South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

St. George Church appeal moves to Apostolic Signatura


September 25, 2018

Parishioners of the former St. John Vianney Church (dedicated as St. George Church) in Allentown have advanced their appeal to the Apostolic Signatura, the “supreme court” at the Vatican.

During recent communications, parishioners and the St. George Church Preservation Society (SGCPS), proposed two alternate solutions to the Diocese of Pittsburgh to reopen, restore and operate the church at no cost to the Diocese.

The first solution is a lease plan that would provide for the care, restoration and operation of the church. The second solution is an ownership proposal that was duplicated from a successful plan in the Diocese of Joliet, IL. The second plan would also provide for the care, restoration and operation of St. John Vianney Church.

The Pittsburgh Diocese has rejected both proposals and issued a decree to keep the church closed. The decree also authorizes the removal of the stained-glass windows, sacred items, non-sacred items and salvaging anything of value from the church.

The SGCPS is concerned that if the Diocese closes the church, they may leave the building standing after salvaging anything of value, the community would be left with a shell of an abandoned church with the windows and anything else of value removed. The church could then remain vacant and abandoned for years along with several others in the area.

If demolished, as proposed by the Diocese in August 2015, the Preservation Society says the community would be left with a hole in the ground or another vacant lot and the Allentown skyline would be changed forever.

In response, parishioners filed an appeal to the Congregation for the Clergy to keep the church intact and open for worship at no cost to the Diocese. The parishioners believe the appeal was not successful due to several issues that were overlooked by the Congregation, the appeal has now advanced to the Apostolic Signatura.

In recent years, more than 30 Catholic churches in other dioceses have been reopened through the Vatican appeal process. Over 70 Catholic churches around the country are supported by similar arrangements to provide for care, maintenance and operation of churches.

The St. George Church Preservation Society and other parishioners believe the St. John Vianney Church is an “irreplaceable structure, a beloved landmark that defines the skyline of Allentown and the surrounding neighborhoods.”

“For more than 100 years, the generosity of time, talent and donations of generations of parishioners of modest means have been invested to construct and maintain this magnificent edifice. This beautiful church should not be cannibalized and discarded,” the SGCPS stated in a release noting the appeal.


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