Tonawanda News — The Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education has denied St. Francis of Assisi’s appeal that challenged the bishop’s decision to close the school in the City of Tonawanda, the Buffalo Diocese said in a statement Thursday.
The congregation wrote that the appeals cannot be accepted “and confirms the legitimacy of the bishop’s decision to close the schools as part of the diocesan plan for the viability and good distribution of Catholic schools of the diocese.”
Mark Saltarelli, who sent in the appeal on behalf of St. Francis, said he hasn’t received official notification from the Vatican, and reiterated that he will appeal to the next level, the Apostolic Signatura, if necessary.
“If the bishop and the Catholic Education Department think this is over they are sadly mistaken. They do not know me very well. I will not tolerate unjust decisions based on bad data, poor geography and no planning,” Saltarelli said.
The appeal was sent in February, after Bishop Richard Malone rejected a petition that requested him to reconsider the closure of the school — the only Catholic elementary institution in the Twin Cities.
In January, Malone announced the school and nine others would close as part of a diocese-wide reorganization and downsizing plan. Teachers, students and parishioners have been fighting the decision, and have cited the school’s $500,000 endowment and service to both Niagara County and Erie County students.
On Thursday, Malone issued a statement in response to the Vatican Congregation’s decision.
“I am relieved that the Congregation for Catholic Education has upheld my decision, which was based on extensive research and analysis,” he wrote. “It reinforces the authority of the diocesan bishop to make decisions of this nature and reflects my obligation as bishop to take into consideration all Catholic education in Western New York when determining the reconfiguration of our Catholic elementary schools.”