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Vatican supports bishop in closing St. George Church

A Vatican body has rejected an appeal by parishioners to reopen a Niagara Falls church that was shut down in 2008.

The Congregation for the Clergy found in favor of Bishop Edward U. Kmiec's decision to close St. George Church and merge the parish with several others in Niagara Falls.

"This Dicastery recognizes the support you have given your parish Church, but also recognizes the right of the bishop to erect, suppress or alter parishes in order to better provide for the faithful in his diocese," Monsignor Celso Morga, department head for the Congregation for the Clergy, wrote in a letter dated Sept. 4. "After a review of the situation, it would appear that [Kmiec] acted in accord with the relevant canons."

The letter was addressed to Susan Grant, a parishioner who initiated the appeal.

Grant said the Vatican's response wasn't surprising. Parishioners may appeal further, per Catholic canon law, but it is unlikely. "I don't think so. There's not much enthusiasm or money to go on," said Grant. "We mostly agree that we could not get back what we had if we had won."

Kmiec issued a decree in March 2008 to "amalgamate" St. George Parish, and a closing Mass was held in the church at 1910 Falls St. on Easter Sunday of that year.

A decree from the Congregation for the Clergy that accompanied Morga's letter labeled Kmiec's actions as "being reasonable given the situation regarding the declining population of the area, the declining Catholic population, the good husbanding of resources, and the provisions made for the members of the faithful by the bishop of Buffalo."

Members of three other parishes in the Diocese of Buffalo have appealed planned closings to the Vatican, as well.

St. Mary Church in Lockport, St. Adalbert Church in Buffalo and Transfiguration Church in Olean continue to stay open as appeals are being considered. It's unclear when those decisions will be be made.

"There's no time line," said diocesan spokesman Kevin A. Keenan. "You get a letter from the Vatican with the decision."

The appealing parishioners, he added, receive a similar letter at about the same time.

The diocese has moved to close 71 worship sites since 2006 in a dramatic restructuring of parishes in eight counties.


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