Parishioners who have kept constant vigil at a shuttered Catholic church in Scituate since 2004 won a temporary reprieve Wednesday from a judicial order that would have forced them to leave the property by Friday.

Associate Justice Judd J. Carhart of the Massachusetts Appeals Court wrote in a brief ruling that a lower court order requiring parishioners to leave St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church will be stayed "pending further order of this court or a single justice thereof."

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Wednesday at the Appeals Court in Boston.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston declined to comment Wednesday night, since the case is still pending. The archdiocese filed a lawsuit against the vigil group in March asking a judge to intervene after the highest Vatican court, the Apostolic Signatura, denied the parishioners' appeal to keep the church open.


Mary Beth Carmody, a lawyer for the Friends of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, the group fighting to continue the vigil, said the temporary stay of the vacate order "certainly is a welcome development."

Last month, Norfolk Superior Court Judge Edward P. Leibensperger ruled after a one-day trial that the Friends of St. Francis would have to leave the church by May 29. He later extended the deadline to June 5 after rejecting the parishioners' request to suspend his order while their appeal is pending.

He wrote in a ruling setting the June 5 deadline that the vigil group has shown "a misapprehension of legal process and a stubborn refusal to accept the reality of final decisions of the courts."

The group is appealing Leibensperger's order for them to vacate the church, as well as his refusal to stay the order pending the appeal.

The Archdiocese of Boston closed dozens of churches more than a decade ago in response to dwindling attendance and shrinking donations following the clergy sex-abuse scandal.


The vigil at St. Frances began Oct. 26, 2004, and the church is the only one still fighting closure with a vigil.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen