By Jay Lindsay, Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Archdiocese has released a plan to combine its parishes into 125 groups that will share staffing and resources in a move it says will promote evangelization and improve finances.

The archdiocese says parishes within the so-called “pastoral collaboratives” will retain their individual identities, with each assigned a pastor and keeping control of their assets.

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The collaboratives can chose collectively whether to merge programs or recommend the archdiocese close and sell church buildings.

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The archdiocese says the idea is to improve efficiency in an archdiocese where 40 percent of parishes can’t pay their bills and Mass attendance has dropped to 16 percent of local Catholics.

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All archdiocesan priests will meet Monday to discuss the plan and parishioners will be consulted in coming months. The changes, if accepted, will take several years to install.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.