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Scituate revokes tax-exempt status of closed church

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The Scituate tax board is ordering the Archdiocese of Boston to pay $42,000 in annual property taxes for a church closed in the reconfiguration process. The Scituate Board of Assessors voted 2-1 to charge the archdiocese, saying that the closed parish no longer qualifies for tax-exempt status as a religious institution.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish was suppressed on Oct. 29 last year, and former parishioners have occupied the building since then.

"My feeling is if they decided they no longer want to use it as a church, I would consider it a taxable property," said board chairman Fred Avila.

The archdiocese disagrees with the decision, said Terrence C. Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese.

"It is still a blessed church. There are people in that church in prayer, and we are still waiting a final decision from Rome," he said.

Archbishop Se├ín P. O’Malley has kept his promise to wait until vigil parishes have received a response to their closure appeal from the Vatican before taking any action with those properties, he added.

The archdiocese is facing many financial challenges and trying to rebuild, but the Scituate tax board’s actions hamper that process, Donilon said.

"This is unfortunate," he said. "It threatens the charitable endeavors of the archdiocese, the work that we do with the poor and the needy."

Secretary of State William F. Galvin, who registers nonprofit institutions and supports the tax board’s decision, said the Scituate case leads to the broader question of what is and is not a nonprofit institution.

If challenged by the archdiocese, the decision to tax the property could go before the state Appellate Tax Board and then the state courts. The fee of $42,000 is based on an assessment of $4.45 million for the 30-acre property.

The archdiocese is in the process of closing about 80 of its 357 parishes. With 62 parishes already closed, the archdiocese said the process is nearing conclusion.

AP materials contributed to this report

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