St. Paul church torn down in Pass Christian

By Krystal Allan – bio | email

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - For some, it was the timing that made the sight of a torn-down St. Paul more difficult to accept.

"Could have been a better time than the week of Christmas," says St. Paul church member Ann Tucker-Taylor.

People tried to capture and hold onto a piece of the church by taking photos and picking up items from the rubble.

"It's all mementos.  It's stuff we can all keep forever since we won't have the church," Tucker-Taylor says.

And those mementos will now accompany a lot of memories of St. Paul Catholic church.

"I did make my first communion here. I did my first alter serving here. It has been a big part of my family for a long time," says Katherine Taylor.

"My children (doing their) alter service.  My husband and I were married here," Tucker-Taylor says.

The site has remained church property in Pass Christian for more than 150 years.  The building being torn down was built in the 1970's.

The Catholic Diocese of Biloxi decided to tear down the building citing Hurricane Katrina damage.  Some of the parishioners sought to disprove that conclusion.  They took the issue to the courts and also argued for the church's historical significance.

Ultimately, the city's board of alderman granted the permit for demolition, stating the church had not been designated as a historic landmark.

For people like Tucker-Taylor, the reality of a torn-down St. Paul is still a tough pill to swallow.

"Lot of memories...Lot of history...just very sad," says Tucker-Taylor.

As for the church grounds, the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi says the Bishop of the Diocese, Bishop Roger Morin, has pledged one million dollars for a chapel.  The diocese says it will hold no fewer than 100 people.

In talking with the representatives from the Catholic Diocese Monday afternoon, they say it's been an unfortunate situation.  Bishop Roger Morin is asking for a spirit of Christian unity, harmony and charity.

Work crews say the demolition will likely take about two weeks to wrap up.  Some have been asking if the iconic, large cross in front of the former church will come down.  Work crews say they have been told not to touch it.  The Diocese would not say for sure if it will be moved.

The issue stirred up some strong feelings from Mayor Chipper McDermott who vetoed the alderman's decision to tear the church down.

"Personally, I rather them take the cross down.  I think they ought to take it all down.  If you're not going to have a church, then take it all out.  Aint no sense in letting it be holy ground cause it's not.  I'm for taking the cross down immediately," says McDermott.

As for a chapel, the mayor says if it's not going to be a church, he says it's a prime piece of property on the beachfront that should be put on the tax rolls.

According to a leader of the Save St. Paul coalition Dr. Frank Schmidt, there's still pending litigation.  It does not involve the demolition of the building.  Schmidt says it has to do with what the Diocese did with money church members say they raised  to rebuild St. Paul.

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