A group of Roman Catholic parishioners seeking to reverse the closure of a Scituate church were dealt a legal blow Wednesday, when the state Appeals Court ruled that they were trespassing by continuing an 11-year vigil to keep their place of worship open.
The Archdiocese of Boston decided to close St. Frances X. Cabrini Church in October of 2004, but a group of parishioners has maintained a round-the-clock presence there as they appealed to both the Vatican and the court system.
In February, the archdiocese sued the group, known as Friends of St. Frances X. Cabrini, asking a Norfolk Superior Court judge to order them to leave. After the judge agreed with the church in May, the group appealed.
A stay of the decision had been in place as the appeal was pending. Both sides in the case were pondering their next steps Wednesday following the appeals court ruling.
The group said in a statement only that it was “still waiting to review our options with our attorney.” Organizers have planned a Thursday news conference to discuss their plans.
The Appeals Court gave a nod to the passion of the parishioners who want to keep the church open, but agreed with the lower court judge that the archdiocese owns the building and has the right to make decisions about its properties.
“While we acknowledge the defendants’ heartfelt beliefs that they are entitled to remain on the premises as an exercise of their freedom of religion, the judge’s conclusion that the defendants are trespassers is supported by the evidence,” the ruling said.
The church’s closure came as part of a reconfiguration aimed at addressing a decline in Mass attendance and donations, along with a shortage of priests.
In a statement Wednesday, archdiocese spokesman Terrence C. Donilon urged parishioners to consider other ways to be involved in religious life.
“We appreciate the court having taken the time to review this matter and issue its ruling. We ask the Friends of St. Frances to respect that decision and conclude the vigil,” he said. “The parishes of the Archdiocese welcome and invite those involved with the vigil to participate and join in the fullness of parish life.”