Wednesday, June 04, 2008

In Beantown, a Ritual Compromise

Having been occupied since 2005 by protesting parishioners, a closed suburban Boston parish is going bi-ritual, with a Syro-Malybar priest to offer one Sunday liturgy in the India-born rite (which celebrates its Eucharist ad orientem), and another in the Roman rite:
The archdiocese is hailing the plan as a testament to improved relations between church officials and the protesters; the protesters are denouncing what they say was a lack of consultation with them about the plan, but say they are happy to share space with a group of Catholics in need and optimistic after an initial conversation with Vadana yesterday.

"This is a Catholic community in need of a place to worship, and we open our arms to this community," said Mary Beth Carmody, a leader of the St. Jeremiah vigil, as the protest is called. But, Carmody said, the worshipers are unhappy that Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley came up with the plan without speaking to them and has declined requests to talk directly with the parishioners.

"Does the cardinal value our community?" Carmody asked. "We have a diocese where so few people go to church, where so few people care enough to fight for their place of worship, and our people are a wonderful community."

Vadana, in a telephone interview, referred to the protesters as "good Christians, good Catholics" and said he would be happy to work with them.

The Syro-Malabars will pay all the expenses of the Framingham parish, which are currently paid by the Archdiocese of Boston. And the archdiocese says that if the parishioners lose their appeals, it intends to turn over the building to the Syro-Malabars. The archdiocese said the situation would be similar to that at Our Lady of the Cedars of Lebanon, an Eastern Rite parish in Jamaica Plain that is part of the Maronite eparchy headquartered in Brooklyn.

"This step is not intended to signal that Saint Jeremiah Parish will reopen as a parish of the Archdiocese of Boston," archdiocesan spokesman Terrence C. Donilon said in a written statement issued yesterday. "After all canonical appeals have been concluded and taking their results into consideration, the Archdiocese will be in consultation with the leadership of the Syro-Malabar Eparchy concerning the possibility of establishing a Syro-Malabar parish at St. Jeremiah's."

The Framingham Catholics are suing the archdiocese in state courts, arguing they, and not the archdiocese, own the parish. And they are appealing the closing at the Vatican, arguing that the archdiocese committed a number of procedural and substantive errors in deciding to shutter the parish.
The deal isn't the only recent bi-ritual news from the Boston church; last month, Cardinal Sean O'Malley OFM Cap. ordained an Ethiopian-born priest who'll have faculties to celebrate the archdiocese's weekly Mass for those attached to the Ge'ez rite -- a Coptic offshoot mostly found in Ethiopia and Eritrea.