Will Saint Adalbert Basilica Be Saved?

January 29, 2011 Updated Jan 30, 2011 at 7:59 PM EDT

By WKBW Programming

January 29, 2011 Updated Jan 30, 2011 at 7:59 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY ( WKBW ) Will Saint Adalbert Basilica on the east side of Buffalo be saved?

In a release obtained by Eyewitness News Friday, the "Save St. Adalbert" committee released information that the Vatican made a decision that the Basilica should remain open as a place of worship. However the release cited that despite the decision from Rome, the Diocese of Buffalo wants to continue to merge St. Adalbert's with St. John Kanty.

On Saturday, the Diocese of Buffalo released a statement that indicates the final mass for St. Adalbert's will be held in September of 2011.

Here are the releases, the first from the "Save St. Adalbert" committee:

Almost three and a half years ago, parishioners and friends of St. Adalbert Basilica on the east side of Buffalo, NY announced they had begun the process of appealing the decision by the Diocese of Buffalo to close St. Adalbert’s as a worship site and merge the parish into St. John Kanty parish. Today, the "Save St. Adalbert" committee is pleased to announce that the Vatican has made the decision that St. Adalbert Basilica should remain open as a place of worship.

In a letter sent to the appeal committee representing the parishioners and friends of St. Adalbert Basilica, Undersecretary for the Congregation of the Clergy at the Vatican Reverend Monsignor Celso Morga Iruzubieta wrote that the Dicastery has reviewed the matter "thoroughly" and "rests assured that the church (St. Adalbert’s) will remain a place of worship."

Following receipt of the letter, representatives of the Save St. Adalbert’s committee reached out to the Diocese of Buffalo to implement the Vatican’s ruling in a collaborative manner, only to be told at a meeting that the Bishop would continue his plan to merge St. Adalbert’s into St. John Kanty’s and cease regular worship at the basilica, leaving it open only for special services such as weddings and funerals.

"We were overjoyed to learn that the Vatican saw the merit of keeping our beautiful basilica open for worship, and cannot understand why the Diocese of Buffalo would violate the spirit of the Vatican’s ruling," Save St. Adalbert’s representative Ronald Suchocki said. "How can we remain open as a worship site when all regularly scheduled worship is eliminated? Clearly, Bishop Kmiec and the Diocese of Buffalo are ignoring the Vatican’s intent."

Suchocki continued, "Not only does the Diocese’s flawed plan mean there would be no regular masses at St. Adalbert’s despite the Vatican’s judgment, it also puts in jeopardy all our special events that have been planned for months such as our Lenten Soup Suppers (planned for March 12, 19, and 26) and our community presence at the Broadway Market during the Easter season."

The Save St. Adalbert’s committee promptly sent a letter to the Vatican asking for clarification of Rome’s ruling. "The good people of faith at St. Adalbert Basilica remain undeterred by this latest roadblock," Suchocki concluded. "We trust in the wisdom of God and the Vatican, and look forward to worshiping every weekend at St. Adalbert’s for years to come."

The following is the response from the Diocese of Buffalo:

Statement on Adalbert Parish

The Vatican Congregation for the Clergy has upheld the decision to merge St. Adalbert Parish into St. John Kanty Parish. Both parishes are in Buffalo.

In a letter dated Dec. 16, 2010, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, prefect for the congregation, wrote, “No obstacle exists for the merger of the parish.” This letter serves as the clarification of the status of St. Adalbert Parish that was sought by St. Adalbert parishioners.

On July 1, 2007, Bishop Edward U. Kmiec announced St. Adalbert would merge with St. John Kanty and that St. Adalbert Church would no longer be used. However, as a concession because of the heritage of the parish, the bishop has agreed to designate the church an oratory and it will continue as a place of worship.

Bishop Kmiec said the merger of St. Adalbert and St. John Kanty parishes will be effective Mar.7, 2011. At that time, St. Adalbert Church will become an oratory of St. John Kanty Parish. An oratory is a sacred place that exists for the convenience of some community or group of the faithful.

Bishop Kmiec will allow one Sunday Mass to be celebrated in the oratory between Mar. 7 and Sept. 18.

The bishop’s decision will have no impact on plans for any special events St. Adalbert parishioners have planned, including upcoming Lenten Soup Suppers and their community presence at the Broadway Market this Easter season. We hope that the merged parish of St. John Kanty will become an even stronger presence in the local community.

In a letter read to St. Adalbert parishioners the weekend of Jan. 29-30, Bishop Kmiec said, “I know that this decision will be disappointing for you, but I have every confidence that the depth of your faith will give you the strength to accept this decision and enter fully into the life of St. John Kanty Parish, or another parish of your choice. I would like to express my gratitude to you for the respect and courtesy you have shown to me throughout the appeal process. I understand the appeal was prompted by the love you have for your parish community and for the church building itself.”

The final regularly scheduled Mass at St. Adalbert’s will be celebrated on Sept. 18, 2011, marking the end of the yearlong observance of the 125th anniversary of the parish. At that point, St. Adalbert Oratory will not have regularly scheduled Masses. It will be available for baptisms, weddings, funerals, anniversaries and other special occasions, with decisions made by the bishop, in consultation with the leadership of St. John Kanty Parish.

St. John Kanty Parish linked with St. Stanislaus Parish on Dec. 1, 2009. Father Thaddeus Bocianowski is currently pastor of St. Adalbert, St. John Kanty and St. Stanislaus parishes.

Eyewitness News will continue to follow this story.