Boston Catholics protest closures

BOSTON (AP) -- More than 1,000 Roman Catholics gathered on Boston Common for a Mass protesting plans by the Archdiocese of Boston to close dozens of churches.
Members of all 357 parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston were invited to the Mass last Sunday by Voice of the Faithful, a lay reform group created after the clergy sex-abuse crisis erupted in Boston more than two years ago.
"This is about being pastoral and showing sympathy to the churches that are closing," said Leslie Dennis, a Voice of the Faithful member from the Charlestown section of Boston. "We're not agreeing to the closures of the churches. It was a rushed, unfair process."
Several participants at the two-hour Mass carried signs bearing messages such as "Save Sacred Heart Church" and "Accountability -- The only hope for our future."
A spokesman for the archdiocese declined to comment after the event.
Archbishop Sean O'Malley has said the closures were necessary because of declining Mass attendance, a shortage of priests and shifts in Catholic population. He said the archdiocese is no longer able to support struggling parishes, many of which are in older buildings in need of repairs. More than 80 parishes are scheduled to close this year.
Last fall, the archdiocese agreed to pay $85 million to settle abuse lawsuits filed by more than 500 people. The archdiocese sold off the archbishop's mansion to partially fund the settlement, but insists no parish assets will be used to cover abuse-related costs.

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