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Miami archbishop warns economy may force church closings

MIAMI — Several financially struggling Catholic churches in South Florida may soon close, the archbishop of Miami announced in a letter to parishioners this week.

Archbishop John C. Favalora would not say which churches would close in the ''Letter to Catholic Faithful,'' which was read during Sunday services at dozens of churches, and did not indicate when the decision would be made. He also said that the archdiocese, which oversees 128 churches for 800,000 Catholics in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, would have to cut back in other unspecified ways, too.

''I am concerned about some parishes where demographics and social and economic needs have changed and the parishioners have not been able for several years to meet their financial obligations,'' Favalora wrote. 'This includes paying employees' salaries, pension and health benefits and property insurance for parish buildings.

``I will have to make some difficult decisions, including the possibility of merging some parishes. This would create one larger parish to serve all the Catholics in an area, in place of two parishes. This possible restructuring will enhance the worship and spiritual life of our faithful, not restrict it.''

Favalora did not indicate a timeline for the potential closures.

The news comes just months after the archdiocese announced that it would no longer support six financially struggling Catholic schools. In January, the archdiocese said it would close St. Clement in Wilton Manors, Our Lady of Divine Providence in Sweetwater, Sacred Heart in Homestead, St. Francis Xavier in Overtown, Corpus Christi in Allapattah and St. Stephen in Miramar.

The reason: tens of millions of dollars in investment losses, declining enrollment and rising expenses, officials said. The move allowed the archdiocese to shave $1.8 million off its budget.

Most of the schools will reopen as secular, publicly-funded charter schools in the fall.

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