Parishioners of Closed Churches Gather for Easter Prayer Service

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CLEVELAND, Ohio - Emboldened by a decree from the Vatican that their church and 12 others in the Diocese of Cleveland should not have been closed, members of St. Patrick’s Parish in West Park gathered on the steps of the church on Saturday night, for an Easter prayer service.

Established in 1848, St. Pat’s is one of the oldest parishes in the Diocese of Cleveland. Members of the congregation were stunned when the current church, built in 1896, was one of 50 closed down by Bishop Richard Lennon, in a re-organization of the Diocese that he called necessary because of difficult finances.

But the St. Pat's community never gave up hope that they could save their church, even though the Bishop has steadfastly refused to reconsider his decision.

Pat Schulte-Singleton of the Save St. Pat’s Committee, told Fox 8, "We knew when we heard from our Bishop that our doors would be closed, that it was wrong. We knew that our parish was vibrant, we knew that our parish was very important within the community of West Park."

Their faith was rewarded earlier this year, when the Vatican issued the decree. "It meant that all that we have been fighting for, for our parish community for the last two or so years, has been validated by Rome”, said committee member Paul Racette, “They saw that there were errors in the procedures that Bishop Lennon did use."

Parishioners had asked the Bishop to allow them to re-open for services on Easter Sunday.  That will not happen, and the St. Pat's community acknowledges there are some hard feelings. "We're all human, we make mistakes. Our faith is to forgive, and I certainly do forgive, it might take a while for me to forget," said Schulte-Singleton.

Bishop Lennon has until the middle of May to decide if he will appeal the Vatican's decree.