The Vatican has given the OK for St. Adalbert Basilica to remain open as a worship site, according to parishioners of the East Side Buffalo church who have been battling for 3 1/2 years to keep it open.
However, despite the Vatican ruling, church members said the Diocese of Buffalo still plans to limit Masses at the church and merge the parish with St. John Kanty, another parish on the city's East Side.
Ronald Suchocki, a St. Adalbert parishioner and member of a committee that appealed Bishop Edward U. Kmiec's decision to close the church as a worship site, said the committee learned of the decision this week in correspondence from the Congregation of the Clergy, a ruling body within the Vatican.
However, Suchocki said the Save St. Adalbert committee was rebuffed by Kmiec when members sought to have the Vatican's ruling implemented.
"We were overjoyed to learn that the Vatican saw the merit of keeping our beautiful basilica open for worship, and cannot understand why the Diocese of Buffalo would violate the spirit of the Vatican's ruling," Suchocki said in a statement Friday.
"How can we remain open as a worship site when all regularly scheduled worship is eliminated? Clearly, Bishop Kmiec and the Diocese of Buffalo are ignoring the Vatican's intent," Suchocki added.
Kevin Keenan, a spokesman for diocese, said he needed more time to consult with diocese officials before he could issue a comment.
According to Suchocki, Kmiec has said St. Adalbert will remain open only for special Masses, such as weddings and funerals. The Save St. Adalbert committee has since asked the Vatican for clarification of its interpretation of what constitutes a worship site.
Suchocki said that decision by the diocese to limit St. Adalbert jeopardizes special events that were planned months ago at the church, including its Lenten soup suppers scheduled for March 12, 19 and 26 and the church community's Easter season presence at the Broadway Market.
"We feel that the neighborhood is on the upswing and our church has been a positive influence on the people in that area," Suchocki said in a phone interview Friday.
Parishioners and friends of the parish first announced more than three years ago that they had begun the process of appealing the diocese's decision to close the church as a worship site. Twice before they were rebuffed by the Vatican in their attempts to keep the church from closing.
The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, considered the Vatican's highest court, had previously ruled that the parishioners had submitted their appeal prematurely, because Kmiec had not yet issued his formal closing decree for the church. The parishioners were later allowed to resubmit their appeal and start the process from scratch.