BRONZEVILLE — After their tweets to the Pope went unanswered, St. James Catholic Church parishioners have filed an emergency appeal with the Vatican to stop the Archdiocese of Chicago from demolishing the crumbling 133-year-old church.
The Archdiocese has already begun dismantling the historic church at 2942 S. Wabash Ave. Services have not been held in the sanctuary for four years.
With no reply from the Pope’s Twitter account, the parishioners sent a letter on Thursday to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy at the Vatican to contest the budget to repair the church, saying that the work could be completed for $5 million, far less than the $12 million figure cited by the Archdiocese of Chicago.
The Archdiocese plans to demolish the church and build a $4 million new church nearby for the parish.
Real estate developer Joseph Cacciatore has offered to complete the renovation for a flat $5 million and will absorb any cost overruns, according to a letter signed by Cacciatore provided by Friends of St. James, a group devoted to saving the Neo-Gothic church.
Cacciatore could not be reached for comment, but in a letter to Cardinal Francis George, he also offered to make a $500,000 donation towards liturgical furnishings for the church. Eileen Quigly, a parishioner and member of the group, said the Archdiocese could save money, while increasing the capacity of the church to fit as many as 800 people. The group claims the Archdiocese could also take advantage of existing parking lots and a community center.
The Archdiocese of Chicago did not return calls requesting comment.
St. James was founded in 1855 for a South Side congregation of upwardly mobile Irish immigrants. The church retains its historic carillon bells, but its original Tiffany stained glass windows and marble altars were destroyed in a 1972 fire.