SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) – The Roman Catholic diocese of Springfield says 11 churches in western Massachusetts will be closed or consolidated by year’s end.

Bishop Timothy McDonnell acknowledged Monday the closings will be painful for many parishioners, but says the changes will also bring a new vitality to the diocese.

In North Adams, three existing parishes will be merged into one new parish.

In the towns of South Deerfield and in Great Barrington, two existing churches will be merged into a single parish.

The diocese says churches will also be closed in Adams, Agawam, Lanesborough, Millers Falls and West Springfield.

The diocese is expected to announce further consolidation next year.

Officials say the cuts are necessary because of continuing financial challenges and declining attendance at Mass.

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