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As Philadelphia Catholics Stop Going to Mass, 16 Parishes Become 13


PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has announced that 16 parishes will be merged into 13 nearby parishes in Philadelphia and its suburbs.

Parishioners will attend daily and Sunday Mass at the church of the new parish, with the old parish churches becoming worship sites, the archdiocese said Sunday. The status of another 17 parishes will not change.

The closures reflect the latest efforts to cut costs at the archdiocese by closings schools and parishes and selling off real estate. The archdiocese cited shifting Catholic populations, high density of parishes in a small area, and declines in Mass attendance and the number of available priests.

In Bucks County, the archdiocese confirmed that St. Ann Parish in Bristol will be absorbed into neighboring St. Mark, with the St. Ann building becoming a worship site.

Fr. Tom Morris told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the merger will be emotional. He said older parishioners remember a time when the Italian immigrants who formed St. Ann felt discriminated against by other Catholics.

At Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Bridgeport in Montgomery County, Father Salvatore Pronesti and congregants were shocked when they got word Friday that the parish would become part of Sacred Heart Parish in Swedesburg.

"I cannot understand why," Pronesti told the congregants during Saturday afternoon Mass. "I cannot pretend that I do."

But he said everyone must "pull together and try to form this united parish, the paper reported.

"It's critical for our spiritual lives," he said. "... The buildings, yes, we like them. But the buildings don't make the parish. The parish makes the buildings."

The archdiocese has closed 31 parishes since 2012, and has 235 still in operation.

This story has been updated. The initial version stated that 29 parishes would merge, not 16.

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