BOSTON (Reuters) - A decade-long standoff between parishioners trying to save their Massachusetts church and church leaders who want to close it will last a little longer, following a Wednesday appeals court decision.
Parishioners of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini church in Scituate, Massachusetts, south of Boston, have maintained a 24-hour vigil in their church since the Archdiocese of Boston in 2004 named it as one of 70 parishes it intended to close in a restructuring.
The church is the last of a half-dozen parishes in the archdiocese that had been occupied by parishioners seeking to prevent their shutdown. Other groups have since abandoned their efforts or lost in the courts.
Massachusetts Appeals Court Associate Justice Jedd Carhart on Wednesday issued an indefinite stay on an earlier order by a lower-court judge for the parishioners to leave the building and clear the way for church officials to sell the 30-acre (12-hectare) property located near the waterfront.
The group staging the vigil, the Friends of St. Francis X. Cabrini, welcomed the decision.
"The Friends continue to remain hopeful for open and constructive dialogue with Cardinal Sean O'Malley in (an) effort to facilitate a peaceful and prayer solution in a Christian manner outside of the courts," the group said in a statement.
A spokesman for the archdiocese could not be reached for immediate comment.
The decision to shutter the parishes dates back to the sex abuse scandal when investigations revealed Roman Catholic Church leaders had covered up charges of priests sexually assaulting children. The scandal sparked dozens of lawsuits by abuse survivors, costing the church billions of dollars and driving some prominent dioceses into bankruptcy.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Sandra Maler)