CHICAGO (WLS) -- Former parishioners gathered at the shuttered Saint Adalbert's Church in Pilsen Tuesday, where crews were working to remove a religious statue.
Police were on hand to keep people away from the property so crews have room to remove the replica of Michelangelo's "La Pieta" statue.
Despite parishioner objections, Saint Adalbert's was closed in 2019 due to declining attendance and millions of dollars needed for repairs.
The statue will be moved to a nearby church about a mile away. But when crews came to move it, they were met by demonstrators.
"That's the biggest concern. Once the 'Pieta' is gone, so will everything else trickle out of there," said demonstrator Judy Vazquez.
Some protesters have camped out in an alley in back of the church for 40 days.
A group of residents have been working to try and buy the building from the Archdiocese of Chicago to try and preserve the building for the neighborhood, turning it into a shrine as several other closed churches hav done.
"It has been the home for these Catholics and they don't want to see it destroyed," said Mary Lu Seidel of Preservation Chicago. "Their money built it, maintained it, and when the church is done with it they seem to be cut ou to fthe picture."
"Mayor Lightfoot and Cardinal Cupich, listen to the people of our community, 25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho Lopez. "We have the right to due process. We have the right to have a conversation about the future of St. Adalbert."
Crews cut a hole in the church to get in, which has now been boarded up. Police threatened to arrest protesters, but ultimately plans to remove the "Pieta" are on hold because the Buildings Departmetn determined crews lacked the proper permits.
The Archdiocese of Chicago released a statement saying, "Work is continuing to move the replica of Michelangelo's La Pieta statue from St. Adalbert Church, a closed building, and it will join the parishioners of St. Paul Catholic Church, an active, vibrant church within the same Pilsen community. Parishioners will have access to worship before and better enjoy the sculpture in its new home. Moreover, this valued community treasure can be better safeguarded and preserved in an active parish church. The parish has received the proper work permit, followed the proper permitting process and consulted with engineers who advised on the safest way to move the statue to its new home. Since April 19, there has been a post on the parish website that the statue would be moved: https://stpaulchgo.org/thoughts-from-our-community/."