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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It seemingly couldn’t have come at a worse time, the devastating grand jury report detailing atrocities by the clergy, just when the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese is about to undergo a massive reorganization.

KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: You want to retain your parishioners, but you also want to attract new ones.

Bishop David Zubik: Exactly.

Sheehan: This doesn’t seem to be the way to do it.

Bishop Zubik: Well, hopefully, the way that we respond to it can.

pittsburgh catholic diocese

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

“On Mission for the Church Alive” aims to turn around participation in the church, which as been in free-fall for the past decade and a half. Attendance at Mss is down more than 40 percent, as are Baptisms, First Holy Communions, Confirmations and Holy Matrimony.

The bishop wants to rejuvenate the church by pooling resources and creating larger faith communities, but the plan involves some painful changes — the reassignment of priests in anticipation of the closure of some churches and schools.

The church scandal may make those changes harder to swallow.

“The purpose of the ‘On Mission for the Church Alive’ is to bring people together, so that we can put our energies together to really be what it means to be church,” said Bishop Zubik. “And, this is painful, but I think it can bring us together.”

From the ashes of this scandal, Bisop Zubik believes a stronger church may rise.

“You come forward, you confess your sins, you admit them, and then the next step comes learning from them,” Bishop Zubik said. “I think that ‘On Mission for the Church Alive’ enables us to be able to do that, and I think this particular crisis is calling us to do that as well.”

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Shaken by the report, parishioners at St. Mary’s in Downtown Pittsburgh have faith it will.

“I think that, ultimately, it’ll do well. If people who are in the church keep their focus where it’s supposed to be, on God, then things will work out eventually,” said parishioner Mark Riordan, of Swisshelm Park.

“It’s very hard for the faithful. We want to hold strong to our faith, but it’s very challenging. With the strength of God we will get through it,” parishioner Joan Dristas, of Canonsburg.