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Boston Archdiocese Reverses Church Closing

December 15, 2004

BOSTON (AP) _ After months of resistance and round-the-clock vigils at several churches, archdiocese officials Tuesday reversed a decision to close one parish, and will re-evaluate four other planned closings.

Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley’s decision to shutter or consolidate 83 churches by year’s end came in response to declining attendance, a shortage of priests and financial pressure caused in part by the clergy sex abuse crisis.

Tuesday’s decision marked the first reversal of a decision to close a parish.

O’Malley said the decision grew out of consultations with an external committee he formed to find ways to improve the reconfiguration process. Some churches have complained the closures were slated for vibrant and financially thriving parishes.

``In keeping with my commitment to study the impact of new information on previously announced parish closing decisions, I have modified the reconfiguration plans for Newton and Plymouth,″ O’Malley said in a statement.

The archbishop said the Blessed Kateri Tekawitha Parish, located in a rapidly growing area of Plymouth, would remain open.

He also announced that St. Bernard Parish in Newton, officially closed Oct. 25 and now the site of a round-the-clock vigil by parishioners, will reopen and enter a period of re-evaluation with three other Newton parishes.

The statement said the decision to reverse the closure of Blessed Kateri Tekawitha came about because of ``a better understanding of the dramatic residential development and corresponding population growth in Plymouth.″

O’Malley will appoint two priests to be administrators for the four Newton parishes being reconsidered, and will make ``a recommendation for providing pastoral care in an ongoing and stable manner,″ the archdiocese said.

While many churches have shut down quietly as scheduled, parishioners in eight are holding round-the-clock vigils. A 69-year-old man was arrested last month for refusing to leave a parish that was closed in Winchester but on the archdiocese’s recommendation, prosecutors did not charge him.

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