Sharon Harrington, left, and Nancy Gabrielson, right, join others in singing "America the Beautiful" during a lay-led Sunday Communion service at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church in Scituate, Mass., in June 2009. (CNS photo/Jodi Hilton)
SCITUATE -- Former parishioners occupying the long-closed St. Frances X. Cabrini Church in Scituate say they plan to end their continuous 24-hour vigil after the Supreme Court refused to hear their case, May 16.
A statement issued by the group Friends of St. Frances X. Cabrini notes that they will vacate the premises after holding a meeting "to finalize their transition," and a celebration on May 29.
Jon Rogers, a spokesperson for the group, said, "We are proud that we have brought these important issues to the U.S. Supreme Court and are confident that other parishes in similar closure situations will build on our shoulders to carry these matters forward to a successful decision in the Court."
"From inception of this journey we promised two things: to exhaust every level of recourse, be it canonical or civil, and that we have done. The second promise was that the Friends of St. Frances X. Cabrini will remain together as a faithful Catholic worship community and go on with or without the Archdiocese of Boston. The next phase of this faith journey will be a transition into an independent Catholic community -- without the archdiocese," he continued.
The former church was closed as part of the archdiocese's 2004 Parish Reconfiguration process. At that time, the archdiocese "suppressed," or legally dissolved, 70 parishes and subsequently closed most of their church buildings. In response, former parishioners at 11 parishes filed appeals with the Vatican and some occupied church buildings to keep them from closing. St. Frances X. Cabrini is the last former church with an ongoing vigil.
In March, the group asked the Supreme Court to take up their case, which had argued that the former parishioners held an "equitable interest" in the property -- claiming that the archdiocese held the property in trust.
Previously, in October 2015, the Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed a judge's ruling that the property belongs to the archdiocese and the former parishioners are trespassing. On Dec. 3, Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court denied any further review of the case.
The group took their case to civil court after losing numerous challenges to the closure under canon law. The canonical process ended in June 2014 when the Church's highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, ruled against the former parishioners, rejecting their final canonical appeal.
In reaction to Supreme Court's decision the archdiocesan spokesman Terrence Donilon said, "We appreciate the Court's review of this matter. Given the denial of the Friends of St. Frances Cabrini's petition, we ask them to end their vigil and leave the property within 14 days in accordance with the agreement filed with the Superior Court. The parishes of the archdiocese welcome and invite those involved with the vigil to participate and join in the fullness of parish life."
Gregory L. Tracy contributed to this report