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Closed churches denied priests for Christmas services

December 24, 2007,The Patriot Ledger

SCITUATE - For the third year in a row, no priest will greet the faithful who flock to the Christmas service at St. Frances X. Cabrini Church.

The Boston Catholic Archdiocese is denying all requests from parishioners occupying closed churches for priests to celebrate Christmas Mass. Cardinal Sean O’Malley has honored requests from some closed churches in previous years.

The archdiocese’s stance this year is not a change for the parishioners of St. Frances, who have been holding an around-the-clock vigil at the church since the archdiocese closed it in October 2004 as part of a cost-cutting reconfiguration.

Jon Rogers, one of the parishioners occupying the church, said their requests for a priest in years past were ignored or denied even though other church communities in protest, like St. James in Wellesley and St. Jeremiah in Framingham, were granted a priest.

‘‘This year, they didn’t even give us the courtesy of a response,’’ he said. ‘‘We get the message pretty clearly. ... They only care about the almighty buck.’’

Parishioners feel they are being strong-armed because the St. Frances property, with 30.3 acres of coastal real estate, is one of the archdiocese’s most valuable pieces of real estate under dispute, Rogers said.

Parishioners will host a lay-led Christmas Eve Communion prayer service at 6:30 p.m. at the church, and another service at 10 a.m. Christmas Day. They will bring in a Eucharist consecrated by a sympathetic priest, as they have for past services.

‘‘It’s exactly the same thing as a Mass, but without the priest,’’ Rogers said. ‘‘It’s truly the people running our church.’’

More than 500 are expected to attend the Christmas Eve service, which Rogers said is ‘‘the blow-away event of the year.’’

In its protest, the church community has only grown stronger, Rogers said.

‘‘It’s more of a church now than I have ever experienced anywhere,’’ he said.-

Archdiocese spokesman Terrence Donilon could not be reached for comment.

Copyright 2007 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Monday, December 24, 2007