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Decision to close church appealed

Parishioners of St. Ann Church are appealing Bishop Edward U. Kmiec's decision to shut down the 125-year-old Gothic revival church on Broadway and Emslie Street.

The formal appeal means the church can continue to be used as a Catholic worship site while the Vatican considers the appeal.

The Rev. Roy T. Herberger read the decree, as well as a letter from Kmiec, at a Mass Sunday morning.

Kmiec's decree set July 27 as the date for reducing the church to a secular use. But as long as a formal appeal is being considered, the decree cannot take effect, according to Catholic canon law.

As part of a diocesan-wide restructuring of parishes, the bishop moved in 2007 to merge St. Ann Parish with SS. Columba & Brigid Parish, located just a few blocks southwest in a sanctuary constructed in 2006.

The plan at the time was to have the merged parish, which also was to include the former St. Mary of Sorrows Parish, at the SS. Columba & Brigid site on Eagle and Hickory streets.

Four years later, St. Ann remains open as a "temporary worship site." Diocesan officials said they agreed to keep the church open until it could be sold to ensure that it would be properly preserved and to prevent vandalism.

The diocese does have a potential buyer in the Buffalo Religious Arts Center, a nonprofit organization that collects art and artifacts from defunct houses of worship in Western New York.

But the center's president has said she prefers to see St. Ann's remain as an active Catholic worship site and would purchase the church only when that is no longer possible.

Parishioners of St. Mary Church in Lockport are still attending Masses in their beloved church, more than three years after they initiated a canonical appeal of Kmiec's decision to close the building on Saxton Street.

The Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's highest court, is considering the St. Mary of Lockport case, after the Congregation for the Clergy denied parishioners' initial appeal to have Kmiec's decision overturned.

Parishioners at two other churches -- Transfiguration in Olean and St. George in Niagara Falls -- were unsuccessful in their appeals.

e-mail: jtokasz@buffnews.com

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