CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Vatican is investigating Bishop Richard Lennon’s closings of churches in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, according to a report in an Italian newspaper.
A spokesman for the diocese said Tuesday he would look into the account, but had no immediate comment.
The report Friday in the Italian newspaper La Stampa by veteran Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti, said the Vatican has decided to send “an apostolic visit, or rather, an investigation” to look into Lennon’s decisions on the closings.
Lennon, citing changes in Catholic demographics, a shortage of priests and dwindling Sunday cash collections, ordered the shuttering of 50 parishes, beginning in August 2009 and ending in June 2010.
Going from church to church each Sunday to say final Masses, Lennon, escorted by armed body guards, became a target for protestors and the subject of angry letters to Rome.
More than a dozen Cleveland-area churches appealed their closings to the Holy See and are still waiting for decisions from a Vatican panel called the Congregation for the Clergy
Previous Plain Dealer coverage
- Cleveland City Council delays consideration of stained-glass legislation (March 22, 2011)
- Displaced St. Emeric parishioners find new home at St. Colman in Cleveland (Oct. 8, 2010)
- Two pastors calling on Vatican to stop Cleveland church closings (Sept. 25)
- Bishop Richard Lennon, breakaway St. Peter Church in Cleveland at standoff (Sept. 22)
- Coverage of the Cleveland Diocese church closings
The report published in La Stampa’s “Vatican Insider” said, “… “The reasons that prompted the decision to close parishes in Cleveland have been the flow of population to outlying areas, the financial difficulties that have seen 42 percent of parish budgets finish in the red and the shortage of priests.
” . . . The apostolic visit will serve to ascertain the facts.”
Tosatti did not immediately respond to an email from The Plain Dealer, seeking more details.
The Italian paper said the Congregation for the Clergy is preparing guidelines on how “each individual diocese must act to rebuild its presence in their area.” The guidelines could be ready by October, the newspaper said.
“The protests of the faithful . . . have been numerous and loud and have reached the Vatican,” the paper continued.
The protests also reached Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the papal nuncio — the Vatican’s U.S. ambassador — in Washington, D.C., according to author Jason Berry in his new book “Render Unto Rome,” released this month.
Berry says that Sambi, who had gotten angry letters about Lennon from Cleveland, told Boston Catholic activist Peter Borre last year that “he would authorize an apostolic visitation, an investigation of Lennon by another prelate.”
Meanwhile, local Catholics opposed to the church closings will gather for a prayer service Thursday on Cleveland’s near West Side at St. Emeric Hungarian Catholic Church. The service comes on the one-year anniversary of closing St. Emeric’s, the last church shuttered under Lennon’s downsizing.
The vigil is scheduled for 7 p.m. St. Emeric is on West 22nd Street, adjacent to a parking lot of the West Side Market.
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