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Archdiocese to sell properties in Philly, elsewhere

We previously wrote about the speculation that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia would be forced to sell some of its residential real estate for financial reasons. Now, the archdiocese has announced that it will, indeed, be forced to sell some holdings because of a multimillion-dollar shortfall.

Among the properties to be put up for sale are the Philadelphia home where the archbishop lives, a retreat in rural Pennsylvania and a 19-room mansion on the beach in an adjacent state. Additionally, it will sell the Holy Family Center in Philadelphia, which had been used by social service agencies and charities.

It is unknown how much the properties are worth cumulatively or how much the archdiocese hopes to bring in from the sale.

The large seaside villa has been assessed at more than $6 million and will go to auction on Sept. 15. It has 11 bedrooms and 175 feet of beach access. The property has belonged to the archdiocese since 1963, when it bought it from a family for $1,000. Elderly priests used that home for a vacation spot in the ensuing years.

The confirmation of the real estate sales comes as no surprise, especially since the archdiocese had to terminate the employment of 40 employees in June as a cost-cutting measure. The archbishop said the archdiocese has faced a deficit for several years.

According to a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, it faces a budget shortfall of $6 million. In addition, it has pending legal fees estimated at more than $11 million that it must pay as part of a child sex-abuse scandal. It also faces the possibility that dozens of civil lawsuits could be filed pertaining to that. The spokeswoman said the legal costs are not included in the budget shortfall.

The archdiocese faces tough financial choices, just as families or other businesses do when they can't make ends meet. By engaging in the real estate sales, it is taking the action it believes is necessary to correct its budget difficulties.

Source: Reuters, "Philadelphia Archdiocese selling top properties to cut deficit," Dave Warner, Aug. 14, 2012

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