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Boston Cardinal approves archdiocese reshuffle

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BRAINTREE (AP) - Cardinal Sean O'Malley on Thursday approved a plan that aims to stabilize the Boston Archdiocese's declining finances by combining its 288 parishes into 135 clusters that share staffing and resources.

The plan tries to keep parishes intact as the church deals with weak attendance, a looming priest shortage and decaying parish finances that have left 4 in 10 parishes unable to pay their bills.

The archdiocese is banking on an ongoing evangelization drive to bring Catholics back into the pews and strengthen the local church.

"Though the challenge of renewing the church will call for significant efforts and a new way of staffing our parishes, we are committed to re-engaging the culture, the current generation of Catholics, and providing a strong foundation for those who will follow us. Our Catholic faith is our most precious gift," O'Malley said in prepared remarks.

Right now, just 16 percent of Catholics attend church, following a decade that saw the archdiocese battered by a clergy sex abuse scandal and widespread parish closings that permanently shuttered numerous local churches.

The clusters, or collaboratives, will consist of one to four parishes in the same geographic region, each of which will retain its legal identity. The collaborative will be led by a single pastor and run by merged clergy and layperson staffs.

The goal is to lower costs by improving efficiency and shedding redundant resources, such as unneeded rectories.

The archdiocese's hope for revival comes as national trends indicate more people are leaving the church. But officials say the Christian faith is vibrant and capable of drawing people back to Roman Catholicism.

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