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Group plans rosary march to support Munhall church purchase

| Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, 4:06 a.m.
Property owners Tony Valencia, left, and Walter Viola, right, discuss development on the north end of Munhall with Mayor Raymond Bodnar. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
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Looking over the hands on learning kits that will be taken back to their classrooms for the after school program are from left Lauren Rowe of Emerson Elementary West Mifflin, Dina DiCenzo of Clara Barton Elementary West Mifflin, and Brigid Laird of Park Elementary in the Steel Valley School District. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News

An organization rebuffed in its efforts to buy a vacant Munhall church is planning a rosary march on Saturday.

Our Lady of Fatima parish in Carnegie, part of the Society of St. Pius X, will hold a Mass at 11 a.m. in the Carnegie Library music hall, 510 E. Tenth Ave., Munhall.

Members of the group will march through borough streets, praying the rosary for world peace, on the 95th anniversary of a reputed appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal.

Planned after the march is a gathering in nearby Kennedy Park, then a screening in the library music hall of “For Greater Glory,” about 1920s Mexican persecution of Catholics.

All that is the latest chapter in a controversy that involves officials seeking to redevelop Munhall's north end.

Our Lady of Fatima parish said the gathering will be according to the pre-Vatican II Tridentine rite “which your forefathers prayed for 20 centuries.” The society was founded in 1970 by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefevbre.

“The society is Catholic,” said the Rev. Patrick Rutledge, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima and the society's United States district bursar. “We've never changed any teaching.”

In 1988 Pope John Paul II excommunicated Lefevbre for consecrating four bishops.

“They are not part of the Catholic Church,” said the Very Rev. Ron Lengwin, Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh spokesman. “They have decided to separate themselves.”

“There is no sale or possible buyer (for St. Michael) at this time,” Lengwin said.

The Rev. Arnaud Rostand, the U.S. society superior, met with Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik in the summer of 2011.

“The meeting was in a very kind atmosphere,” Rutledge said. Zubik consulted with the Very Rev. Lawrence A. DiNardo, diocesan vicar for canonical services.

“Father DiNardo said, ‘No, we can't sell it because it would seem we were allowing a Catholic group in when they're not Catholic, they are schismatic,” Rutledge said.

Despite a rejection last year by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, the society still wants to buy old St. Michael Church along E. Ninth Avenue.

The diocese vacated St. Michael in 2009 after all functions of St. Maximilian Kolbe parish were transferred to St. Anne Church in Homestead.

Six churches were merged in 1992 to form that parish. The diocese has sold some of the churches and has an option to sell another.

“Their reason obviously is that (the society is) a schismatic church,” Munhall Mayor Raymond Bodnar said.

Developer Walter Viola bought other buildings at St. Michael — the convent, the rectory and the school, council president Joseph Ballas said.

“The best way to gentrify a neighborhood is to have a stable church,” said Viola, who is focused on the 600 block of E. Ninth. “I picked up four other houses, with the whole idea of going in and completely gutting them, and fixing them up nice and renting them out, preferably to professionals.”

Chicago native Viola said there gentrification happens one block at a time.

“You make sure you get the riffraff off the block, and by the way there was a good deal of it, and you make a presence,” Viola said. “The Munhall borough (officials are) absolutely fantastic because they get it. They support my effort as much as possible.”

“(The diocese) sold other churches like St. Margaret's and Ss. Peter & Paul to non-Catholic groups, so I don't see the harm in this,” Bodnar said. “They've sold (churches) to businesses as well. It's a thing that would help Munhall.”

Viola said he has no tie to the Society of St. Pius X, but he heard Pope Benedict XVI no longer considered the society to be schismatic. Various reports say the society found Vatican terms for reconciliation unacceptable and the Vatican broke off talks.

Patrick Cloonan and Stacy Lee are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Cloonan can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or; Lee at 412-664-9161, ext. 1970, or

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