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Non-Catholic Saves Ministry From Closure

January 18, 2003|From a Times Staff Writer

A non-Catholic benefactor has contributed funds to allow the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles to keep operating its ecumenical and inter-religious affairs office.

The office was one of seven slated for closure in an austerity program prompted by what the archdiocese called a budget emergency. The planned closures, caused by $4.3-million in cutbacks, were revealed in September.

Father Alexei Smith, the office's director, said he was approached by the benefactor after newspaper reports about the budget cuts appeared. "This person looked me right in the eye and asked if [the news] were true. And when I answered affirmatively, this person was very disappointed, then point-blank asked me how much I would need to continue operations," Smith said in the archdiocese's newspaper, the Tidings.

Smith said he spelled out the financial needs and the donor replied, "That's no problem. I'll give you that." Smith said the donor is not Roman Catholic.

Smith said he relayed the information to Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, who approved the arrangement. Smith earlier told The Times that he intended to find a way to keep the office open.

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