Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Antigonish diocese begins property sales

Antigonish diocese begins property sales
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 | 8:07 PM AT Comments10Recommend8.CBC News
The Roman Catholic diocese of Antigonish, N.S., has identified which of its properties must be sold and has begun sending letters to individual parishes informing them.

The diocese needs to raise about $15 million for a settlement with victims of sexual abuse by priests.

Parishes in Mulgrave and Georgeville in Antigonish county, Bras d'Or and Lower River Inhabitants in Cape Breton, and the town of Pictou have been notified which of their properties will be sold.

The diocese has about 600 properties — including community halls, religious retreats and vacant land — that were being considered for sale.

The sale of these first properties should bring in about $200,000, said Rev. Paul Abbass, head of the diocese real estate committee.

Better returns are expected from the future sale of some special waterfront properties, he said.

"Where there's significant property, what we have decided to do is just hold those off for a long enough time for us to really place the right value on them and to access some resource people to help us with that … experts in the area that would have a better sense of what is the true value of these kinds of properties."

Abbass said identifying the properties to be sold and assigning an appropriate value has been a painstaking process.

"One of the great concerns as stewards of the people, as difficult as this whole thing is on them, we don't want to make it more difficult by somebody looking at their own property and saying 'Gee, they really undervalued that,' because that would be even harder for people to accept."

A handful of parishes will be notified each week throughout the summer about which of their properties will have to be sold. Abbass said church halls will not be sold unless absolutely necessary.

The settlement with abuse victims was negotiated by Raymond Lahey, the former bishop of the diocese of Antigonish, who has since been charged with possessing child pornography.

It was hailed as the first time the Roman Catholic Church apologized and set up a compensation package for people who claimed they were sexually abused by priests without fighting the charges in court.

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