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CNY Catholics gather to confront church

"We have only one concern which is safeguarding viable parishes. We see ourselves in many ways as more Catholic than some of the bishops who are moving around, tossing these parishes." Peter Borre

By More than 110 Catholics from 26 parishes in Central New York gathered in Syracuse Saturday to share stories of church closings and ask the diocese to stop further closings.

The group signed petitions asking the new Bishop of Syracuse to "call a moratorium on parish reconfigurations so the process to date can, with input from the laity, be evaluated."

Saturday's four-hour meeting was "a great opportunity to band together and just to hear the experiences of other people in other parishes," said Trice Quinlan, who attends St. Leo's Church, which is slated to close in Tully. "I think we need to have a broader outlook."

Since 2007 the Diocese of Syracuse has closed at least 15 churches under a policy of "one priest, one building" or parish community. In a cover letter to the petition, the group, calling itself "We Are The Church," takes issue with this policy and also questions "hurried parish closings," "absence of laity on the decision-making body" to close churches, "diminishing Catholic presence in our urban centers," and "abandonment of rural parishes."

The keynote speaker Saturday was Peter Borre, chair of the Boston-based Council of Parishes, which has helped organize members of eight Catholic dioceses there to protest plans for church closings; four churches scheduled for closing have remained open, he said. Instead of 83 planned closings, 60 churches closed, which Borre noted was not quite a victory.

"We have only one concern which is safeguarding viable parishes. We see ourselves in many ways as more Catholic than some of the bishops who are moving around, tossing these parishes," Borre told the crowd that filled the Bishop Harrison Center on the grounds of the newly merged All Saints Church, formerly St. Therese, in Syracuse.

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