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St. James Preservationists Tweet at Pope, Pray to God to Stop Demolition

By DNAinfo Staff on March 31, 2013 1:26pm

BRONZEVILLE — Feeling that the local options to stop the demolition of St. James Catholic Church were exhausted, the parishioners of the church took their prayers and protests straight to God.

And the Pope.

After Easter services were held next door to the 133-year-old church building Sunday morning, dozens of parishioners streamed out to hold a prayer vigil seeking to protect the church that has been standing since 1880.

"That was our holiest sequence," said Eileen Quigley, a parishioner and co-chair of the Friends of Historic St. James Church, referring to the Rosary sequence.

The vigil came after parishioners filed legal documents last week with the Vatican asking to halt the building's demolition slated by the Archdiocese of Chicago, on April 22.

Parishioners have fought the demolition for a long time and decided to take their plea to highest authorities as a Hail Mary to save the beloved building.

"We have been unsuccessful solving this locally," Quigley said. "We took our plea from Rush Street to Rome."

The local archdiocese, announced plans last year to demolish the building at 2942 S. Wabash Ave. and replace it with a new one nearby, saying restoration of the existing building would be $12 million compared with $5 to $7 million for a new building, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The archdiocese said in February that its budget has been at least $30 million in the red in the past four years.

In addition to holding a vigil led by church parishioner Dan Anderson, the building's proponents signed a banner to "Say Prayers to Save St. James" and sent a Twitter message directly to Pope Francis on his first Easter as head of the church.

"@pontifex hear our #Easter petition: Spare St James so we may continue 133-year tradition of serving the people of #Chicago #FOSJ," the group pleaded via Twitter.

The archdiocese has already begun taking apart the church, taking away an 1891 organ last week, the Friends organization said. The 20-bell carillon is set to come down in mid-April.

"This is to send a message to the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Vatican that there is too much history in this building," said Monique Germain, a 27-year parishioner of St. James. "We want to keep this building and take care of it."