HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – It’s an escalating war of words between parishioners of a former church and leaders of their faith.
Just over a week ago, the Springfield Catholic Diocese emergency order for demolition of the Mater Dolorosa Church in Holyoke was denied by the state. But former parishioners are still on the clock. Regular demolition is scheduled for the fall.
“We’re all disgusted quite frankly with the conduct of the Catholic Church,” said Victor Anop, the Chairman of the Friends of Mater Dolorosa.
“We’re not going to compromise on public safety,” said Mark Dupont, the Spokesperson for the Diocese of Springfield.
That’s it in a nutshell. Former parishioners want the polish Mater Dolorosa church preserved. The diocese wants it demolished.
It’s been six years since the Springfield Catholic Diocese closed the Mater Dolorosa Church and merged it with Our Lady of the Cross over disputed concerns about the structural safety of the steeple. Parishioners say the steeple is safe and repairs would cost no more than $100,000, the Diocese has estimates in the millions. And now, a fence has been put up with netting on the way.
“I don’t believe that the religious portion of this church is running the church anymore. I think it’s just simply a corporation run by people in the background who really have no investment in religion,” remarked Victor Anop.
Anop told 22News three statues were improperly seized from the church and he thinks the Springfield Catholic Diocese is intentionally trying to close churches of ethnic heritage. Charges the diocese strongly denies.
“We take no pleasure in having to demolish a beautiful church but public safety is something we are not going to compromise on and we would think in the city of Holyoke which has experienced three partial building collapses in the last few years that we would get more support rather than be vilified for this,” explained Mark Dupont.
Anop told 22News the diocese closed the door on negotiations with the Mater Dolorosa Preservation Society who offered to buy the church.
Dupont told 22News that door remains open, but they won’t delay demolition to negotiate and they want to make sure a new property owner would make the necessary repairs.