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5 parishes to keep vigils

Page 2 of 2 -- ''We consider this both personal, vindictive, and discriminatory against the Italian-Americans in East Boston," he said.

Two churches were granted reprieves March 31: St. Albert the Great in Weymouth is to reopen fully, and St. Anselm in Sudbury will reopen as a church (as opposed to a parish), with some services held in Framingham. In yesterday's rally, representatives from those churches spoke in support of the still-closed parishes, calling them allies in a struggle.

Colin Riley, a St. Albert the Great parishioner, compared the closings to episodes of clergy sexual abuse that have racked the church. ''This is another form of abuse," he said.

Dew said the eight-member panel reviewing the reconfiguration process -- led by Sister Janet Eisner, president of Emmanuel College, and Peter Meade, chairman of the board of Catholic Charities in Boston -- could benefit from a broader perspective. (The panel includes business executives, a pastoral associate from Brockton, and a monsignor from Cambridge.)

''We understand the financial problems the archdiocese is facing, and we really want to be part of the solution, not just the problem," she said, ''but in order for that to happen, we have to be heard."

Some parishioners said the closings were motivated by financial considerations that were jeopardizing the church's moral standing. Rogers, from Scituate, said archdiocesan leaders closed his parish with an eye to selling the sprawling woodland property it occupies.

''Judas betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver; the archdiocese has betrayed the faithful of St. Francis for 30 acres of land," Rogers said, in a comment that sparked whoops of agreement from the crowd.

Yesterday, the archdiocese released a statement saying O'Malley decided to accept the committee's recommendations March 31 because he recognized they were based on visits to parishes, vigils, meetings with parishioners and pastors, data on Mass attendance, and other factors.

''At the same time, he also recognized that his decisions would not please all people affected by these decisions and that the archdiocese and members of the committee would continue to work with people in the archdiocese to assist them with their transitions, including continued conversation with those people holding vigil," the statement said. ''It remains the hope of the archdiocese that these vigils conclude peacefully."

Yesterday, other parishioners said they might try to begin their own occupations.

Mary Beth Carmody of St. Jeremiah in Framingham, which is slated to close May 15, said parishioners there would ''absolutely" start a vigil if the archdiocese does not reconsider its decision.

John Salisbury, a member of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Boston's South End, said parishioners there were ''heading that way" if the church closes.

Chris O'Brien of St. Bernard Parish in West Newton said a vigil is ''not an impossibility" if his parish is shuttered.

While the parishioners spoke, children on the sidelines nibbled chocolate Easter bunnies as their parents snacked on coffee and pastries.

Several said they were moved by the declarations of unity and protest.

''My wife had to give me a handkerchief, to tell you the truth," said Bud Thomits, 63, a parishioner at Infant Jesus/St. Lawrence Parish for 33 years. ''I can't believe how close people have become." 

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