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MEMBER PROTESTING CHURCH CLOSING ARRESTED

A church member was arrested for refusing to leave a church targeted for closure by the Boston Catholic Archdiocese.

Gene Sweeney, 69, was charged with trespassing after he was removed Saturday night from Immaculate Conception Church in the Boston suburb of Winchester. He was released on $40 bail.

Members of at least eight churches are conducting sit-ins -- some lasting as long as two months -- to protest the archdiocese's plan to close or consolidate 82 of its 357 parishes. The restructuring was prompted in part by economic woes caused by the clergy sex abuse scandal.

The archdiocese has not disrupted the vigils, but Sweeney's arrest marked the first time a church official has had a member forcibly removed.

"This is really a crossing of the line -- arresting a Catholic in a church," said Peter Borre, co-chairman of a lay group that has organized the vigils.

Larry Rasky, archdiocese spokesman said the priest, the Rev. Thomas Foley, decided to have Sweeney removed in part out of concern for his safety.

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