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Fate of Mater Dolorosa Church is in hands of parish

Date: 5/15/2015

HOLYOKE – The future of the Mater Dolorosa Church is now in the hands of the new parish that replaced it.

On May 4, The Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura – its highest court – made a decision not in favor of the Friends of Mater Dolorosa.

Monsignor John Bonzagni, the judicial vicar of the Diocese of Springfield, explained to Reminder Publications the decision was final and there are no additional avenues for appeal.

Attorney Victor Anop, in a written statement on May 6, said, “A simple notice by the Springfield Diocese to the media that Mater Dolorosa Church parishioners had lost an appeal at the Vatican Signatura yesterday has not been verified through our Vatican Lawyers the Gullo Law Firm of Rome. We have not seen any decision yet. However, there are other appeals that the group had planned regarding a negative outcome, including, but not limited to an appeal to the ‘Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts at the Vatican.’

Anop concluded, “The people will not let stand an unfair decision closing one of the formerly most active churches in Holyoke – Mater Dolorosa. This is about the ethnic cleansing of our Polish heritage within a discriminatory church framework which is unacceptable to us.”

Mater Dolorosa Parish was merged with Holy Cross Parish in 2011 to form the new Our Lady of the Cross Parish. The former church of Holy Cross Parish was designated as the worship site for the parish and the status of Mater Dolorosa Church was also changed to “profane use.” Two years ago the Apostolic Signatura found that the parish was properly merged and in the most recent decision the body upheld Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell’s decision to close Mater Dolorosa.

Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski issued the following statement, “I am grateful that these decisions have been finally rendered, allowing now for healing to take place in both these communities.  While the decisions announced today will bring a measure of disappointment to some, I hope and pray that we can all come together and direct our efforts to these parish communities so that they might become thriving places of faith and spiritual enrichment.”

Bonzagni stressed there were no more opportunities for appeal and now the decision about the future of the church will be left up to the parish, Our Lady of the Cross.

He said the parish could use the church for religious purposes but the sacraments could not be offered there. It could be used as a gathering place or for storage, he suggested. The parish could also put it on the market and sell it.

He said the diocese would offer its assistance in helping facilitate it proper renovation if need be and noted that demolition would be considered a last resort.

Father Albert Scherer, the pastor of Our Lady of the Cross, said that at this time there are no plans for the property. He said the Parish Council will meet on May 18 and discussion about its future will start.