O'Malley Promotion Hailed

By Gloria Labounty
The Sun Chronicle [Massachusetts]
February 23, 2006

The bishop with the Franciscan image and the reputation for crisis intervention is now taking a step up in the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston, who previously spent 10 years as bishop in the Fall River Diocese, is being elevated to cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI after heading the Archdiocese of Boston for less than three years.

" I am deeply humbled and honored," O'Malley said in a written statement.

While the post comes with added responsibilities, O'Malley said he wanted to reaffirm a commitment he made when he was installed in Boston.

" I am your Shepherd, your brother, and I am here to serve all the people of the Archdiocese," he said.

O'Malley, 61, was one of 15 new cardinals from around the world who were chosen by Benedict and who will be officially elevated in a ceremony March 24 at the Vatican.

The choice of O'Malley was not unexpected, since Boston has traditionally had a cardinal at its helm. O'Malley was seen as headed in that direction since his arrival in the archdiocese in July 2003.

" It's a signal of the importance of Boston as an archdiocese in the national church," said Monsignor Peter Conley, pastor of St. Jude's Church in Norfolk, which is part of the archdiocese.

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Monsignor Daniel Hoye of St. John the Evangelist Church in Attleboro said the elevation may be welcomed in Boston, given the problems it has faced the past few years.

" It's an honor for the whole community," Hoye said.

For O'Malley, it will mean another level of responsibility as he becomes part of a special college of almost 200 cardinals who serve as advisers to the pope, and who will elect the next pontiff, Hoye said.

Being a cardinal also brings new status.

" The red hat opens a lot of doors in Rome," Hoye said.

But becoming cardinal does not mean O'Malley will have authority over other bishops and other dioceses.

Every bishop reports directly to Rome, Hoye said, and a cardinal has no jurisdiction over them.

While the appointment was not a surprise, Hoye said, " it was probably the last thing O'Malley expected he would become when he entered the Franciscan life."

Bishop George Coleman of Fall River, who succeeded O'Malley in that diocese, said in a written statement that the appointment " brings happiness and a sense of pride to all of us in the Fall River Diocese."

Coleman, who is in Honduras visiting diocesan missions there, said during O'Malley's tenure in Fall River from 1992 to 2002, " we experienced firsthand his qualities of holiness, intelligence and humility. Now as a cardinal and advisor to the Pope, Cardinal-designate O'Malley will share these same gifts with the universal Church."

O'Malley also has his share of critics, especially in Boston where his decision to close a number of churches sparked anger, protests and sit-ins.

And while he was praised for stepping into the sexual abuse crises in both Fall River and Boston, he was also faulted by some, including many of the victims, for the way he handled the scandals.

Among them is Peter Calderone of Attleboro, one of dozens of victims of former priest James Porter who dealt with O'Malley in Fall River.

Calderone said he was not surprised by the pope's announcement.

" They have been lining him up for awhile," he said of O'Malley. " The church is happy with what he's done."

Calderone said he has no strong feeling one way or the other about the appointment. Every day that passes, he said, he moves further away from the church.

" I'm not surprised. I'm not elated. I'm not upset," he said.

Voice of the Faithful, the lay Catholic group that formed in the aftermath of the sexual abuse crisis in Boston, said it hopes O'Malley's experience in settling the claims of more than 500 victims will focus more attention in the Vatican on the crisis and on the need to involve the laity in governing and guiding the church.

" The Church needs more moral leadership from all of its bishops, including these newly named Cardinals," the organization said in a written statement. " The clergy sexual abuse scandal remains the most fundamental threat to the moral integrity of the Catholic Church in these times."


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