In a letter read to parishioners of St. John the Evangelist-Our Lady of Peace last weekend, it was announced that plans are under way for the sale of Our Lady of Peace Church on East 62nd Street to the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Christian community.
Auxiliary Bishop John O’Hara, vicar for pastoral planning and episcopal vicar of South, East and West Manhattan and Staten Island, wrote the letter, which was read by Msgr. Douglas Mathers, pastor of St. John the Evangelist-Our Lady of Peace, at weekend Masses Feb. 11-12.
It was also announced that the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome, which oversees parish mergers, reviewed an appeal made by former parishioners against the decree of the merger and “concluded that the merger was appropriate and properly handled,” the letter stated.
Officials in Rome will be providing guidance regarding the proper canonical process for the transfer of the church property.
The overall tone of the letter was hopeful—in no small part due to the blessing of Pope Francis for the Egyptian Coptics to purchase the church to use as their cathedral. “Some months ago, Cardinal Dolan had the occasion to introduce the New York Egyptian Coptic Orthodox bishop, His Grace Bishop David, to the Holy Father, at which time they spoke about their dream to purchase Our Lady of Peace as their cathedral,” the letter states.
“Pope Francis was delighted to learn that your parish, together with the archdiocese, was interested in assisting the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church, in this way,” Bishop O’Hara wrote. Pope Tawadros II of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church and Pope Francis “have communicated with each other” and “both popes have given their blessings.”
Egyptian Coptics make up the largest Christian minority group in the Muslim-majority country, and are one of the most persecuted in the Middle East.
“Personally, I cannot tell you how pleased we all are to know that we will be aiding our Coptic Orthodox brothers and sisters in the Lord, including refugees from persecution, by providing them a house of worship,” Bishop O’Hara continued.
The Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church plans to begin using Our Lady of Peace Church as a place of worship during the upcoming Lenten season.
Bishop David, in the same spirit of Christian brotherhood, has agreed to permit a weekly Catholic Mass to be celebrated at Our Lady of Peace on Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon. The details are still to be determined.
The merger of St. John the Evangelist and Our Lady of Peace took effect in the summer of 2015 as part of the Making All Things New initiative.