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Married couple tells pope and bishops that parishes should welcome same-sex couples

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A married couple told Pope Francis and the Synod of Bishops on the family that Catholic parishes should welcome same-sex couples, following the example of parents who invite their son and his male partner to their home for Christmas.

Pope Francis leads the afternoon session on the first working day of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 6. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis leads the afternoon session on the first working day of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 6. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“The church constantly faces the tension of upholding the truth while expressing compassion and mercy. Families face this tension all the time,” Ron and Mavis Pirola of Sydney told the synod Oct. 6.

“Take homosexuality as an example. Friends of ours were planning their Christmas family gathering when their gay son said he wanted to bring his partner home too. They fully believed in the church’s teachings and they knew their grandchildren would see them welcome the son and his partner into the family. Their response could be summed up in three words, ‘He’s our son.’”

“What a model of evangelization for parishes as they respond to similar situations in their neighborhood,” the Pirolas said.

While Catholic teaching insists homosexual people should not be discriminated against, it holds that homosexual acts are always immoral and that marriage can only be a union between one man and one woman.

The couple, who are participating in the synod as non-voting auditors, spoke at the beginning of the afternoon session of the synod’s first working day. The session’s designated theme was “God’s plan for marriage and the family.”

The Pirolas also spoke of a divorced friend who “doesn’t feel fully accepted in her parish” yet “turns up to Mass regularly and uncomplainingly with her children. For the rest of her parish, she should be a model of courage and commitment in the face of adversity.”

The couple called for emphasizing the positive dimension of Catholic teaching on sexuality.

“Marriage is a sexual sacrament with its fullest expression in sexual intercourse. We believe that until married couples come to reverence sexual union as an essential part of their spirituality it is extremely hard to appreciate the beauty of teachings such as those of ‘Humanae Vitae,’” they said in reference to the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI that reaffirmed the church’s teaching on contraception.

“We need new ways and relatable language to touch people’s hearts,” the Pirolas said.

 

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Pope Francis asks bishops at family synod to speak fearlessly, listen humbly

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis opened the first working session of an extraordinary Synod of Bishops Oct. 6, urging participants to speak fearlessly and listen humbly during two weeks of discussion of the “pastoral challenges of the family.”

Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest then outlined some of the major challenges the bishops would discuss, including such controversial topics as cohabitation, divorce, birth control and the impact of social and economic pressures.

Bishops arrive in procession for a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis to open the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 5. (CNS photo/CNS photo/Maria Grazia Picciarella, pool)

Bishops arrive in procession for a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis to open the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 5. (CNS photo/CNS photo/Maria Grazia Picciarella, pool)

“Let nobody say: ‘I can’t say this; they’ll think such-and-such about me,’” Pope Francis told more than 180 bishops and more than 60 other synod participants. “Everyone needs to say what one feels duty-bound in the Lord to say: without respect for human considerations, without fear. And, at the same time, one must listen with humility and welcome with an open heart what the brothers say.”

The pope recalled that, after a gathering of the world’s cardinals in February, one cardinal told him others had hesitated to speak out for fear of disagreeing with the pope.

“This is no good, this is not synodality,” the pope said.

Later in the morning, Cardinal Erdo, who as the synod’s relator has the task of guiding the discussion and synthesizing its results, gave an hour-long speech that drew on written statements submitted in advance by the synod fathers and on responses to a well-publicized questionnaire sent to the world’s bishops last November.

The Oct. 5-19 synod is not supposed to reach definitive conclusions but set the agenda for a larger world synod in October 2015, which will make recommendations to the pope.

Cardinal Erdo said the synods would seek to develop shared pastoral “guidelines to help those living in difficult situations,” so that individual bishops would not resort to the “improvisations of a do-it-yourself ministry.”

“What is being discussed at this synod of an intense pastoral nature are not doctrinal issues, but the practical ones, nevertheless inseparable from the truths of the faith,” the cardinal said.

Among the difficult family situations he identified was that of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, whose predicament Pope Francis has said exemplifies a general need for mercy in the church today.

The cardinal made only an oblique reference to what is sure to be one the synod’s most discussed topics: a controversial proposal by German Cardinal Walter Kasper that would make it easier for such Catholics to receive Communion, even if they do not obtain annulments of their first, sacramental marriages.

