Fishtown church to be demolished
The Archdiocese announced yesterday that it would tear down St. Laurentius, the oldest Polish church in the city.
JOHN WISNIEWSKI, 60, says he has been with St. Laurentius Church in Fishtown all his life. His parents and grandparents were married there, and he was baptized there.
A.J. Thompson, 38, left another church two years ago to join St. Laurentius, a church he found "welcoming," he said.
Now, both men are furious with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which announced yesterday that it would proceed to demolish the 133-year-old building at Berks and Memphis streets, the oldest Polish church in the city.
Wisniewski, Thompson and other members of the community group Friends of St. Laurentius are saying: Not so fast.
The venerable church has remained a vital presence in Fishtown, even after a 2013 merger with Holy Name of Jesus Parish, two blocks away.
In September, a canon lawyer hired by the group filed an appeal with the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C. Officials there forwarded the appeal to the Holy See, according to a signed letter dated Oct. 1 provided to the Daily News by the group.
Archdiocese spokesman Ken Gavin said it "has no formal record of any such appeal being submitted or accepted by the Vatican."
Archdiocese officials closed the building in March 2014 after city inspectors found "deficiencies" in its exterior, "numerous outstanding maintenance issues including vertical cracks and heavily deteriorated faces in the building's brownstone masonry," an Archdiocese statement said.
Last year's winter "accelerated the deterioration process and put portions of the building in danger of collapse," the statement said.
Officials estimated it would cost $3.5 million to repair the church, including its twin towers, or $1 million to demolish it.
But for Wisniewski, the cost savings add up to a feeling of betrayal.
"We had a plan to save the church, to fix the church. They have no concept of the emotion, the sacredness attached to a church," Wisniewski said. "I feel betrayed."