New Bishop Urges Faithful to Forgive
Olmsted Letter Is Read at Sunday Mass after O'Brien's Conviction

By Emily Bittner
The Arizona Republic [Phoenix AZ]
February 23, 2004

Catholic priests around the Phoenix Diocese read a letter to parishioners over the weekend from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted that preached hope, reconciliation and forgiveness after the conviction of retired Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien.

Before the service at SS Simon and Jude Cathedral, Monsignor Michael O'Grady read the letter to "set the tone" for Mass, during which Bible passages emphasizing forgiveness were read.

Olmsted's letter told parishioners about the verdict and told them that O'Brien would face "further profound effects" that would "compound the grief" in coming weeks.

"Facing this crisis with hope is what the Father is asking us to do now," O'Grady read. The events shouldn't be used to create more cynicism, but rather to strengthen believers' faith, "like gold is tested in fire," the letter said.

O'Brien, who was found guilty last week of leaving the scene of a fatal hit-and-run accident, is scheduled to be sentenced March 26 in the death of pedestrian Jim Reed. O'Brien faces up to 45 months in prison.

O'Grady didn't refer directly to O'Brien in his homily but described general difficulties with forgiveness.

"Forgiveness is not an easy thing," he said. "Many of us have lived through periods in our own lives where we gagged on forgiveness."

But people can learn to forgive when they embrace a higher power, he said.

For some parishioners, the task was natural.

"People make mistakes," said Francisco Ruiz, 68, who has attended the church for more than 30 years. "It doesn't matter who it is; you still have to forgive them."

But others still have questions about O'Brien's relationship to a child sex-abuse scandal and the accident.

"I'm kind of disappointed in him, in what he's done," said Edward Meza, 44, a lifelong Catholic who has attended Simon and Jude for about seven years. "All the hurt is hard to forgive."

The letter asked the faithful to continue praying for O'Brien's and Reed's families.


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