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Scituate parishioners to respond today to order to vacate church

Parishoners have kept a vigil in St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church since its closure a decade ago.Barry Chin/Globe Staff/File

Parishioners who have kept a 24/7 vigil in a Scituate Catholic church that was officially closed by the Boston Archdiocese a decade ago will announce Sunday their response to an order to vacate the building by Monday.

Maryellen Rogers, a spokeswoman for the Friends of St. Frances X. Cabrini Inc., said Saturday that she could offer no details ahead of the announcement.

“We’re going to issue a statement in response to the notice to vacate, and that’s about it,” she said.

Last week, Rogers vowed that St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church parishioners would “continue to exhaust every avenue to save our church.”

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Terrence C. Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said Saturday that it sent a letter to the congregation Feb. 3 telling them to vacate the building by March 9, or the archdiocese would “pursue civil recourse through the courts.”

Donilon said the archdiocese has not yet made any legal filings, and he was unsure of the process its attorneys would pursue.

The congregation already has exhausted the options available through the church’s legal system, having been denied an appeal to the closure order last June by the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court.

“We’ve invited them to come to the table and let us help them transition to an opening and welcoming parish,” Donilon said. “All of the permitted canonical appeals have been exhausted. We said we wouldn’t take any action until that process had been exhausted, and it has.”

Donilon said the archdiocese had been prepared to accept the Apostolic Signatura’s ruling if it had granted the appeal, and the congregants should accept its ruling against the appeal.

The archdiocese identified about 70 parishes for closure or consolidation in 2004, amid longstanding declines in attendance and donations exacerbated by the priest sexual abuse scandal.

Most congregations went quietly, but about a dozen filed civil suits or appealed to the Vatican court system, and a handful, including St. Frances, began around-the-clock vigils.

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Donilon said the parishioners are good people, and the archdiocese respects them. He said he hopes the protesters will leave the building willingly.

“It’s not in our playbook to want to have confrontations with people,” he said. “It would be great at that press conference if they announced that they’re willing to move on.”


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.