By Connie Berry
Holy Trinity Parish on Syracuse’s north side remains closed after a recent Vatican decree was issued.
A group of former parishioners challenged the merger with St. John the Baptist Church appealing to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy. The recent decree states: “that the Hierarchical Recourse as presented against the merger (fusio) of Holy Trinity Parish in the Diocese of Syracuse, New York U.S.A. is hereby rejected ‘de procedendo’ and ‘de decernendo’ as lacking basis either in law or in fact, and that the Hierarchical Recourse as presented against the closure of Holy Trinity Church in the Diocese of Syracuse, New York, U.S.A., is hereby upheld ‘de procedendo’ and ‘de decernendo’ as having basis both in law and in fact.”
Father Timothy Elmer, chancellor of the diocese, interprets the decree to mean that merger of the parish is upheld but the hierarchical recourse against the closure of the building is also upheld. Father Elmer explained that at the time of the issuance of this decree the Congregation for Clergy who reviews such matters was not aware that the diocese completed in late November a required canonical procedure, applying canon 1222.2, which relegates the church building to secular use. The diocese has since sent the decree applying canon 1222.2 and will await word from Rome. In the meantime, the church building will not be reopened.
The final Mass at Holy Trinity Church was celebrated by Bishop Robert Cunningham on Feb. 14, 2010. The church was filled that day but the factors considered in the closure are familiar to parishes besides Holy Trinity — declining number of parishioners, declining number of clergy, financial sustainability, active outreach in the community, and other factors. The church building is architecturally unique and has since been designated as a protected site resulting from an application by the Syracuse Landmark Preservation Board.
Father James Lang, vicar for parishes, said the merger of the two parishes took place after years of ongoing conversations with the parishes on the northside. Churches in the area were paired together, for example St. John the Evangelist paired with the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Pompei with St. Peter’s Church and St. John the Baptist with Holy Trinity Church. Parish councils, trustees and others from these paired churches met and issued their recommendations to the Presbyteral Council on the best ways to meet the spiritual needs of the faithful in those communities, he said.
The decree upholds this merger process. Father Timothy Elmer said the timing of the paperwork is actually what raises the question of the designation of the church building.
Two other decrees have recently been received upholding the merger of St. Stephen’s Church into the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and Holy Family-St. Michael’s into the Church of the Holy Trinity in Fulton.