YOUNGSTOWN: Parishioners say the Vatican has overruled a second Ohio bishop and ordered a church reopened.
Parishioners who appealed the closing of Immaculate Conception Church in Wellsville by the Youngstown Roman Catholic Diocese said Thursday they received word from the Vatican upholding their challenge.
They say the parish had 150 families, sound finances and its one Sunday Mass was crowded.
Youngstown Bishop George Murry must decide whether to abide by the ruling or appeal it. A message seeking comment was left with the diocese.
The Cleveland bishop decided against appealing a similar directive that cleared the way for 11 closed churches to reopen. A 12th merged parish won back its original name.
St. Mary’s Church, near downtown Akron, reopened on Wednesday.
It was among 50 parishes closed or merged by Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Bishop Richard G. Lennon between August 2009 and June 2010 as part of a reconfiguration to address a shortage of priests, declining attendance and dwindling resources in the eight-county diocese.
In response to petitions from parishioners, the Vatican in March ordered 11 of those parishes (including St. Mary’s and St. John the Baptist in Akron) to be reopened. St. John’s reopened last month.
Once a rarity, the Vatican has overturned at least 28 church closings in seven U.S. dioceses in recent years.