“It would be misleading to concentrate only on the question of the reception of the sacraments,” Cardinal Erdo said.

He focused instead on the possibility of streamlining and simplifying the annulment process, the task of a special commission Pope Francis established in late August, and noted proposals to allow bishops to declare marriages null as an administrative action, without holding a trial before a church tribunal.

“Under the influence of the existing culture, many reserve the right not to observe conjugal fidelity, to divorce and remarry if the marriage might not be successful, or not to open themselves to life,” the cardinal said, citing attitudes that could render many marriages invalid.

While he reiterated Catholic teaching that “a second marriage recognized by the church is impossible while the first spouse is alive,” the cardinal said it would be important to study the “practice of some of the Orthodox churches, which allows for the possibility of a second or third marriage.”

Noting that Catholics increasingly choose to marry civilly or live together without marrying at all, Cardinal Erdo said the church should “draw close” to such couples in order to lead them on the “path toward celebrating the sacrament of marriage.” He said doing that would require the church to recognize the “best part of these situations which oftentimes is not understood or capable of being grasped.”

“When these relationships are obviously stable in a publicly recognized legal bond, they are characterized by deep affection, display a parental responsibility towards their offspring and an ability to withstand trials,” he said.

On the subject of birth control, the cardinal emphasized that “openness to life is an essential part, an intrinsic requirement of conjugal love,” but said that families cannot be expected to live up to that value without an increased expression of “diffused and concrete solidarity” from the wider community, including the church.

“The tendency toward the privatization of love needs to be overcome,” he said. “The Western world risks making the family a reality entrusted exclusively to the choices of the individual, totally detached from a regulatory and institutional framework.”

Cardinal Erdo highlighted social and economic pressures on the family, an area that bishops from developing countries are likely to emphasize.

“We are not dealing with only problems involving individual behavior but the structures of sin hostile to the family, in a world of inequality and social injustice, of consumerism, on the one hand, and poverty, on the other,” the cardinal said, noting in particular the weight of “increasing job insecurity” and migration.

“The concrete support of the church for these families is unable to be done without a pro-active commitment through appropriate policies by governments and public agencies,” he said.

In contrast to many of the speakers at the last such gathering, the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization, held in October 2012, Cardinal Erdo did not criticize the effects on secularism on traditional Christian morality. But he did mention the disruptive effects on the family of “various forms of dependence, such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography, sexual addiction and social networks.”

 

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Vatican summit says Middle East extremists must be stopped

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Extremist groups in the Middle East, including the “Islamic State,” must be stopped with sanctioned military force and through dialogue, said a Vatican statement.

“One cannot be silent, nor (can) the international community remain inactive, in the face of the massacre of persons,” said the statement issued Oct. 4 at the end of a three-day Vatican summit on the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

“The participants at the meeting reaffirmed that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor, always in accordance with international law,” it said.

Pope Francis convened the Vatican summit Oct. 2-4 because of his growing concern and desire to do something about the dramatic situation Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities are facing in the region.

Those called to the summit included the seven Vatican nuncios based in Syria, Jordan-Iraq, Egypt, Israel-Palestinian territories, Iran, Lebanon and Turkey, as well as top officials from the Vatican Secretariat of State, the Vatican’s permanent representatives at the United Nations in New York and Geneva, as well as from Vatican offices dealing with issues concerning refugees, charitable aid and Eastern churches.

A Vatican communique marking the end of the talks said, “The activity of some extremist groups is a cause of grave concern, particularly the so-called ‘Islamic State,’ whose violence cannot be met with indifference.”

In the face of “the massacre of persons merely because of their religion or ethnicity, in the face of decapitations and crucifixions of human beings in public squares, in the face of the exodus of thousands of persons and the destruction of places of worship,” the world cannot remain indifferent and something must be done, it said.

While the summit participants supported an internationally sanctioned armed response to stop an unjust aggressor, they said that “the resolution of the problem cannot be entrusted solely to a military response.”

“The problem must be dealt with more radically by addressing the root causes which are exploited by fundamentalist ideology,” it said.

Muslim, Christian and other religious leaders need to do more, cooperating to promote dialogue and mutual understanding as well as clearly denouncing the exploitation of religion to justify violence, it said.

