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Faith & Parish

Cleveland parishes meet reopening news with relief, skepticism

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Saying "it's time for peace and unity" in his diocese, the bishop of Cleveland will not appeal the rulings of the Congregation for the Clergy regarding his 12 closed parishes. Instead, he will begin the process to restore them and reopen the churches as places of worship.

"I will not appeal the decrees to the Apostolic Signatura," said Bishop Richard G. Lennon in a statement Tuesday. "Doing so would prolong the process a number of years and would create more uncertainty and continue to divide our Catholic family."

Bishop to reopen 12 closed Cleveland parishes

CLEVELAND -- Roman Catholic Bishop Richard Lennon on Tuesday (April 17) announced that he will reopen 12 churches whose closings were reversed by the Vatican last month.

The 12 parishes had filed appeals with the Vatican after Lennon, between 2009 and 2010, closed 50 churches in the eight-county diocese, citing changes in demographics and shortages of priests and cash.

Originally, reports indicated that there were 13 churches that had won appeals. But Lennon said this morning that only 12 had appealed.

Lennon said that he had decided not to appeal the Vatican rulings, adding that "it is time for peace and unity in the Diocese of Cleveland."

The 12 churches had appealed to the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, arguing they were vibrant, self-sustaining parishes that should not be closed. The panel ruled that the bishop did not follow church laws and procedures when he closed the churches.

The churches have been standing empty since their closings. The diocese, which has sold a number of closed churches, could not, under church law, sell a church or its contents while it was under appeal.

Pittsburgh priests to bishop: Listen to laity on contraception

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Several priests of the Pittsburgh diocese have met with Bishop David Zubik -- the prelate who said in January that the Obama administration's mandate regarding coverage of contraceptives in health care plans told Catholics, "To Hell with you" -- telling him his stance on the issue was alienating women and creating "a lot of anger" among laypeople.

Artists painstakingly transfer sacred stained glass windows

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NEWARK, N.J. -- For almost a century, the stained glass portrait of St. Patrick looked down on parishioners -- as if from the heavens -- from the massive nave of Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

But the Irish saint, as well as stained-glass depictions of St. Anna, St. Cecelia, Moses and Isaiah, were recently brought down to earth and will now watch over visitors at a new home 30 miles away, the Maryrest Chapel Mausoleum in Mahwah.

Unusual study asks former Catholics why they left church

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WASHINGTON -- In an unusual study whose main results were released at a Catholic University of America conference in Washington Thursday, Villanova University in Philadelphia asked former Catholics in the Trenton, N.J., diocese why they left the church.

While the results themselves were not surprising, the researchers said, the study suggests new ways the church can approach Catholics who are dissatisfied with what the church teaches or how it acts -- including those so dissatisfied that they have decided to leave.

One of their key recommendations was for pastors, bishops and other church officials to respond consistently to questioning or angry Catholics with constructive dialogue rather than a simple reiteration of church rules or policies.

Catholics eye Cleveland closures for national precedent

CLEVELAND -- Before a recent prayer service in a shuttered Catholic church in Holyoke, Mass., parishioner Victor Anop stood before 120 people and made an urgent announcement:

"The Vatican has ordered the bishop of Cleveland to reopen 13 closed churches."

"Everybody broke into applause," Anop said in a telephone interview. "People are still talking about it. What happened in Cleveland brings us hope."

Cleveland bishop to mull parish reopenings while celebrations go ahead

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A week after news broke about their content, the decrees from the Vatican's Congregation of the Clergy regarding appeals by 13 shuttered Cleveland parishes have arrived at the diocese and Bishop Richard G. Lennon has received them.

In a brief statement released Wednesday through the diocesan website, Lennon acknowledged receiving the decrees from the congregation and said he will now begin reviewing their rulings with his advisers.

Lennon has 60 days to determine if he wishes to appeal the congregation's decision to overrule his closing of 13 churches and suppressing their parishes. The appeal process would go through the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's Supreme Court.

Regardless of what Lennon decides to do, those sided with the parishes want Lennon to reopen their churches immediately, in accordance with the decrees.

"[An appeal is] within his right," said Peter Borre, an adviser to the parishes. "However, the status quo now canonically is that these 13 things are Catholic parishes, and the 13 padlocked buildings are parochial churches with full standing.

Philadelphia employee charged with stealing $900,000 from archdiocese

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PHILADELPHIA -- Anita Guzzardi, former chief financial officer of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, turned herself into Philadelphia police March 13 after she was charged with theft, forgery and unlawful use of a computer.

Guzzardi, 43, is believed to have embezzled more than $900,000 from the archdiocese's general operating fund to pay her own gambling debts and credit card bills before she was fired in July 2011.

In a March 13 statement, the archdiocese said insurance had covered the loss of the embezzled funds and part of the costs of an internal investigation.

"Donations to the 'Heritage of Faith -- Vision of Hope' capital campaign and the annual Catholic Charities Appeal were not impacted," the statement said. "The theft had no effect on the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission or the decision to close or regionalize any school."

The district attorney's office said Guzzardi had returned $150,000 to the archdiocese.

In a Feb. 3 column in The Catholic Standard & Times, the archdiocesan newspaper, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said, "People are angry about this loss, and they're right. So am I."

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