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Vatican court upholds decision to close St. Ann's Church

Efforts to keep landmark St. Ann's Catholic Church open on Buffalo’s East Side have been dealt a blow by the Vatican.

The Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court of appeal, has ruled that Bishop Richard J. Malone’s 2013 decree to close the church “retains its original force,” the Diocese of Buffalo announced.

Friends of St. Ann, a group of parishioners hoping to re-open the church at 651 Broadway, had appealed the bishop’s order to the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy, which in 2014 reversed the closing decree and further ordered that the diocese could not sell the church or convert it to secular use. The diocese then filed an appeal to the Apostolic Signatura.

“Now that the Vatican has ruled, the decision to close the church is final,” Bishop Malone declared in a statement.  “We will do all that we can, within the confines of safety and feasibility, to remove all sacred and artistically significant artifacts.

“We hope to save the most significant elements of the Shrine of St. Ann for relocation,” he added. “We will announce its new home in the diocese in the coming months.”

Martin Ederer, a parishioner and co-chairman of Friends of St. Ann, described himself as “blindsided” when informed of the decision by a reporter.

“Obviously, this is bad news from our standpoint,” he said. “This is a terrible way to find out about it.”

Jessie Fisher, executive director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara, on hearing of the decision, said that the preservation group “would hope to work closely with the diocese to find a good solution for the building.”

The diocese estimated that it would take from $8 million to $12 million to stabilize and restore the Gothic Revival structure, which was built in 1886. It features 35 stained glass windows from the famed Bavarian Art Works in Munich, Germany, and hand-carved woodwork, including a 32-foot-tall high altar.

The parish, which originally served German Catholics on the East Side, was founded in 1858 and was merged into SS. Columba-Brigid as part of a series of parish consolidations in 2007. A Sunday Mass continued to be offered in St. Ann until 2012, when all activities in the building were halted due to safety concerns.

Friends of St. Ann  mounted several fundraising efforts to help save the church from demolition, including a visit earlier this year by the Buffalo Mass Mob and the sale of calendars which feature photos of the ornate interior, stained glass windows and statuary.

Bishop Malone said the church will be put up for sale and that potential buyers will have to provide proof that they can finance the repairs that the building needs.

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