Christians who have been forced “in a brutal manner” to flee from their homes must be guaranteed “the right to return in conditions of adequate security” as well as be free to work and build a future in the land where they and their ancestors have lived for more than 2,000 years.

“One cannot resign oneself to conceiving of the Middle East without Christians,” it said. Christians have been a critical part of society and “they play a fundamental role of peacemaking, reconciliation and development.”

At a Mass with participants Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said it is “painful to see how persistent and active the forces of evil are” in the region, especially “the conviction that violence and terrorism are methods that can be used to impose one’s desire for power” or even one’s religion on another. “This is clearly a perversion of the authentic meaning of religion.”

One task of the nuncios and the Vatican representatives to the United Nations, he said, is to remind governments and international organizations of “their obligation to guarantee peace and security under the terms established in international law with the aim of putting the aggressors in a situation where they can no longer cause harm.”

 

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Pope Francis, opening synod on family, asks bishops for creativity and hard work, warns against pride

October 6th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Opening a two-week Synod of Bishops on the family, Pope Francis warned participants against the temptations of hypocrisy, pride and greed, urging them instead to serve the church with “freedom, creativity and hard work.”

“We can thwart God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit,” the pope said Oct. 5, during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. “The Spirit gives us that wisdom which surpasses knowledge, and enables us to work generously with authentic freedom and humble creativity.”

Pope Francis talks with Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, upon arriving for the opening session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 6. (CNS photoPaul Haring)

Pope Francis talks with Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, upon arriving for the opening session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 6. (CNS photoPaul Haring)

Pope Francis’ homily drew on the day’’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew (21: 33-43), in which Jesus describes the people of God as a vineyard, farmed by tenants who betray its owner and seek to take it over for themselves.

Addressing his words to the 184 bishops and 69 others who would take part in the synod, the pope said Jesus aimed his parable at the “chief priests and the elders of the people, in other words the experts, the managers,” whose job it was to “nurture, tend and protect” God’s people.

“But Jesus tells us that those farmers took over the vineyard. Out of greed and pride they want to do with it as they will, and so they prevent God from realizing his dream for the people he has chosen,” the pope said.

“We are all sinners, and we too can be tempted to take over the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings. God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants,” the pope said.

The synod is slated to discuss a range of “pastoral challenges of the family” in preparation for a larger world synod in October 2015, which will make recommendations to the pope.

“Synod assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent. They are meant to better nurture and tend the Lord’s vineyard, to help realize his dream, his loving plan for his people,” Pope Francis said. “In this case the Lord is asking us to care for the family, which has been from the beginning an integral part of his loving plan for humanity.”

One of the most discussed topics at the 2014 synod promises to be a controversial proposal by German Cardinal Walter Kasper that would make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion. Pope Francis has said the predicament of such Catholics exemplifies a general need for mercy in the church today.

The pope alluded to that need for mercy when he said that “evil pastors lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others, which they themselves do not lift a finger to move,” a paraphrase of Jesus’ words against the hypocrisy of scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23: 4.

Prior to celebrating Mass, Pope Francis stopped briefly in the basilica to venerate the relics of St. Therese of Lisieux and her parents, Blessed Zelie and Louis Martin, which will be in the Basilica of St. Mary Major for the duration of the synod. St. Therese’s parents, who were beatified in 2008, practiced continence for the first year of their marriage but later had nine children, five of whom lived to adulthood and became nuns.

 

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On eve of family synod, pope prays for “open and fraternal” debate

October 6th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Hours before opening a Synod of Bishops whose members have already started a public debate over Catholic teaching on marriage and sexuality, Pope Francis prayed the bishops would express themselves and listen to each other openly, trusting in God to reconcile their differences.

People attend an Oct. 4 prayer vigil led by Pope Francis for the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. The pope called for "sincere, open and fraternal" debate during the two-week long synod, which opened Oct. 5. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

People attend an Oct. 4 prayer vigil led by Pope Francis for the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. The pope called for “sincere, open and fraternal” debate during the two-week long synod, which opened Oct. 5. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

“Let us invoke openness to a sincere, open and fraternal exchange of views, that it might lead us to take pastoral responsibility for the questions that this changing time brings with it,” the pope said Oct. 4. “Let them fill our heart, without ever losing peace, but with serene trust that in his time the Lord will not fail to lead us back to unity.

