Home Diocesan News Vatican affirms closing of Wellsville church
Vatican affirms closing of Wellsville church Print E-mail
Friday, 08 September 2017 14:34

The Vatican has upheld a decree by Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., last February to close Immaculate Conception Church, Wellsville, possibly concluding a dispute that has persisted since 2011.

The ruling from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy reaffirms the decision by Bishop Murry in 2011 consolidating the former Immaculate Conception Parish, Wellsville with the former St. Aloysius Parish, East Liverpool to form Holy Trinity Parish, East Liverpool.

According to that decision, Sunday Masses were to be celebrated at St. Aloysius and Immaculate Conception was to be closed and relegated to non-sacred status. Members of the former Immaculate Conception Parish were encouraged to join the newly renamed Holy Trinity Parish.

Bishop Murry’s 2011 decision was initially appealed by a small group of parishioners from the closed Wellsville parish to the Congregation for the Clergy, which has jurisdiction over such issues.

A 2012 ruling by the Congregation affirmed Bishop Murry’s decision to consolidate the parishes but objected that the reasons given to close Immaculate Conception were not “sufficient and grave” as required by Canon Law.

Bishop Murry rescinded the relegation of Immaculate Conception to non-sacred status and directed that the church be open only for prayer and devotion once a week and for Mass once a year on Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception – the patroness of the church.

In 2015, the bishop, in consultation with the pastor of  Holy Trinity, the diocesan Presbyteral Council, and others, reviewed the situation.

“There was a determination that there was not sufficient popular support and financial support to maintain the church,” said Msgr. Peter Polando, judicial vicar for the diocesan tribunal and delegate to the bishop in canonical administrative matters.

On Feb. 9, Bishop Murry issued a decree finding that the reasons for closing were sufficient and grave under Canon Law, and giving the order to close the Wellsville church and relegate it to non-sacred status.

Six former members of Immaculate Conception filed a formal appeal but the Vatican Congregation upheld Bishop Murry’s decision Aug. 10, Msgr. Polando said. There is still a possibility of appeal to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s highest judicial tribunal for canon law cases.

The merging of the two parishes, Msgr. Polando noted, was part of the larger diocesan realignment process with extensive consultation, which the diocese conducted of many parishes in 2010, the face of the shrinking population of the diocese and the declining number of priests.


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