Pope Names O'Malley a Cardinal
The Boston Archbishop Is Among 15 New Cardinals Named Yesterday Who Will Have the Right to Vote in Conclaves to Elect a New Pope and Are Regarded As the Pontiff's Close Advisers

By Richard C. Dujardin
Providence Journal [Massachusetts]
February 23, 2006

From Attleboro to Seekonk to New Bedford, Catholics of the Diocese of Fall River reacted with joyous words yesterday to news that their former brown-robed bishop, Sean Patrick O'Malley, has been chosen by Pope Benedict XVI to join the College of Cardinals.

O'Malley, who was installed as the archbishop of Boston three years ago to bring healing to an archdiocese shaken to its roots by a devastating sexual abuse scandal, is one of only two Americans -- and the only one presently leading a U.S. diocese -- to be among the first group of prelates to be elevated by the new pope.

"Of course I'm delighted," said Beverly Tavares, a director of education at Espirito Santo, a Portuguese-speaking parish in Fall River that O'Malley visited many times as bishop of Fall River from 1992 to 2002.

Besides having the right to vote in conclaves to elect a new pope, cardinals are traditionally regarded as close advisers to the pope.

Tavares said there's "no question" that O'Malley's experience would bring an important perspective to the Roman Catholic Church's top echelons. "He knows the feeling of the minorities and the immigrants." And when it comes to reaching out and dealing with victims of sexual abuse, he has that experience, too, she said.

"He isn't afraid to jump into anything."

O'Malley, 61, was out of town and traveling yesterday. In a brief statement to the clergy and laity of the diocese, he said: "We have faced many challenges and I look forward to continuing our work together towards strengthening our Church."

The Ohio native, who has also served as bishop of the Virgin Islands, has been credited during his 10 years in Fall River with reaching out and settling with 99 people who said they were victimized as children by the late James Porter, a former Catholic priest in North Attleboro.

When O'Malley left Fall River in 2002, people turned up by the thousands and gave him a sendoff befitting a rock star. From there he went to the troubled Diocese of Palm Beach, where his two predecessors admitted to being involved in sexual abuse. Less than a year later, Pope John Paul II dispatched him to Boston to restore the church's credibility in the wake of the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, who stood accused of putting hundreds of children at risk by allowing priests who were known to have molested children to serve in parishes.

Even before his installation he began meeting with victims, reaching settlements that currently total $85 million for 554 people. While his early moves won him the esteem early on from Boston's Catholics, many in his flock are angry at him for closing more than 80 parishes.

O'Malley's star still shines, however, in the Fall River diocese, where people remember his visits to ethnic parishes, his wearing the brown robes of a Capuchin Franciscan friar, his fluency in five or six languages and his outreach to the poor and needy. People also remember the time he persuaded Mother Teresa of Calcutta to visit New Bedford and to have her Missionaries of Charity open a home for unwed mothers.

The Rev. Mr. Laurence St. Onge, who was assistant director of the diocese's permanent deaconate program under O'Malley and who now works in New Bedford's Our Lady of Guadalupe parish, said O'Malley's appointment is wonderful news and "a long time coming." He said he was surprised when O'Malley was not tapped for the cardinal's hat months after Pope John Paul sent him to Boston.

The Rev. George Harrison, the first priest of the Fall River diocese to be named a pastor by O'Malley when the bishop appointed him to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Seekonk in 1993, said the fact that O'Malley was among the first to be named by Pope Benedict shows the high esteem with which he is held by the Holy Father.

"He is probably where he is today because he is a true pastor and shepherd," said Father Harrison, who retired from Our Lady of Mount Carmel in July. "He has been there leading, shepherding with compassion. His transparency has been a hallmark of his ministry. I think he showed his solidarity with the people when he sold the archbishop's residence and moved to a smaller rectory. He showed he understood that sacrifices had to be made."

The priest said he wasn't too surprised when Pope John Paul II didn't give O'Malley a red hat when he had an opportunity to do so earlier. "He [O'Malley] was just getting settled in, and the Holy Father was sensitive to the fact that the archbishop had to focus his attention on certain matters [the clergy abuse scandal]. Becoming a cardinal then would have been a distraction."

Msgr. Daniel F. Hoye, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Attleboro, said that except for certain formal times such as his installation, "I can count on one hand the times I've seen him wearing other than his Franciscan habit." Even as a cardinal, said the priest who was general secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1983 to 1989, he thinks O'Malley will continue to wear the habit of a Franciscan Capuchin. "When he became Franciscan I don't think in his wildest dreams that he'd ever become a cardinal."

Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin said in a brief interview yesterday that he was "very pleased and very proud" of the selection of Cardinal-designate O'Malley. Fall River Bishop George W. Coleman, who was in Honduras yesterday visiting the diocesan mission, praised O'Malley's qualities of "holiness, intelligence and humility" and said "we take great joy in knowing that Pope Benedict, the successor of St. Peter, has called upon Cardinal-designate O'Malley to serve as one of his closest collaborators to help guide our church and keep all of us true to her faith."

The other American to be named yesterday was Archbishop William J. Levada, who was leader of the archdiocese of San Francisco when Benedict chose him as his successor on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In his role there, Levada has been put in charge of reviewing sexual abuse cases worldwide.

Among the 15 cardinals named, only 12 will be eligible to vote in future papal conclaves since the other three are already over the maximum voting age of 80. By the day of the consistory -- a three-day event beginning March 23 -- there will be 120 cardinals, the limit originally set by Pope Paul VI, though there were times when John Paul waived the rule and allowed the number to reach 135.

In addition to O'Malley and Levada, the other new voting cardinals include Stanislaus Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland, the former longtime personal secretary to John Paul II; Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, Italy; Antonio Canizares Llovera of Toledo, Spain; Nicolas Cheong-Jin-Suk of Seoul, South Korea; Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux, France; Gaudencio B. Rosales of Manila, the Philippines; Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino of Caracas, Venezuela; and Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun of Hong Kong.

Also, Franc Rode, Slovenian prefect of the Congregation for Religious, and Agostino Vallini, the Italian prefect of the supreme tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. / (401) 277-7384


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