CLEVELAND (AP) — Critics of widespread church closings in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese called Thursday for the bishop to implement an extraordinary Vatican ruling and quickly reopen 13 churches.
Bishop Richard Lennon must decide whether to abide by the ruling from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy or challenge it before the church’s top court.
Spokesman Robert Tayek said Thursday the bishop has unofficial copies of the ruling but must await certified documents from the Vatican to comment. Lennon has 60 days to appeal.
Patricia Schulte-Singleton, who leads the Endangered Catholics group that challenged the closings, called on Lennon to meet with affected parishioners and reopen the churches.
“I think it would be in his best interest as well as the diocese’s best interest,” she said.
FutureChurch, a Cleveland-based coalition which lobbies for a stronger voice for lay Catholics, called on Lennon to skip any appeal and restore affected parishes.
“We hope the diocese will reach out to appealing parishioners and reconcile by engaging them in the planning to restore them to their parish homes,” Sister Chris Schenk, leader of FutureChurch, said in an email statement.
The Vatican move represents a rare instance in which Rome has reversed a U.S. bishop on the shutdown of churches. The Congregation for the Clergy ruled that Lennon failed to follow church law and procedure in the closings three years ago.
The 13 churches were among 50 shut down or merged by Lennon, who said the eight-county diocese could no longer keep them open because of declining numbers of parishioners and a shortage of priests.