Last of shuttered Cleveland parishes reopens after winning Vatican appeal

Hundreds gathered Sunday to celebrate the reopening of St. Emeric Catholic Church, a Hungarian parish that was shuttered two and a half years ago and is the last of 11 churches to reopen under orders from the Vatican.

For the first time in 28 months, St. Emeric came alive in a glow of candles and surges of Hungarian prayers and hymns. Many in the standing-room-only crowd held up cellphone cameras to capture the historic day.

"I can't speak," said Irma Friedrich, a parishioner since 1957. "I start to cry."

Bishop to reopen 12 closed Cleveland parishes

CLEVELAND -- Roman Catholic Bishop Richard Lennon on Tuesday (April 17) announced that he will reopen 12 churches whose closings were reversed by the Vatican last month.

The 12 parishes had filed appeals with the Vatican after Lennon, between 2009 and 2010, closed 50 churches in the eight-county diocese, citing changes in demographics and shortages of priests and cash.

Originally, reports indicated that there were 13 churches that had won appeals. But Lennon said this morning that only 12 had appealed.

Lennon said that he had decided not to appeal the Vatican rulings, adding that "it is time for peace and unity in the Diocese of Cleveland."

The 12 churches had appealed to the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, arguing they were vibrant, self-sustaining parishes that should not be closed. The panel ruled that the bishop did not follow church laws and procedures when he closed the churches.

The churches have been standing empty since their closings. The diocese, which has sold a number of closed churches, could not, under church law, sell a church or its contents while it was under appeal.

Catholics eye Cleveland closures for national precedent

CLEVELAND -- Before a recent prayer service in a shuttered Catholic church in Holyoke, Mass., parishioner Victor Anop stood before 120 people and made an urgent announcement:

"The Vatican has ordered the bishop of Cleveland to reopen 13 closed churches."

"Everybody broke into applause," Anop said in a telephone interview. "People are still talking about it. What happened in Cleveland brings us hope."

Think you'll need last rites? Plan ahead

CLEVELAND -- In days long gone, Catholic priests regularly made deathbed house calls, even in the middle of the night with little notice, to pray over the dying and anoint them with holy oils.

The candlelight ritual, popularly known as last rites, continues in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice houses and private homes. But it happens less frequently because priests -- the only ones who can perform the service -- are in short supply.

Although fewer Catholics are seeking what’s officially known as the sacrament of anointing of the sick, those who do want it could be at risk of reaching their final hours without the prayer-whispering presence of a Roman-collared priest unless they plan ahead.

“We recommend that whenever you’re ill, ask for that sacrament,” said retired Cleveland auxiliary bishop Anthony Pilla. “So many times people don’t want to be anointed because they think that might mean they’re going to die.

“But it’s not just a sacrament for the dying,” he said. “It’s for the sick and the recovering.”