Vatican orders masses at church closed by Denver archbishop

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ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — Parishioners of a small Catholic church near Federal Blvd and W 63rd Ave are celebrating a victory against their archbishop. The Archdiocese of Denver closed Our Lady of Visitation Church in 2017, but parishioners fought back. They took their fight all the way to the Vatican.

Parishioners leading the charge say the Vatican told them the church was closed improperly. The archdiocese disagrees with that interpretation. The Holy See, however, has ordered that there will be masses at the church.

The parish started as street car church decades ago. It was ordered closed by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila. The property was placed under the control of larger neighboring parish.

“We never got an explanation,” parishioner Richard Pabon said.

The archdiocese says there simply aren’t enough priests to go around.

“It’s just a matter of trying to use our resources to the best of our ability,” said archdiocese spokesman Mark Haas.

Aquila’s decision, two years ago, has been far from the final word on the future of Our Lady of Visitation. After efforts to reach a compromise locally fell apart, parishioners— including former Denver Mayor Federico Peña— took their case to the Vatican.

“We had a partial victory,” Peña said. “The [Vatican] congregation ruled that the archbishop incorrectly closed our church and didn’t give us any masses.”

The Vatican now says there must be at least two masses at the church per year, according to those involved in the case.

“Now we’ve appealed to the supreme tribunal in Rome because we want even more masses and eventually we want this church reopened,” Peña explained.

Church clergy say there were about 40 to 50 people per mass at the time of closing. During Monday’s mass, there were more.
The fight is uniting more Catholics to join the struggle of keeping the little church alive.

“The Good Lord has got to be on our side,” Pabon said. “I wish the Pope were here. Maybe he could have choice words with the archbishop.”

Haas says there was never an intent to sell the property. The plan was to make it part of nearby Holy Trinity Church.

Parishioners say Our Lady of Visitation was self-sufficient and didn’t cost the archdiocese any money.

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