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Massachusetts protesters agree to leave church after Vatican order

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, June 17 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

HOLYOKE, Mass. — Protesters who have occupied a closed Roman Catholic church in Holyoke for a year say they're ending their round-the-clock vigil.

The decision by the protesters at Mater Dolorosa came after an order by the Vatican high court, which also agreed to consider an appeal the protesters hope will reopen the church as a worship site.

The group voted to end the vigil last week but didn't announce it until this week.

The protesters say they don't expect the diocese to sell the church, remove sacred objects or take down its steeple during Vatican deliberations.

The diocese cited debt and an unsafe steeple when closing the church. Parishioners refused to leave after the final Mass last June. They say the steeple needs just minor repairs and parishioners could have resolved the debt.