The Vatican has upheld Camden Bishop Joseph Galante's decision to merge the parishes of St. Vincent Pallotti in Haddon Township and St. Aloysius in Oaklyn, Camden Diocese spokesman Andrew Walton said yesterday.

The merger had been challenged by St. Vincent members who opposed the decision to make St. Aloysius the seat of the new parish. Mike Gross, spokesman for the St. Vincent Pallotti lay commission, said his group questioned the diocese's interpretation of the ruling, issued in a letter from the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy.

"The letter we received requires tremendous diligence and prayerful study," said Gross, whose group plans to review the correspondence.

In April 2007, Galante announced a plan to reduce the diocese's parishes from 124 to 66, citing a shortage of priests and lagging attendance. Seven mergers have been implemented, with an eighth to take place today when St. Margaret in Woodbury Heights and St. John Vianney in Deptford combine to form Infant Jesus Parish, Walton said.    

- James Osborne