Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Church Closure Opponents Looking for Vatican's Help

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Church Closure Opponents Looking for Vatican's Help

Article excerpt

The last three parishioners taking part in an overnight sit-in emerged Sunday morning from St. Anthony Church in Monongahela, but that doesn't mean they have ended their protest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh's plan to close the 100-year-old Roman Catholic church.

Their next step will be to take their fight to Rome.

"We've made the appeal, and Bishop [David] Zubik has not responded," said Joe Ravasio, 52, who was among 30 parishioners who spent the night in the church. "So the next step in the process is to the Vatican in Rome, which we're prepared to do.

"The important message is that Catholic churches that are viable, that are committed in their communities, should not be closed. The closing of those churches has to stop."

The group plans to follow Catholic procedures to contest the closing and is looking into hiring a canon lawyer who will argue its case before the Vatican.

Saturday's afternoon Mass marked the end of St. Anthony Church on Park Avenue. In 2011, the diocese merged St. Anthony and Transfiguration into one parish, named for St. Damien of Molokai.

Bishop Zubik said he decided to close the St. Anthony building because the newly merged parish did not have the funds to maintain both buildings, and the councils of the new parish were unable to reach a consensus on a recommendation for the buildings. He said he chose Transfiguration, about five blocks away, because of its central location and better condition.

St. Anthony parishioners, however, are resisting.

The sit-in ended not because the last three parishioners were giving up. They left because they were hungry and thirsty.

"The diocese has made conditions deplorable," said Laura Magone, 53, who said officials had turned off the lights and refused to let them open church windows or to leave and bring back food and water.

"We had 30 people that stayed [overnight]," said Mr. Ravasio, who remained until 8:30 a.m. "But can you imagine priests not giving their own flock, their own parishioners, not allowing them to have bottled water, not allowing them to have a sandwich? If Jesus Christ was there, would he have let people have water, let people have food? …

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