The Catholic archdiocese of Boston, has announced it is to close one sixth of its parishes by the end of the year. Sixty five of the 357 parishes are closing, and some schools are also shutting down. In a statement the church said the churches will be closed because of declining congregations, a shortage of priests and lack of funds. After the series of abuse scandals two years ago the diocese paid out more than $85m in compensation to victims. There was also a massive drop in collections. But the Archbishop of Boston, Sean O'Malley, said the parish closures was not linked to the lawsuits. He explained that the massive payouts were fully covered by recent sales of the archbishop's residences and surrounding land. He said the reasons for the closures were caused by the fact that more than one-third of churches are in debt; the archdiocese is facing a staffing crisis with more than 130 priests aged over 70; and many churches and their buildings are dilapidated. The Boston archdiocese is America's fourth-largest and home to more than two million Catholics. While admitting that the closures would cause great distress, the Archbishop said this way was better than a "long slow decline". He said: "It means the loss of a spiritual home, the place where so much time and resources have been invested, the house where so many important moments in people's lives, from birth to death, have taken place. "I wish there was some way that all of these wonderful houses of life and prayer could remain open and alive and full. But there is not." Last Tuesday, each of the diocese's parishes received a letter telling them whether they were set to close or remain open. Several other American dioceses have also begun closing churches. James Fisher, co-director of the Centre for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University, told Reuters the cause was partly the shift in ethnic populations across America. He said: "The key is that in urban America, parishes were almost lways ethnic parishes - whether Italian, Polish, German, Irish and so forth. They became so identified with those ethnic communities that once the ethnic group no longer inhabited the neighbourhood, it threw the fate of the parish up in the air," he said. But, he added, the recent abuse scandals have also had a "massive impact".
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