NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) — Parishioners at a closed New Bedford Catholic church are protesting a decree by the local bishop that clears the way for a different use of the building.

Bishop George Coleman's decree on St. John the Baptist Church means the building can be used for a secular purpose, as long as the purpose is not offensive to Catholics. The decree takes effect next Friday.

But parishioners who oppose the church closing say Coleman's decree is premature. Though their appeal of the closing was rejected by the Vatican, parishioner Frederick Langevin said the issue isn't settled because they're appealing that decision to the Vatican high court.

The church is North America's oldest Portuguese church. The diocese decided to close it last November, citing issues including declining attendance and high debt.