By Molly Daly
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has announced its plan to demolish the city’s oldest Polish Roman Catholic church. The archdiocese acted last fall to de-consecrate St. Laurentius, a church that dates back to the late 19th century. It’s a move that a group of parishioners have appealed to the Vatican to overturn.
St. Laurentius church was erected in the late 1880s. In 2013, it merged with Holy Name of Jesus parish. That’s where the demolition plan was announced over the weekend. Patricia Kinsman, with the group Save St. Laurentius, says the archdiocese is moving without waiting for a decision from the Vatican.
“The archdiocese contacted Holy Name on Wednesday and said they could move forward to get their permits for demolition,” she says. “But our appeal never came back. It’s sitting at the Vatican waiting to be reviewed, and they just jumped the gun.”
In a statement, the archdiocese put the cost of repairing St. Laurentius at $3.5 million, a cost it says would “seriously jeopardize the fiscal welfare of the parish as well as its future existence.” Officials say demolishing the structure would cost about $1 million. But Kinsman says an engineer her group retained put the tab for repair at $650,000. And she says the archbishop is required to repair a building that’s fixable.
“They are violating canon law,” Kinsman says. “And, unfortunately, legally, they own the building. In the court of law, of American law, there’s nothing we can do.”
Except hope the Vatican answers their prayers.