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A New Face To Lead Allentown Catholics

A New Face To Lead Allentown Catholics - Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 12:15PM EST

ALLENTOWN, LEHIGH COUNTY- Pope Benedict XVI has named a 48-year-old priest from the Diocese of Wilmington, De., to succeed Bishop Edward Cullen. Monsignor John Barres said he was humbled by the Pope's appointment at a Wednesday morning news conference. The 76-year-old Cullen sent his resignation to the Pope last year, as is required under church law. He said it was unclear what his legacy would be after he was gone. Ask some in the town of McAdoo, Schuylkill County, and they'll tell you it's church closings.
Last year, Cullen authorized a plan that shuttered dozens of parishes across the five-county diocese. Schuylkill and Carbon Counties were hit the hardest, with some towns experiencing as many as six churches downsized to one. For the first time, Cullen addressed the issue publicly. He said "it was the worst decision I've had to make." But he noted the sharp decline in priestly vocations. Otherwise, he said he would staff all the churches that had since been closed.

Bishop-Elect Barres, according to Andy Johnson, a parishioner of All Saints, McAdoo, will have a difficult time with some people in the diocese. "There's a lot of animosity," Johnson said. "The new bishop will have a lot of issues to address." Johnson noted the number of appeals moving forward. At least a dozen local parish communities are fighting Cullen's decision to shut them down.

Barres will be installed fourth Bishop of the Allentown Diocese on July 30.

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