BOSTON (Reuters) - Massachusetts' top court on Wednesday ruled that parishioners who have staged a decade-long vigil aimed at stopping the closure of their Roman Catholic church are trespassing in violation of state laws.
The ruling followed a long legal battle between the Friends of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church and the Archdiocese of Boston, which in 2004 listed it among 70 churches to be closed in a restructuring.
Since that time, a group of parishioners has occupied the property in waterfront Scituate, south of Boston, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Wednesday upheld a lower-court ruling that the parishioners were violating state laws with their occupation.
"While we acknowledge the defendants' heartfelt beliefs that they are entitled to remain on the premises as an exercise of their freedom of religion, the judge's conclusion that the trespassers is supported by the evidence," the court wrote.
Cabrini is the last of a half-dozen Boston-area churches that parishioners occupied in an attempt to stop the closures. The other groups abandoned their vigils or lost in the courts.
(Reporting by Scott Malone)