“Doesn’t the history of the church perhaps tell us of so many analogous situations, that our fathers knew how to overcome with stubborn patience and creativity?” he said.

Pope Francis spoke in St. Peter’s Square during a prayer vigil for the Oct. 5-19 synod, which is slated discuss a range of “pastoral challenges of the family” in preparation for a larger world synod in October 2015. The pope was scheduled to open the synod with Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Oct. 5.

One of the most discussed topics at the synod promises to be the eligibility of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion.

By church law, such Catholics are not admitted to Communion without an annulment of their first, sacramental marriage, unless they abstain from sexual relations with their new partners. Pope Francis has said the predicament of such Catholics exemplifies a general need for mercy in the church today.

A proposal by German Cardinal Walter Kasper to make it easier for people in such situations to receive Communion has met with public opposition from several prominent members of the synod, including the Vatican’s doctrine and finance chiefs and the head of its highest court.

Pope Francis, who would make the final decision on any change, has not expressed his view, but he invited Cardinal Kasper to present his proposal at a gathering of the world’s cardinals in February.

At the prayer vigil, the pope spoke generally about the need for pastoral solutions suited to the present day.

“We must lend an ear to the rhythm of our time and perceive the odor of people today, that we might be imbued with their joys and hopes, their sadness and anxiety: at that point we will be able credibly to propose the good news on the family,” he said.

Pope Francis has made a point of recognizing sociological realities that conflict with Catholic teaching on the family, baptizing a child whose parents had been married civilly and marrying couples who had cohabitated before their wedding.

In the spirit of such frankness, the Oct. 4 vigil featured the spoken testimonies of three Italian families, including a couple with two children who were separated for six years before reuniting with help from Retrouvaille, a retreat program of Catholic origin. The husband, identified only as Nicola, recalled his infidelity in front of more than 40,000 people in the square, minutes before the arrival of the pope.

Pope Francis emerged from the basilica shortly after 7 p.m., a quarter-hour after sunset. Many in the congregation held candles as they listened to him contrast the pleasures of the family hearth with the suffering of the lonely in the “bitter twilight of broken dreams and projects,” victims of an “individualistic culture that denatures and renders ephemeral the ties” among human beings.

“The family continues to be the unparalleled school of humanity, an indispensable contribution to a society of justice and solidarity,” the pope said. “And the deeper its roots, the farther out we are able to go, without getting lost or feeling estranged in any land.”

 

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Volleyball: Padua improves to 6-2 with sweep of Hillers

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For The Dialog

 

WILMINGTON – In a rematch of last year’s state championship volleyball match, Padua again got the best of Tower Hill, sweeping the Hillers to kick off the school’s homecoming weekend.

Freshman Emily Jarome had 14 kills, including two in a tense first set that Padua needed extra points to win, 27-25. The Pandas were trailing, 9-2, when Sarah Wiley led a comeback. Wiley served up some aces and service winners to tie the set. It was back and forth until the Hillers went on a run to take it to set point at 24-20. Padua stormed back to tie it at 24 and again at 25. Jarome finished the set with two kills.

Padua dominated the second set, playing great team ball and receiving big plays from Haley Baker and Emma Lucey. The Pandas would win that frame, 25-9.

Tower Hill rebounded in the third, but Padua had too much and took the set, 25-18, to complete the sweep.

Padua is now 6-2 and travels to Unionville (Pa.) on Monday at 5 p.m. Tower Hill dropped to 5-3; they meet Wilmington Friends next Thursday at home at 5:15 p.m.

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‘Left Behind’ presents the ‘rapture’ as a disaster movie

October 3rd, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Catholic viewers will likely feel left out by “Left Behind.”

In part, that’s a good thing, since, in bringing the first in a series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins to the big screen, director Vic Armstrong has steered clear of the anti-Catholicism that characterized the overall saga’s print version.

