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February 11, 2013

Ailing priest hopes to reconcile with church

SOMERSET — Former Roman Catholic priest Alphonse Mascherino, founder of the United Flight 93 Memorial Chapel, is seeking reconciliation with the church he left behind.

Mascherino left the Roman Catholic Church and until recently was bishop in the Catholic Church of the East.

He resigned last month.

During an interview at In Touch Hospice in Somerset, he expressed his desire for reconciliation.

Mascherino, who suffers from a terminal form of cancer and is unable to speak, wrote his responses on a notepad.

“I never intended to leave the church. Things happen,” he wrote. “But if I am to return, I cannot continue to be bishop. My love for God and church is far greater than being bishop.

“You can only belong to one church,” he continued. “I’m confident reconciliation is close.”

In a brief statement sent to The Tribune-Democrat, The Altoona- Johnstown Diocese appeared open to Mascherino’s return.

“I can tell you that Bishop (Mark) Bartchak has been involved in conversations concerning his (Mascherino’s) reconciliation with the Roman Catholic Church,” diocese spokesman Tony DeGol said.

In his final service on Jan. 20, Mascherino announced his intentions in written words that were read aloud.

“Today, I am resigning the office of bishop and am resigning from the Catholic Church of the East in order to make possible a reconciliation for spiritual grievances,” he said. “I apologize to any I have offended and ask for your forgiveness.”

He then transferred ownership of the chapel and all properties to Archbishop Ramzi Musallam and the Catholic Church of the East.

Mascherino founded the memorial chapel two months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He was an unassigned priest at the time.

But he is hoping to return to the Roman Catholic Church.

“The bishop has to say ‘Welcome home,’ ” Mascherino said.

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