US & Canada

Tearful end to 11-year US church protest

Christine Kane wipes away a tear Image copyright AP
Image caption Christine Kane wipes away a tear

Parishioners in Massachusetts have admitted defeat in their efforts to keep their church open, bringing to a tearful end their 11-year protest.

A group of about 100 worshippers at St Frances X Cabrini Church in Scituate have kept an around-the-clock vigil.

This month, the US Supreme Court refused to hear their final appeal against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston's decision to close it.

But on Sunday the protest came to an end at an emotional final service.

It was described as a "celebration of faith and transition" and many of the parishioners shared an embrace and cried.

As the service came to an end, quilts depicting each year of the vigil were taken from the walls of the church and carried down the aisles and out of the church door.

The archdiocese decided to close St Frances X Cabrini and more than 75 other parishes due to dwindling attendances, a shortage of clergy and buildings in decline.

The closings came after child sex abuse scandals plagued the archdiocese.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Worshippers fought a decade-long fight to prevent the church closing
Image copyright AP
Image caption Nancy Shilts hugs another parishioner before the final service

Several of the churches earmarked for closure held vigils in protest but St Frances X Cabrini was the last church to keep up its occupation.

In parallel with the sit-in was a legal challenge that went through civil courts and even reached the Vatican, but all in vain.

A judge at the state's Superior Court ruled that the archdiocese was legally able to evict the protesters, as the legal owner of the property.

That ruling was upheld by the Massachusetts Appeals Court.

An archdiocese spokesman said he hoped the protesters would be able to attend another church within the district.