Nicolas Cage stars in a scene from the movie "Left Behind." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 (CNS photo/Teddy Smith, courtesy Stoney Lake Entertainment)

Nicolas Cage stars in a scene from the movie “Left Behind.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 (CNS photo/Teddy Smith, courtesy Stoney Lake Entertainment)

What remains, however, is a low-rent drama based on an interpretation of the Apocalypse at odds with church teaching on the subject. That, by itself, makes this inappropriate fare for youngsters or poorly catechized adults for that matter.

Like a previous set of films based on LaHaye and Jenkins’ works, and starring Kirk Cameron, this reboot rests on and promotes rapture theology. As portrayed here, that’s the notion that there will be stages to the Second Coming of Christ, the first of which will be the sudden gathering up to heaven of all true believers.

Those unfortunate enough to find themselves in the situation of the title will then face a period of tribulation characterized by the famines and earthquakes Jesus prophesied in Chapter 24 of St. Matthew’s Gospel.

Not surprisingly, the spontaneous disappearance of millions of people, many of them driving cars or even airplanes at the time, triggers all manner of catastrophe. And the low morals of those rejected by the Lord mean that shoplifting and other forms of social chaos are bound to commence tout de suite.

Observing all this is the movie’s trio of main characters: airline pilot Rayford Steele (Nicolas Cage), his daughter, Chloe (Cassi Thomson), and Chloe’s newfound crush, famed journalist Cameron “Buck” Williams (Chad Michael Murray). Conveniently for all concerned, Chloe met and fell for Buck at the airport, just as he was about to board a London-bound flight helmed by none other than you-know-who.

Halfway across the ocean, the rapture kicks in, and panic breaks out among the unrighteous.

Those at the center of the story can’t say they weren’t warned, though. Chloe’s mom, Irene (Lea Thompson), was a fervent convert who served as a Christian Cassandra to all around her.

As for Buck, a woman back at the airport made a nuisance of herself asking if he didn’t recognize the divine plan behind all those disasters he’d been covering lately. But would he listen? If he had, there’d be nothing left of him on earth but his clothes and wristwatch.

In the end, “Left Behind” amounts to little more than a 1970s-style disaster movie with a tedious overlay of misguided messaging.

The film contains themes requiring a solid grounding in faith, pervasive mayhem with brief gore, drug use and a single crude term. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

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Ursuline to add athletic hall of fame next spring

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WILMINGTON – Ursuline Academy has announced that it is establishing an Athletic Hall of Fame to highlight the accomplishments of its student-athletes, coaches and supporters. The inaugural class will be inducted in a ceremony next spring, the school said Friday afternoon.

“It has long been a dream of mine to honor the extraordinary athletes, coaches and supporters who have made our program what it is today and, in turn, inspire our current student-athletes to continue enhancing our longstanding athletic heritage,” athletic director Sue Heiss said in a statement.

In addition to recognizing those who have “brought distinction” to the school, the hall of fame will “instill and continue the tradition of excellence” characteristic of Ursuline athletes; link past and current generations; and encourage current students to “model the many opportunities” available through teamwork, determination, dedication and service to the community, Ursuline said.

Inductions will occur every three years, with three to five candidates included in each class.

Nominees will be considered based on criteria established by the selection committee, which will be a five-person team of administrators and staff. Eligibility begins five years after an athlete’s graduation. The accomplishments will not only include athletics but also leadership and service.

Nominations can be submitted at www.ursuline.org and will be accepted until Dec. 1. For more information, contact Jenn Saienni at jsaienni@ursuline.org.

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Mount Aviat Academy named a National Blue Ribbon School

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CHILDS, Md. – Mount Aviat Academy has been named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education, the school announced Sept. 30.. The Blue Ribbon program recognizes public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students perform at high levels or where significant improvements are being made in academic achievement, the school said.

Oblate Sister John Elizabeth handed out ice cream to students at the Childs, Md., school after announced Sept. 30 that the school was  named a National Blue Ribbon School. (Courtesy Mount Aviat Academy)

Oblate Sister John Elizabeth handed out ice cream to students at the Childs, Md., school after announced Sept. 30 that the school was named a National Blue Ribbon School. (Courtesy Mount Aviat Academy)

The honor is bestowed on just 50 private schools nationwide. “I’m so proud of our teachers and the curriculum we offer, not to mention our outstanding students,” said Oblate Sister John Elizabeth, the principal. Students heard the news at an assembly on the afternoon of Sept. 30. They were surprised when they left the assembly to find ice cream trucks waiting for them in the parking lot. Mount Aviat is operated by the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales. The school will be honored at a ceremony Nov. 11 in Washington, D.C.

