Ban on mass at Shrine of Christ the King Church raises concern for future of historic landmark

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Woodlawn community organizers are questioning the Archdiocese of Chicago’s decision to ban public masses at Shrine of Christ the King Catholic Church and worry officials may be planning to shutter the historic landmark building.

Mass and other sacraments at Shrine of Christ the King, 6401 S. Woodlawn Ave., were suspended indefinitely on Monday.

Jennifer Blackman, a member of the Coalition to Save the Shrine – a nonprofit organization aiming to restore the church – said many questions have gone unanswered and the Archdiocese of Chicago has not provided any statements.

In a statement to FOX 32 News on Wednesday, the archdiocese said it was Shrine of Christ the King's decision to halt masses at the church.

"On July 31, the Shrine of Christ the King communicated to the archdiocese that they would stop offering Mass and other sacraments at the Shrine. It was their choice to do so," an archdiocese spokesperson said in the statement.


Blackman said the Archdiocese has banned Latin Mass citywide, marginalizing the Institute of Christ the King Church, which solely celebrates Latin Mass.

She said the decision crosses the line of religious freedom. She also thinks it’s a move that builds on the Archdiocese’s plan in 2016 to demolish the church when it applied for a demolition permit after a significant fire in 2015 destroyed the roof.

"I believe the Latin Mass is the method that they’re trying to get access to the building," Blackman said. "By banning all Latin Masses for any church in the city, it’s going to be affected – their funding, everything – but then, what happens to the building itself?"

However, the archdiocese said Cardinal Blase Cupich instructed parishes and shrines in January to continue Latin mass "in a manner consistent with the decree of Pope Francis, Traditionis Custodes."

The Coalition to Save the Shrine formed in January 2016.

Fire damage was repaired, and additional safety features were added in recent years, with help from more than $3 million raised by the church’s congregation and Save the Shrine, the organization said.

Gabriel Piemonte, co-founder of Save the Shrine, said the suspension and recent developments "are a cause for concern."

"We and other community stakeholders are requesting that the Archdiocese be transparent in the decision-making process to ensure the future of the building reflects its highest and best use," Piemonte said.

The Archdiocese deeded the church’s property to the Institute of Christ the King in 2016, but Save the Shrine said it continues to monitor the status of the deed because it includes an option for the property to revert to the Archdiocese.

The building was landmarked in 2003 as St. Gelasius. It was constructed in 1927 as St. Clara Church.

Blackman said representatives from Coalition to Save the Shrine will speak in support of preserving the building at Thursday’s Commission on Chicago Landmarks meeting.