Upbeat Rigali Looks Past Critics
Bevilacqua Talks of His Retirement

By Ron Goldwyn
Philadelphia Daily News [Philadelphia PA]
September 30, 2003

WHEN CARDINAL-designate Justin Rigali arrives Monday for his installation as archbishop of Philadelphia a week from today, a neat, empty mansion is waiting for him.

But he leaves behind in St. Louis a messy exchange with the national movement of sexual-abuse victims, spurred by sharp comments at an otherwise upbeat news conference yesterday.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, based in St. Louis, declared after Pope John Paul II named Rigali a cardinal Sunday that he was "among the least forthcoming and sensitive bishops in the country."

SNAP called his promotion "pouring salt in an open wound" because of his alleged failure to support - or meet with - victims of clergy abuse.

Rigali responded yesterday that the criticism came merely from a vocal handful.

"Sometimes one person becomes a spokesperson gratuitously for many people," Rigali said. "This is a free country. Whoever wants an opinion to me can feel free to have one."

SNAP's executive director, David Clohessy, said Rigali's comments were a bid to "minimize this horrific problem," given the more than two dozen civil lawsuits that victims have filed against clergy from the St. Louis archdiocese.

"It's certainly not a very gracious exit" for Rigali, Clohessy said. "I find it unfathomable that he can really attribute all this trauma somehow to a handful of people."

Rigali's news conference was mostly a chance to express humility at the "great honor" and "very awesome" elevation to cardinal. He will be the only American in a class of 31 new cardinals at Vatican ceremonies on Oct. 21.

When Rigali is installed in Philadelphia next Tuesday, he will take over an archdiocese with far less turmoil over priest abuse. However, a city grand jury has been secretly investigating the issue since April 2002, and a report is anticipated this fall.

The rapid flow of events, including a week in Rome, means Rigali will barely have time to get used to his new digs, which his predecessor, Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, discussed yesterday.

Bevilacqua, sharply reversing his own experience with the late Cardinal John Krol, said in an interview that he'll vacate the official archbishop's residence on City Avenue within a few days.

He is moving to a suite at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, a few blocks down City Line in Wynnewood.

"I have an office, I have a sitting room, and I have a bedroom," Bevilacqua said. "I think they're putting up a chapel for me."

His immediate plans, he said, are equally modest.

"For the next couple of months, and I'm firm about this, I plan to spend more time quiet with God and see what He wants me to do. And that's it," he said.

He won't be a recluse. He'll deliver the opening lecture this fall to St. Charles seminarians in a lecture series named for him.

In November, he will offer the homily at the 150th anniversary of the Diocese of Brooklyn, where he was born and raised.

Bevilacqua, 80, will join Rigali and some Philadelphia pilgrims in Rome next month at what's turned into a tripleheader: Pope John Paul II's 25th anniversary celebration, Mother Teresa's beatification and, on Oct. 21, the elevation of cardinals.

The elevation "won't make much difference" in Rigali's work in Philadelphia, Bevilacqua said, although it means added responsibility in the broader church.

"As bishop, he brings his own style. I don't know what that style is. All I know is he is a good man, a holy man, and he will be well-received by the people here," Bevilacqua said.

As for clearing out of the mansion - across Cardinal Avenue from Saint Joseph's University in Wynnefield - Bevilacqua said it was better "to leave my successor alone at the residence."

After Bevilacqua became Philadelphia's archbishop in 1988, Krol remained in the residence as Bevilacqua's rummy-playing, cigar-smoking roommate. Krol died March 3, 1996, in the residence.

Bevilacqua later decreed that across the archdiocese, retired priests could not remain at the last parish in which they served.

He said yesterday while that was a policy designed to give the incoming parish priest a free hand, he saw "no comparison" to his own case.


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