- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 11, 2016

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has begun airing plans to merge parishes, citing dwindling numbers of members and priests.

The first meetings with local parishioners started Monday and will occur in all 192 parishes over the next eight weeks.

Church officials say the number of Catholics in the diocese has fallen from 914,000 in 1980 to 632,000 last year. The number of those attending Sunday Mass has also fallen from nearly 247,000 in 2000 to fewer than 150,000 last year. The number of active priests has decreased from 338 to 225 over that same 15-year period and is projected to be just 112 by the year 2025.

The church mergers will hopefully produce parishes with between 7,000 and 60,000 members and, preferably, have no more than one priest serving every 2,400 people.

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