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Cleveland Bishop To Reopen 12 Closed Parishes

The Cleveland Catholic Diocese has decided not to challenge a Vatican decree to reopen 12 parishes that had been shuttered in an austerity move. In 2009, Bishop Richard Lennon stunned much of the region’s Catholic community when he announced a parish reconfiguration plan that would close 50 churches. He argued that population shifts, a dwindling pool of priests, and various economic concerns had forced his hand. The Bishop’s spokesperson says 14 of those shuttered churches appealed his decision to the Vatican, and last month 12 of them won their appeals and church decrees from Rome ordered that they be reopened. Tuesday, flanked by his advisors at Cleveland’s downtown Cathedral, Bishop Lennon announced his decision not to appeal the Vatican decrees. "Doing so would prolong the process for a number of years, and would create more uncertainty and continue to divide our Catholic community," Lennon said. "Therefore, I will move forward and carry out the Congregation for the Clergy’s directives regarding the parishes in an orderly manner." Bringing the closed buildings back to life will involve clean-up, minor maintenance and the return of sacred objects that had been removed. The Bishop said the Diocese will work with the priests and parishioners as they re-establish their parishes in the coming weeks, though he offered a few words of caution. "The parishes that are reopening will face many of the challenges that led to their being closed. As is true for all parishes, it will be essential for each of these parishes to demonstrate, on an ongoing basis, that they have the active membership and the financial wherewithal to sustain themselves." Christine LaSalvia of Lakewood’s St. James church says her parish plans to do just that. "About two years back we had put together a financial plan and assembled a group that wanted to be involved in fundraising and other efforts to get restarted, if the decision went our way," LaSalvia said. In addition to St James, seven churches in Cleveland, two in Akron, and one each in Bedford and Lorain will reopen their doors. Bishop Lennonsays earlier news reports that a thirteenth church had also won it’s appeal were false. For Christine LaSalvia of St. James, it’s been a long three years, and she’s glad the ordeal is over. "We didn’t get open for Easter, but we’re just grateful to be reopened and we look forward to the future."