said. ‘‘As far as the length of time we’re willing to maintain this vigil, I can only say, ‘Forever.’’

Diana Schoberg may be reached at dschoberg@ledger.com .

Copyright 2006 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Friday, December 15, 2006