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CLOSURES LIKELY AFTER THE VATICAN DENIES APPEAL

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The Vatican has turned down an appeal by 14 Roman Catholic churches of an archdiocesan order to close by Saturday, and five parishes that had planned to defy Cardinal Edmund Szoka were reconsidering their opposition.

The Vatican's Sacred Congregation for the Clergy rejected the 14 appeals filed in March as lacking foundation in law and fact, archdiocese spokesman Jay Berman said Monday. The archdiocese has announced plans to close 30 churches due to declining membership."There is a real discouragement among the people here that Rome didn't care about the injustices that have happened," Sister Jolene Van Handel said. Van Handel is coordinator of the Detroit Catholic Pastoral Alliance, a coalition of priests and laypeople opposed to Szoka's plan.

Nine parishes had said they would remain open, but some opposition eroded after a series of private weekend meetings between priests and Szoka, who ordered the closings in January after two committees made up of church and civic leaders recommended the plan.

Two parishes that had planned to defy the cardinal said they now expect to accept the order and close by Friday. The pastor of a third congregation urged his parishioners to drop their opposition.

Another pastor said Monday he will try to convince his members to close, and a fifth parish said it now was undecided.

The decline of inner-city Catholicism is reflected also in the declining number of parochial schools. The Catholic Church operated 8,992 elementary and secondary schools in 1987-88, the most recent year for which complete data are available, down from 13,292 in 1965. Total enrollment last year was 2.6 million, less than half the peak figure of 5.6 million in 1964.