The pastor of a Cleveland congregation holding worship services inside a former warehouse is speaking out following a decree of excommunication by Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon.
LAKEWOOD, Ohio - The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland hopes to build a stronger Catholic community across Northeast Ohio, in the aftermath of closing and merging churches, but the need to close more churches looms over the uneasy faithful.
Bishop Richard Lennon led a news conference at a former church in Lakewood Monday, one day after the diocese released its annual finance report.
"What brought this on, was the objective to build parishes and have a stronger Catholic community," Lennon said.
Lennon said the sale of 26 closed churches created more than $19 million that would go to existing parishes. Of that money, $4.9 million is paying debts and operating expenses, $7.8 million is going back to existing churches, and the diocese has a remaining balance of $6.8 million.
The decision to close and merge churches was controversial, alarming many parishioners. Standing by the decision, Lennon said, "I don't think people have had the information that I do have, and a lot of it is very strong religious feelings about what they lost."
Lennon hoped to highlight the positive after the reconfiguration plan. "We did it primarily for helping neighborhoods so they could go on with someone else there contributing to the overall good of the neighborhood."
Monday's news conference was held at the former St. Hedwig Church in Lakewood. The one-time church is now The Museum of Divine Statues, housing and displaying precious artifacts from other closed churches. Other churches have become outreach facilities to help people suffering from chemical dependence.
Lennon also said money from the closures netted will go back to the church community. The diocese established an endowment fund, it created tuition relief for parents who want to send their children to Catholic schools, and existing churches are catching up on maintenance work.
The bishop said the extra money will help the diocese educate the 48,000 children in the eight counties it encompasses. Lennon called that a school district bigger than Cleveland's, and larger than any other in the state of Ohio.
Lennon made it clear that the situation facing the Diocese before the reconfiguration plan was very grim. He had to close six churches, even before the official plan to close and merge more than 50 others.
"They literally could not pay their bills. They had no money. So to some extent, you may be very sad about it, but the reality is, utilities have to be paid," Lennon said.
The bishop said the need for the reconfiguration plan was due to the migrating Catholic population, which has been dwindling since 1970. It's a situation that Lennon said could continue to worsen.
The bishop said he does not have any plans for more closings, but he added a caution.
"I cannot say it will never happen again either. I have no idea what will happen as we go forward," he said.
Lennon said, the diocese still has some deficits, while facing the ongoing prospect of losing more parishioners every weekend. He added the money saved from the closings will go toward keeping the remaining churches operational and help pay their bills on time.
"Ultimately, it's not about church buildings my friends, it's about our relationship with God," Lennon said.
Read the full report here: http://on.wews.com/yrKySi
Pope Benedict XVI will be held high regard by members of Cleveland churches ordered reopened by the Vatican under his watch, a lay leader of a spared congregation said Monday.
St. Casimir parishioners celebrated their first Christmas inside parish since the Cleveland Catholic Diocese shut down 13 local dioceses.
Mass will again be held at St. Emeric Catholic Church beginning Nov. 4, and the pastor of the parish has just been announced.
The last of 11 churches closed by the Cleveland Catholic Diocese and later spared by the Vatican is planning its reopening.
A closed northeast Ohio church spared by the Vatican has reopened.
Cleveland's St. Adalbert Church reopened on Sunday.
St. James Church in Lakewood held its first mass Wednesday night since being closed by Bishop Richard Lennon more than two years ago.
St. Barbara in Cleveland, St. Patrick in Cleveland's West Park neighborhood and St. Mary in Bedford hold simultaneous homecoming Mass.
Opening dates for all closed catholic churches in the Cleveland area are now known.