O'Malley off to Vatican to Report on Abuse

By Daniel Balint-Kurti
The Associated Press
August 24, 2004

BOSTON (AP) -- Boston Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley will visit Rome this week to talk with the Pope and Vatican officials about clergy sex abuse and the closing of 82 of the 357 parishes in his archdiocese.

"Archbishop O'Malley wants to speak to the Pope and other officials of the Holy See about the clergy abuse issue, what we've done to address the issue and what we hope and need to continue to do," said the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, the archdiocese spokesman

O'Malley, who is scheduled to leave for Rome on Wednesday, will meet with Pope John Paul II if the pontiff's health permits, Coyne said.

While in Rome, O'Malley also will seek a clear explanation on the washing of feet, an issue that caused controversy after he washed only the feet of men, and not women, on Holy Thursday in April. O'Malley later apologized for offending women, and said he was following Vatican guidelines.

"The archbishop will ask for an extension of the directive on footwashing, to allow both men and women to be washed," Coyne said.

Every Roman Catholic diocese in the world makes a formal progress report to the Vatican every five years. Joining O'Malley on the trip will be the other bishops of New England, including Fall River Bishop George W. Coleman.

Coleman, in a letter to his parishioners distributed at weekend Masses, said shifts of population from cities to suburbs and a decline in the number of priests and church attendance call for a configuration of that diocese. The Fall River Diocese has 96 parishes and 28 schools serving a population of about 346,000 Catholics.

The visit to the Vatican will be O'Malley's second this summer. On June 29, -- the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul -- the pope granted O'Malley the pallium, the simple woolen band that symbolizes the unity of the pontiff and metropolitan archbishops, in a ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica.


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