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July 1, 2009

Hundreds of Catholics Bid Emotional Farewell to Newark Pastor


NJ.com carries this story:

NEWARK -- Hundreds of people -- some sobbing and crying out, "Why are they doing this?" -- bid an emotional and largely ceremonial goodbye today to a Newark priest who served the same Italian-American parish for 54 years.

It was Msgr. Joseph Granato's last day at St. Lucy's Church.

Officially. For now.

But this story won't end as easily as all that. Even the much reviled Jim Goodness -- reviled by St. Lucy's parishioners -- the spokesman for Newark Archbishop John J. Myers, held out the possibility the 80-year-old but energetic priest might return "some time down the road" as pastor emeritus. Once a new pastor is firmly in control.

And supporters of Granato's desire to remain in the church rectory in retirement vowed to fight on. "It's not over," said Dee Kirk, head of the Friend's of St. Lucy's.

"We're just beginning," said Joseph DiVincenzo, the Essex County executive and the first of a number of political figures to join the fray.

The priest, after all, only moved a few blocks away to the boyhood home on Clifton Avenue he left 60 years ago to enter [the] seminary. He could walk to the church and, according to Goodness, could say Mass there as often as he wishes.

"No," said an emphatic monsignor, finally granting an interview after years of refusing to speak publicly. "I would not feel comfortable saying Mass here."

Granato will, however, preside over funerals at St. Lucy's. "To refuse that would be to punish the families," he said.

What happened today -- starting with a Mass that opened with a choir singing the hymn "Tu Es Sacerdos" ("You are a priest forever") usually reserved for priests' first Masses or jubilee celebrations -- was the inevitable and dramatic climax to a conflict between an archbishop determined to enforce his authority and an arguably unique Catholic parish with a historic claim on a Newark existing almost solely in memory.

Granato was the living symbol of those memories -- the priest who baptized them, gave them First Communion, married them, christened their children, buried their parents -- and their spouses. . . . (continue reading)


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