Cardinal Sin

So wicked, I post the whole article.


FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE: Cardinal Egan (above) had Our Lady of Vilnius padlocked by order as he met with pastor Eugene Sawicki.

Edward Cardinal Egan pulled a fast one on a lower Manhattan parish pastor yesterday, summoning the priest to meet with him - then dispatching security guards to permanently lock the cleric's church doors.

The priest returned to Our Lady of Vilnius to find himself locked out - a brusque Egan move that left parishioners stunned and saddened.

The cardinal's move also occurred right before a scheduled meeting with Lithuania's consul general, who was set to make a plea to save the church, parishioners and the Archdiocese of New York said.

"Cardinal Egan again shows his true colors," said Peter Borre, a Boston man who is advising local parishioners in their efforts to avoid planned church closings by the archdiocese.

"This church has been here for 102 years. We're supposed to have a 12:15 p.m. Mass today and people were turned away crying," said the church's secretary, who gave only her first name, Joy.

"I find this unconscionable."

Egan's sneak attack came just days after The Post revealed that Lithuania's president had written a letter asking that he reverse a plan to close Our Lady of Vilnius on Broome Street, originally founded to serve natives of his country.

It also comes on the heels of his abrupt closure of an East Harlem church after parishioners there staged a one-day sit-in that ended in six arrests, and after two similar trespassing arrests at a Yonkers church that was being closed.

"It seems to be a vindictive act," said Ramute Zukas, president of the local chapter of the Lithuanian-American Community Inc., who has coordinated efforts to keep Our Lady of Vilnius open.

Egan's spokesman last week had said that although the small church was slated to close - because of dwindling attendance, a crumbling roof and the fact that Mass no longer was being offered in Lithuanian - no closing date had been set.

But yesterday, Egan summoned the Rev. Eugene Sawicki to his Madison Avenue office at 9 a.m., and told him "the closure is effective immediately," said archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling.

Even as that meeting with the pastor was occurring, three security guards were changing the locks on the parish doors and preventing anyone from entering.

An hour later, Egan met with Lithuanian Consul General Mindaugas Butkus, who hand-delivered President Valdas Adamkus' letter, and told the cardinal that "we value [the church] very much . . . it has historical value and cultural value."

Butkus, who had scheduled the meeting days before, had no idea the closing was imminent.

Asked if he was insulted by Egan agreeing to hear his request when he had already made up his mind, Butkus said, "I decline to comment."

But he said Egan "expressed dissatisfaction" about the way the issue had been portrayed in the media.

Zwilling, asked if anything had happened between last week and yesterday to prompt the cardinal's sudden shuttering of the church, said "nothing in particular," and denied that Egan was miffed by press coverage of the planned closure.


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