Parishes appeal closings to Vatican
Worshippers in the Archdiocese of Boston and seven other dioceses around the country have banded together in a last-ditch effort to ask the Vatican to instruct bishops to negotiate with them over the closures of their parishes and to stop them from "wrecking the Catholic Church in America."
Peter Borre, cochairman of the Boston-based Council of Parishes, which was formed in 2004 to oppose parish closings, was in Rome yesterday to deliver a letter asking that the Vatican tell bishops to promptly enter into mediation with 31 parishioner groups in Boston, Springfield, Buffalo, Cleveland, New Orleans, New York City, and Scranton and Allentown in Pennsylvania.
The letter states that more than 1,000 American churches have been closed recently or are scheduled to close soon.
It doesn't say how many are unaffected.
Borre said he planned to deliver the letter to the Vatican today.
"We are stating on behalf of 31 parishioner groups and eight dioceses that the Vatican should step in and prevent bishops from basically wrecking the Catholic Church in America by shutting down viable parishes," he said.
Bishops nationwide have had the difficult task in recent years of merging and closing parishes and parochial schools as Catholics moved out of cities and into the suburbs. Also contributing to the consolidation has been a shortage of priests, rising costs to maintain old churches, and a drop in Mass attendance.
Borre called the effort "a last resort" to get bishops to reconsider decisions to close parishes.
In the Archdiocese of Boston, the fourth-largest archdiocese in the United States, five churches have prevented closures by staging all-day vigils.
The archdiocese, spread across 144 communities in Eastern Massachusetts, has a population of 1.8 million Catholics.
A Vatican spokesman declined to comment. An Archdiocese of Boston spokesman, Terry Donilan, did not comment directly on the letter but said in a brief statement that the archdiocese was waiting to hear back from the Vatican on a "small number of remaining appeals" from closed churches.