Philadelphia Archdiocese sells properties for $56 million to help shore up finances, pensions

MarketsAssociated Press

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia has sold three parcels of land for more than $56 million in an effort to shore up its finances, church officials announced Thursday.

Most proceeds from the transactions, which involve about 700 acres in the Philadelphia suburbs and Lehigh Valley, will go toward a parish trust and loan fund. About $3.7 million will go to the priests' pension fund, officials said.

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The properties include a 200-acre tract in Delaware County purchased for $47 million by Jenkintown-based Cardinal Crossing Realty Associates, according to the archdiocese.

The Marple Township site has been home to church facilities serving dozens of disabled men, who are being relocated to make way for commercial and residential development.

Officials said they got $3.7 million from Woodbine Partners for a 54-acre parcel that was considered excess land at the St. John Vianney Center, a facility for mental health and substance abuse in Downingtown, Chester County.

And the church will get $5.5 million from David T. Davis, who bought a 454-acre lot in Northampton County that housed a defunct spiritual retreat.

Plans for those two sites are not clear, the archdiocese said. Neither buyer could be reached for comment.

The property sales will help put a dent in about $287 million in unfunded pension and insurance liabilities, according to the church.

The archdiocese stunned parishioners in July 2013 by revealing it had a $39.2 million operating deficit, a gap that Archbishop Charles Chaput has described as a product of bad spending habits, not fraud or the priest sex abuse scandal.

The deficit has since shrunk to $5 million through a series of cost-cutting moves, officials say.

Over the past few years, the church sold the archbishop's residence and a vacation home for priests at the Jersey shore. It cut 25 percent of its staff at the pastoral center, outsourced cemetery maintenance and closed 32 parishes from 2009 to 2013.

On July 1, the church announced the sale of six nursing homes for $145 million to a New York-based management group. That sale has not yet closed, and officials haven't decided how the profits will be allocated, said Ken Gavin, a spokesman for the archdiocese.

The archdiocese serves about 1.1 million Catholics in Philadelphia and four surrounding counties.