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 Monday, 23 December, 2002, 12:07 GMT
Sex scandal blights US Church project
Protesters
The Church says the project is inappropriate
The Roman Catholic Church in the American city of Philadelphia has shelved plans to build a multi-million dollar Catholic Heritage Center, blaming in part the Church sex-abuse crisis.

Our priorities probably don't belong here right now

Catherine Rossi, archdiocese spokeswoman
"It would have been insensitive and inappropriate to ask Catholics to contribute to something that is a tribute to the Catholic faith at a time when trust in the Church has been shaken," said archdiocese spokeswoman Catherine Rossi.

A series of cases of paedophilia by priests this year has rocked the Roman Catholic Church in the US and around the world.

The centre, which would have been the largest of its kind in the US, was due to open in June, 2003.

Private donors have pledged more than $6.4m for the project and the archdiocese is arranging for the cash to be returned.

Changed priorities

Work was well under way to refurbish a six-storey building to house the museum and Church archive.

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua
Cardinal Bevilacqua said the project would be reviewed in a year's time

But the building is now closed and the director of the $18m project, John Rumm, resigned last week.

The archdiocese said the unstable economy and competition from charities set up for victims of the 11 September, 2001, attacks on the US, also meant the project was unviable at the present time.

"Our priorities probably don't belong here right now," said Ms Rossi.

In a statement, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, said the project would be reviewed again in a year's time.

"I am hopeful that when the economy shifts, the funds will become available to make this project a reality," he said.

The Church has been rocked by recent abuse revelations

Boston cardinal quits

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