St. Vincent Pallotti Members Appeal to Vatican

By David O’Reilly
Philadelphia Inquirer
August 20, 2008

Saying Bishop Joseph Galante has failed to justify his plans to merge their parish, members of St. Vincent Pallotti Roman Catholic Church in Haddon Township have petitioned the Vatican to halt the merger.

They announced this week that they had filed a canonical appeal with the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome, citing Galante's "lack of transparency" and his "questionable decisions" regarding their 42-year-old, handicapped-accessible parish, which they say fills an essential need.

"We feel pretty confident," Ed Pierzynski, vice president of Friends of St. Vincent Pallotti Inc., said yesterday. "We intend to follow through on this and think it will be accepted."

But Andrew Walton, spokesman for the Camden Diocese, said the petition probably was not valid for several reasons, and insisted that Galante had amply explained his reasons for St. Vincent's anticipated merger with St. Aloysius parish in Oaklyn.

St. Aloysius, which has 745 families, would be the locus of the new parish, but the church at St. Vincent's, which serves 975 families, would be available for Sunday Masses.

"All the examples for why our church was not selected" as the primary worship site "have really been very, very, very poor excuses," Msgr. Louis Marucci, pastor of St. Vincent's, said yesterday.

Marucci, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair, said his parish had spent more than $1 million to make St. Vincent's "not just handicapped-accessible, but so that handicapped persons can participate with total integration as active members of the faith community."

Walton said the bishop had sent at least five letters to Marucci and the parish since April, when Galante announced his plan to merge or close nearly half the 124 parishes in the six-county diocese.

Walton said those letters provided "a clear, detailed rationale for his intention" to merge St. Vincent's into St. Aloysius. Among those, he said, was the need to maintain a parish at the north end of White Horse Pike in light of other parish closings.

Walton also said Marucci had been assured he could stay in St. Vincent's rectory, which has been modified extensively for wheelchair maneuverability.

Parishioners have a right under church law to seek Vatican intervention in parish closings, Walton said, but it appeared this petition was premature because Galante had not yet formally decreed the merger.

"Because no new parish exists, there is no basis for an appeal at this time," Walton said.

He also said Galante would provide St. Vincent's with a copy of a study group's analysis of handicap-accessibility needs in the two parishes next week.

Galante next week plans to announce the appointments of all the "priest conveners" who will oversee the new parishes as they merge in the next year or so. Most of those priest conveners will become pastors of the new parishes, Walton said.

In announcing his plans in April, Galante cited the diminishing supply of priests, poor Mass attendance, and the need for more and better parish ministries.

Under the reconfiguration, there will be 38 merged parishes, three parish clusters involving six parishes, and 22 stand-alone parishes.

Contact staff writer David O'Reilly at 215-854-5723 or


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