Armenian Church offers to buy St. Francis in Nashua

Associated Press
May 8 2004

Armenian Church offers to buy St. Francis in Nashua
The Associated Press

NASHUA, N.H. (AP) – The Catholic Diocese of Manchester hopes that a
$1 million offer from a representative of the Armenian Orthodox
Church to buy the century-old century-old St. Francis Xavier Church
will put residents’ minds at ease.

Architectural preservationists and former parishioners of the church
filed suit against Bishop John McCormack last month to stop their
closed church from being sold. They wanted the court to prevent any
sale and have the diocese maintain the building as a functioning

Diocesan officials hope a probate court will recognize their intent
to transfer ownership to another church, thus following a provision
in a 119-year-old deed that lies at the center of the parishioners

The deed states that if destroyed, the church building must be
replaced with another. It also requires that the land always hold a
place of religious observance and nothing else.

“We hope this proposal is consistent with the charitable condition”
of The Jackson Co., a textile manufacturer that donated the land on
which the building sits, said the Rev. Edward Arsenault, chancellor
of the Manchester diocese. “It’s our goal to resolve any civil legal
issue before transferring the title.”

The identity of the Armenian churchs representative is unknown. It is
also unclear if the individual would personally finance the purchase,
or if it would be funded by contributions from the Armenian
community. The buyer could donate the building outright to the
Armenian church, court documents suggest.

The diocese closed the church last year, citing a declining
parishioner base, dwindling donations and a clergy shortage.

“It was meant to be a church. Im very grateful the Armenian people
see its value as a house of worship, and a magnificent one at that,”
said Georgi Hippauf, a member of the St. Francis Xavier Church

The foundation – a group that wants St. Francis to remain a religious
institution – and several former parishioners of the church sued
McCormack, attempting to strip the diocese of its supervisory power
of the building.

The suit boils down to the question of who owns a church: the
parishioners or the bishop?

The diocese filed several court motions Friday, including petitions
to suspend and ultimately dismiss the suit in Hillsborough County
Superior Court. The diocese instead wants the Hillsborough County
Probate Court to issue a final ruling on the deed.

Gerald Prunier, a Nashua attorney representing the interested buyer,
would also not reveal the persons identity. He said the new church
would “be the parish of New Hampshire.”

“My client has strong interest in the church,” Prunier said. “Anyone
(who) takes the time to go around in the church realizes what a great
building it is.”