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Vatican finds favor in St. Mary Church appeal

The Jamesville community learned today that the Vatican has ruled in favor of St. Mary Church after a recent hearing that took place in Rome.

The Vatican's supreme court equivalent, the Apostolic Signatura, reviewed on Saturday St. Mary's appeal to reopen the church that former Bishop James Moynihan closed in April 2007 as part of the reconfiguration process that is still taking place throughout the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse. It found that the church of St. Mary cannot be deconsecrated, but must be maintained as a Catholic worship site.

According to St. Mary advocate Colleen LaTray, the appeal was filed for three reasons: To keep St. Mary open, to help others who might face similar situations, and to initiate appropriate and necessary change, all for the good of the Catholic Church.

"We are delighted with the decision of the Vatican's highest tribunal, given to our canon law advocate in Rome earlier today," said LaTray during a press conference held this afternoon. She added by phone that the community was pleasantly surprised at the quick turnaround. The process could have been delayed as late as fall as the Vatican shuts down during the summer months.

"While we have the official decision in black-and-white, we will have to wait several weeks for all the details, regarding the legal reasoning that has led the court to this historic decision," LaTray said.

According to the press release, advocates who reviewed approximately 100 similar cases over the last two decades found that one other American parishioner group secured this type of decision with the Vatican, but in that case the court ruled that the archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Bernardin, had erred on procedural grounds. The process was restarted and the church was closed down on the second try.

In St. Mary's case, the court has ruled that the bishop of Syracuse has erred on the merits of the case as a matter of canon law.

"This the diocese cannot fix," LaTray said. "We, the parishioners of St. Mary, have sustained this effort for several years. And there were many who may have been skeptical about the outcome. Our faith remained strong. Today is a good day ... it is not the end of our journey, but our destination is now in sight. We remain cautiously optimistic."

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