Vatican turns down appeal by Greensburg parishioners

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Leroy E. Ferri said he's upset that the Vatican so quickly denied the appeal he and another parishioner filed after Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt of Greensburg paired St. Bruno and St. Paul parishes under one priest.

Mr. Ferri, 73, of Hempfield, said he wasn't even notified of the Vatican decision, despite his name on the petition. He learned through the news.

"It amazes me that this was done so quickly, in less than a month," he said. "It's usually a longer process of two to three months. We did not expect to win. That wasn't our purpose. Our purpose was to show our discontent, along with that of other people.

"We want our position to be known, honored and respected," Mr. Ferri said. "People demand answers when wild decisions are made."

The parishes, St. Bruno in South Greensburg and St. Paul just south of Greensburg in Hempfield, are within 2 miles of each other. Although each will remain a separate parish, they will share the Rev. Lawrence L. Manchas, the newly appointed pastor of St. Paul and administrator of St. Bruno.

Lacking any further options in Vatican law, Mr. Ferri said he and other church members now must await Bishop Brandt's retirement next spring in hopes that a bishop will be appointed who has some of the qualities of Pope Francis and Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh, who have reputations as champions of the people.

A new bishop, he said, must respect Benedictine traditions in the diocese, which includes the nation's largest Benedictine seminary at Saint Vincent College in Unity. He also noted that parishes placed under the control of an administrator most often are closed.

"It will be mandatory for [Bishop Brandt] to submit his resignation, according to cannon law, when he turns 75 next spring," Mr. Ferri said. "The discontent here is tremendous, and all of this will result in the diocese quickly -- as quickly as it dealt with my appeal -- accepting the bishop's resignation and bringing in a man who knows how to heal. Until we find a bishop like the pope or Bishop Zubik, we will continue to be very unhappy."

On May 3, Bishop Brandt announced that the St. Bruno and St. Paul parishes would remain separate but share a diocesan priest, Father Manchas, who is not of Benedictine Order, ending St. Bruno's 94-year history as a Benedictine parish.

Father Manchas announced over the weekend in the Mass bulletin that the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, the Vatican office that hears such appeals, had rejected the parishioners' petition for "hierarchical recourse," to overturn Bishop Brandt's decision to combine the parishes.

A diocese news release said the Vatican found no violations of church law to require reconsideration.

In 2012, St. Bruno Parish had 892 total households and 2,053 individuals, with St. Paul having 1,348 households and 3,375 total individuals, for a total of 2,240 households and 5,428 people, said Jerry Zufelt, diocese spokesman.

On July 4, the website, www.whybishopbrandt.com, went online, calling for church overhaul in the wake of the decision. The website includes complaints about diocese purchases and the decline in St. Bruno's financial stability after the decision was made. In August, the website had 259,000 visits, with 411,000 total visits ever since it went online.

Mr. Zufelt said he could not comment on the parishioner petition, which also included Irene Grace of Greensburg, but said the Vatican's decision clears way for the parishes "to work together and move forward."

"It's a difficult change, which means the priest from St. Bruno's and the pastor of St. Paul's were reassigned. It is similar to what happened with two other parishes when Our Lady of Grace Parish partnered with St. Benedict Parish in Marguerite [both in Greensburg], and a new priest was brought in to lead those parishes.

"Each parish has its own pastoral council and own finance council," he said. "Father Manchas will meet with them and start to discuss how the parishes can move forward. That's the focus, to move forward with the two parishes working together."

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First Published September 2, 2013 11:00 AM


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