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Nun in legal dispute with singer Katy Perry over convent collapses and dies in court

Nun in legal dispute with singer Katy Perry over convent collapses and dies in court
Sister Catherine Rose Holzman, left, and Sister Rita Callanan stand outside the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary retreat in Los Feliz in 2015. Holzman collapsed and died during a court proceeding Friday. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Sister Catherine Rose Holzman sat in front of a TV camera with a message for pop star Katy Perry: Please stop fighting over the sale of a convent that for decades she called home.

"It's not doing anyone any good except hurting a lot of people," Holzman told Fox 11 reporters Friday in what would be her final interview.

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Hours later, Holzman collapsed and died during a court proceeding. She was 89.

It was the latest twist in the protracted, sometimes bitter, only-in-L.A. legal saga over who had the right — the nuns or the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles — to sell the villa-style compound perched above Los Feliz Boulevard that offers sweeping views of the San Gabriel Mountains and downtown.

Archbishop José H. Gomez, who is at odds with the nuns over the property sale, said in a statement that Holzman served the church for many years with dedication and love.

"Today we remember her life with gratitude," Gomez said. "We extend our prayers today to the Immaculate Heart of Mary community and to all her friends and loved ones. On behalf of the entire family of God here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, I pray that God grant her eternal rest and let his perpetual light shine upon her."

Friday's court hearing involved the bankruptcy of restaurant owner Dana Hollister, a key figure in the property dispute.

The legal fight began when Hollister struck a $15.5-million deal to buy the Waverly Drive property from Holzman and Sister Rita Callanan, two of the five remaining members of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who used to call the convent home. They moved from the convent in 2011.

Hollister had plans to turn the property into a boutique hotel. But that sale came as the archdiocese was finalizing a $14.5-million deal to sell the property to Perry, whose attorneys have previously said she plans to live there.

The nuns argued they had the right to sell the property, but the church and Perry's lawyers contended that the sisters did not get the required legal blessings of Gomez.

The question of who had the right to sell the convent took two years to settle as high-priced lawyers argued over property rights and the particulars of the canon law that governs the Catholic Church.

In March 2017, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Bowick ruled that the sale by the nuns to Hollister was invalid.

The judge also ruled that the nuns never got permission from the Vatican before selling to Hollister. In Los Angeles, the sale of any property for more than $7.5 million would require permission from the Vatican, according to canon law.

"The pope did not consent to the sale of the property to Hollister and there was no written approval from the Holy See or the archbishop," Bowick wrote.

Archdiocese lawyer Kirk Dillman argued during closing arguments that Hollister wanted to prevent Perry from buying the property and kick off a legal fight "to wear down" the church in the hopes the singer would back out of the deal.

Hollister's believed the nuns were correct when they said they had the right to sell the property, according to her attorney.

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Hollister was ordered to pay more than $15 million in damages to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Perry for interfering in the sale. A jury ruled in November that Hollister deliberately tried to thwart that sale when she purchased the property from the nuns.

Before her death, Holzman told the TV station that wasn't the case.

"We asked her to save us, to buy the property," Holzman said. "She had nothing to do with forcing herself on us."

Times staff writer Javier Panzar, the Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.

Twitter: @AleneTchek

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