TACOMA, Wash. — There's some good news for supporters and community members fighting to save the historic Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Tacoma.
The new Seattle Archbishop said he will meet with parish leaders to discuss the landmark church, slightly delaying demolition efforts.
According to Church canon law, newly appointed Archbishop of Seattle Paul Etienne had a 30-day deadline to formally respond to opposition for demolition by a non-profit, "Save Tacoma's Landmark Church."
Instead of responding in favor or ruling against the appeal for demolition, Etienne said he would sit with parish leaders to review the issues and make "informed, thoughtful and prayerful" responses about the recourse request.
"At this time, I am neither denying nor granting recourse against my predecessor's decree."
Although Etienne is meeting with church officials, the demolition decree issued by previous Archbishop J. Peter Sartain in August still stands, according to the diocese.
In response to Etienne's letter, "Save Tacoma's Landmark Church" issued the following statement to KING 5.
It reads, in part:
The letter has done a few things. It has officially let us know that the petition(s) for recourse was acknowledged to have been received in a timely manner in a proper format. It also shows us that Archbishop Etienne is taking his time with this decision giving it the necessary gravity that it calls for. Holy Rosary is an important icon in the Tacoma skyline and a work of architectural mastery that could not be replicated.
We are hopeful that there is a good chance that our petition to restore and maintain the church as a lay group is being seriously considered carefully by the Archbishop."
The group said they will continue to forge ahead with their plans to save the Holy Rosary church.
The nearly 100-year-old church initially closed in October of 2018 after a 5-foot-by-5-foot piece of ceiling plaster fell on the choir loft. Mass and other services have been held in an auditorium next to the church shortly after the closure.
Helen McClenahan, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Seattle, told KING 5 in August that safety issues and the total cost of $18 million in repairs were the reason for the permanent closure.
The Archdiocese said it spent more than 800 hours with contractors analyzing and examining the church. The demolition was recommended by an advisory team.
The church underwent its last major renovation work in 1994. That work included a new $500,000 copper roof for the steeple.
According to Canon Law, it is the responsibility of the church and its parishes to maintain and take care of the building. The Archdioceses said it does not have the funds to pay for the significant repairs, leaving the burden of costs onto the church members.
In August, then-Archbishop Sartain said in a letter to parishioners that, "It is clear that the costs to fully repair, restore, and maintain Holy Rosary Church are simply unaffordable. Therefore, after a great deal of prayer and wide consultation, I have decided to issue a decree to close and raze the church building."
"Save Tacoma's Landmark Church" said they have raised nearly $400,000 for restoration efforts.
Etienne will plan meetings with the pastoral and finance council of Holy Rosary before responding to the recourse request.
Those meetings could likely happen in the next few weeks, according to McClenahan.
After that meeting, Archbishop Etienne will make a decision on the demolition, but there is no definite timeline on when to expect those decisions, McClenahan said.
According to the city of Tacoma, the Catholic Church has not yet reached out to the city to begin the application for a demolition permit.
The Holy Rosary Catholic Church was designated as a historic site in 1975.
The demolition of a designated landmark requires review and approval by the Landmark Preservation Commission, which also involves a public hearing.