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Phila. archdiocese sells three properties for $56 million

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PHILADELPHIA — The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s finances took a major step toward good health with the announcement Oct. 2 of agreements of sale for three archdiocesan properties collectively worth an estimated $56.2 million.

Proceeds from the latest transactions along with the $53 million initial payment from long-term leasing of the 13 archdiocesan cemeteries completed last May and the sale of the archdiocesan nursing homes, projected to net $95 million after closing costs, will address three underfunded obligations of the archdiocese.

Collectively underfunded by $340 million in June 2013, those three funds plus the Lay Employees Retirement Plan include the Trust and Loan Fund, the Self-Insurance Fund and the Priests Pension Fund.

The lay employees’ traditional pension plan, underfunded by $142 million, was frozen last July as the archdiocese began to offer its employees a 403(b) employee-contribution retirement plan. At the end of fiscal year 2013, the plan had $522 million of assets against actuarially determined liabilities of approximately $664 million, a funding rate of about 79 percent. Funds in the plan are more than sufficient for immediate and mid-term payments, but the goal is to have it fully funded.

The property sales announced Oct. 2 include the 213-acre site of Don Guanella Village and Cardinal Krol Center in Marple Township, for $47 million; the 454 acres of the former Mary Immaculate Retreat Center, which is in the Diocese of Allentown, for $5.5 million; and a 55-acre tract of the St. John Vianney Center property in Downingtown, for $3.7 million.

The Trust and Loan Fund, which like a bank accepts deposits from parishes and makes loans to them for projects, was underfunded by $79.8 million as of June 30, 2013. A promissory note was executed in May 2012 that pledged archdiocesan properties to address the underfunding.

The cemeteries transaction produced $30 million for the fund, and $52.2 million from sale of the Don Guanella Village site and Mary Immaculate Center’s property should satisfy the current estimated underfunded amount of $49.8 million.

“We expect that the proceeds from these transactions should be sufficient to fully satisfy the remaining shortfall in Trust and Loan,” said Timothy O’Shaughnessy, chief financial officer of the archdiocese. “If the proceeds fall short of what is necessary, we will apply amounts from the sale of remaining pledged properties as needed.”

Proceeds from the sale of the Downingtown property will be put toward the Priests Pension Plan, currently underfunded by an estimated $76.3 million after an allocation of $11.5 million from the cemeteries transaction. The Self-Insurance Fund remains underfunded at $18.9 million after its allocation of $11.5 million from the cemeteries deal.

All the total underfunding of $95.2 million remaining in those funds conceivably could be covered by the sale of the six skilled nursing homes and one independent living facility of archdiocesan Catholic Health Care Services. That deal was valued at $145 million when announced last July.

An Oct. 2 statement by the archdiocese alluded to the possibility, saying the “underfunded balance-sheet liabilities will be further reduced upon closing of the transaction involving archdiocesan nursing homes. Specific allocations of the net proceeds from their transaction have not been determined.”

The property sales announced Oct. 2 are another step in the continuing efforts under Archbishop Charles J. Chaput to restore fiscal soundness to the archdiocese.

Early steps in 2012 included the sale of the archbishop’s residence in Philadelphia to St. Joseph’s University for $10 million and the priests’ summer home in Ventnor, New Jersey, for $4.5 million, which provided the archdiocese with funds for immediate cash flow.

Also over the past two years, the archdiocesan staff has been reduced by 25 percent.

Through such actions, the archdiocese stemmed its operational deficit. Audited financial statements for the fiscal year ended June 2013 showed a reduction of the core operational deficit to $4.9 million as opposed to the core deficit of $17.9 million reported for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012.

“None of these measures were taken lightly,” the archdiocese said in its statement, “but all were essential to maintaining the presence of the Catholic Church in the Philadelphia region and the good works accomplished through its various ministries.”

Gambino is director and general manager of CatholicPhilly.com, the news outlet of the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Lou Baldwin, a freelance writer in Philadelphia, also contributed to the story.

 

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