Vatican ruling favors parishioners of closed Syracuse church

Holy Trinity Church / file photo

A Vatican panel has ruled in favor of parishioners who want to re-open a city church that was closed by the Diocese of Syracuse , but the Diocese says the ruling doesn't change anything.

A three-page decree from the Congregation of the Clergy says an appeal by parishioners of Holy Trinity Church has "basis both in law and in fact." It's the latest in a series of 13 similar rulings this year affecting closed churches in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

Holy Trinity, located on Park Street, closed in February 2010. It was one of nearly 40 churches targeted in 2007 by the diocese in a massive restructuring. Church officials said the closures were driven by a decline in the number of clergy and demographic shifts from urban to suburban areas. The Holy Trinity parish has since merged with St. John the Baptist Church.

When reached for comment, Syracuse Diocese spokeswoman Danielle Cummings says that this ruling does not mandate the church's re-opening, and it will remain closed. The Diocese says it does not appear they applied church canon law, meaning the building has not been switched from divine usage to secular usage. This would mean the builidng can not be sold, because it is still a church building.

Cummings added in a statement to CNY Central that:

"The Diocese of Syracuse has received a Decree from the Congregation for Clergy in the Vatican regarding hierarchical recourse brought forth by a group from Holy Trinity Parish. The decree addresses two issues. It upholds the closing (merger into St. John the Baptist Church in Syracuse) of Holy Trinity Parish. Secondly, it states that Holy Trinity Church remains a church building. In order for a building to cease being a church building, canon 1222.2 of Canon law must be applied. In simple terms canon 1222.2 relegates the church building to profane or secular use. Once applied, the building is no longer used for divine worship. Although there are some who interpret the second issue differently, the decree does not rule that the diocese must reopen the church building. It is a closed church building. Additionally, the diocese had applied canon 1222.2 and has forwarded that material to the Congregation for Clergy."

Cummings says the Diocese has sent The Vatican a letter saying it believes it followed all the rules, and that the Diocese believes it cleared up any potential problems last week.

Do you think the church should remain closed? Or should the Diocese should listen to parishioner arguments to re-open it? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.