19th century church in Fishtown to be demolished

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has announced plans to demolish a church in Fishtown that dates back to the late 19th century.

"Basically they just keep lying to everybody saying the damage is much worse than it actually is," said Patricia Kinsman, Friends of St. Laurentius.

Kinsman is a member of the friends of St. Laurentius committee, which has appealed to the Vatican to stop the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's plan to demolish its first Polish parish, built on Berks Street in the 1800s.

She says even though Rome has not ruled on that appeal, the Archdiocese announced at masses this weekend that over the next several months it will move to secure permits to take down the church, paying for demolition with the sale of unutilized parish property.

The Archdiocese says it would cost almost $3.5 million to repair and restore St. Laurentius and its towers.

Supporters of the church, which was closed a year ago, say repairs can be made for under a million.

"It can be repaired. We're not talking about tearing down an old factory or an old train station or something like that. We're talking about a place that's spiritual, sacred," said Vincent Lipczynski.

St. Laurentius supporters argue the sealed-off church is a gem, filled with ornate paintings and a detailed wooden altar created by German craftsmen.

"The Archdiocese has a blatant disregard for this cultural, artistic and architectural masterpiece," said John Wisniewski., Friends of St. Laurentius.

"They don't care about the art and the history of the church and the community that built the church. They don't care about that, they only care about the money," said Kinsman.

St. Laurentius merged last year with nearby Holy Name of Jesus parish.

The Archdiocese says restoring St. Laurentius is too much of a financial burden for that combined parish, and a member of the original Holy Name of Jesus parish agrees.

"If we keep fighting this way we will lose. We'll lose it all and we won't have anything in Fishtown at all - and that is not what Christianity is about," said Pat Leach.

The Archdiocese added that St. Laurentius School which is still operating will not be closed.
Copyright © 2019 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.