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Faith & Parish

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."

Cleveland parishes await Lennon's response

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Joyful in their victory, parishioners of 13 Cleveland parishes who successfully appealed to the Vatican a diocesan decision to disband their communities and shutter their church doors now await the response of their bishop, the Most Rev. Richard G. Lennon.

As they wait, it’s unclear what sticking power Rome’s decision to reopen their parishes will have. Those close to the parishes view the decrees from the Vatican’s Congregation of the Clergy as a landmark decision, while others see it as a still murky scene where a possible appeal by Lennon could succeed.

New bishop in Oregon a native of diocese

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Described as a good listener and firm administrator by those who have worked with him at the parish level, Fr. Liam S. Cary will carry with him a track record of pro-life activism as well as Hispanic community outreach when he becomes the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Baker in Oregon.

Cary's appointment by Pope Benedict XVI was announced Thursday in Washington, D.C., by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The 64-year-old priest succeeds Bishop Robert Vasa, who was named coadjutor bishop of Santa Rosa, Calif., in January 2011 and took over leadership of that diocese last June from now-retired Bishop Daniel Walsh.

While born in Portland, Ore., and ordained for the Portland Archdiocese in 1992 by then-Archbishop William Leveda, the bishop-designate grew up in the Baker Diocese in the central Oregon town of Prineville.

During the 13-month interim since Vasa's departure, Bishop William Skylstad, the retired bishop of Spokane and former U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops president, served as apostolic administrator of the Baker Diocese, which is headquartered in Bend.

Vatican congregation says 13 Cleveland parishes must reopen

CLEVELAND -- A Vatican congregation has overturned the closing of 13 parishes in the Diocese of Cleveland and said the churches must be restored for worship, a person involved with the cases said.

The ruling reverses some of the closings ordered by Bishop Richard G. Lennon since 2009 under a diocesan-wide reconfiguration plan.

Cleveland parish remains a community of a different sort

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CLEVELAND -- There’s no steeple. No big stained-glass windows or rectory, no signs along Euclid Street announcing service times or the pastor’s name. The big space where liturgy is held, an old warehouse-looking room where it is said they once manufactured electric cars, has been done over in a kind of updated urban chic with religious emphasis. Open metal beams crisscross above the congregation and give way to skylights. Candles are spaced at regular intervals high on the brick walls.

Cash-strapped Italy looks to tax church-owned properties

VATICAN CITY -- Pinched by the global recession and tough-love budget demands of the European Union, the Italian government is looking for extra revenue, and has its eyes set on commercial properties owned by the Roman Catholic Church.

On Feb. 15, the government of Prime Minister Mario Monti announced it wants to revise rules on the tax-exempt status of church-owned commercial property. Although the exemption also applies to other not-for-profit entities, such as trade unions, political parties and religious groups, the Catholic church is its largest beneficiary.

"Such a move would have been unimaginable six months ago," said Francesco Perfetti, a history professor at LUISS University in Rome. "After all, no matter whether you are a believer or not, the church is an integral part of Italy's culture."

The exemption, introduced in 1992, has sparked a heated debate, especially after the Euro crisis and Italy's staggering debt forced the government to introduce sweeping austerity measures, including a sharp rise in the pension age.

Critics say the current rules give church-owned businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, an unfair advantage over their competitors.

Culture, faith on display at Mass honoring Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha

CHICAGO -- Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha mixed her own Mohawk and Algonquin culture with the Catholic faith she first inherited from her mother and later learned from Jesuit missionaries.

That blend of culture and faith was on display Feb. 26 as the people and staff of the Kateri Center, the Archdiocese of Chicago's American Indian Ministry, celebrated the announcement earlier in February that Blessed Kateri will be canonized Oct. 21, along with Blessed Marianne Cope of Molokai and five others.

On Ash Wednesday, Episcopalians take it to the streets

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Five years ago, the Rev. Teresa K.M. Danieley had an epiphany of sorts. If people can grab breakfast on the go or pay a bill from their cell phone, she thought, why shouldn't they be able to get their ashes in a flash?

That's why, on Ash Wednesday 2007, Danieley planted herself in full priestly regalia at a busy intersection in St. Louis, smudging the sign of the cross on the foreheads of bicyclists, drivers and bus passengers.

Churches share ongoing Lenten ecumenical mission

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Everything is bigger in Texas, even ecumenical faith and love.

For 42 years, seven churches of different denominations in Beaumont, Texas, have shared an ecumenical Lenten mission with one another, gathering three days in Lent for prayer, reflection and fellowship.

“We’ve established many wonderful friends over the years,” said Msgr. William Manger, pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church for the past 21 years.

Besides St. Anne, the churches (some of which entered the group after it started) involved are St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Calder Baptist Church, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, First Christian Church, Bethlehem Lutheran Church and Trinity United Methodist Church. All are no more than three miles apart.

Harland Merriam has been pastor at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church for 25 years. The series likely started, Merriam said, because of the already existing relationships between members of the different churches and a vision from the pastors.

The pastors “wanted to experience something that we don’t do regularly,” he said, and they had a “desire to do something together.”

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