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 Group says Vatican will halt church project

But archdiocese says Cathedral of St. John renovation continues

of the Journal Sentinel staffLast Updated: May 22, 2001Renovation work on the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist will be stopped this week under an order issued by the Vatican in response to local objections to the project, opponents to the renovation said Tuesday.
The Milwaukee Archdiocese, however, said it had received no word from the Vatican regarding the renovation, and work on the downtown cathedral, 802 N. Jackson St., continued Tuesday afternoon. Workers inside the cathedral unscrewed pews from the floor at the same time opponents of the renovation announced they had gained Vatican intervention to stop such work. Alan Kershaw, a canon lawyer working in Rome, had filed papers last week asking the Vatican to halt the $4.5 million renovation of the Cathedral's interior. The work is part of a larger, $10 million project to rebuild the entire block. Kershaw and the local church members he represents contend the proposed changes to the church's interior violate Catholic liturgical norms and laws.
In the renovation, the pews will be replaced with chairs, and the seating arrangement will place worshippers on three sides of the altar. Another change drawing complaints will place the tabernacle in an adjacent chapel, rather than including it as part of the altar.
Kershaw said he received a letter from the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments directing that the renovation work be stopped and that a review by Vatican officials be undertaken. A copy of the order was sent to the archdiocese, Kershaw said. Jerry Topczewski, a spokesman for the archdiocese and Archbishop Rembert Weakland, said the only information they received about the Vatican's intervention came from Al Szews, a West Allis man leading the opposition to the project.
"There's no reason today, for us to suspend work on the project," Topczewski said.
He also repeated the archdiocesan position that the renovations are in keeping with the church's guidelines. Kershaw said the information he received from the Vatican indicated the review of the renovation plans would take about 90 days. Vikki Ortiz of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.
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