2,000 Mark Bicentennial of Archdiocese

Boston Globe
November 23, 2008

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston brought an end to its low-key bicentennial year today with an afternoon Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End. The cathedral was full -- a church official estimated that 2,000 people were present -- and the crowd was larger than any I've seen there since Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley's installation five years ago.

Photo by Yoon S. Byun

O'Malley (left) was joined at the altar by Cardinal Justin F. Rigali of Philadelphia, where the archdiocese is also marking a bicentennial this year, and by New Orleans Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes, a former vicar general of the Boston archdiocese, as well as by about 15 other bishops. The pews included laypeople drawn from parishes around the archdiocese, as well as scores of priests, nuns, deacons, and members of various Catholic fraternal organizations. The church's diversity was on display -- the cathedral choir was supplemented by choirs from the African-American, Chinese, Syro-Malabar and Ugandan communities, and the intercessory prayers were recited in American Sign Language, Cape Verdean Creole, Haitian Creole, Igbo, Irish, Korean and Portuguese, as well as English.

In his 22-minute homily, O'Malley quoted Tom Finneran, the WRKO talk show host, as saying that "in the history of the world, no government, no other church, no international organization, no political party has ever fed, or clothed, or educated, or cared for as many people who are sick, as the Catholic Church has done." Finneran, a former Massachusetts House Speaker, is a devout Catholic and longtime church ally, but his reputation was marred when he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

O'Malley said that "despite the many challenges that we have experienced over these generations -- persecution at times, prejudice -- we have made many contributions to our local community." He said that over the last century in the archdiocese, 1.1 million students have gone through the Catholic elementary schools and 500,000 have graduated from Catholic high schools, 30,000 children lived at Catholic orphanages, and 3.5 million people were treated at Catholic hospitals. And, over the last 40 years, he said, the archdiocesan planning office has provided permanent affordable housing for 11,000, while Catholic Charities and other social service organization have served millions.

Photo by Yoon S. Byun

"We are not here to brag," O'Malley said. "More than pride, we feel gratitude, that Christ gave us the faith and the love to be able to do what we have done. We have simply done what he commanded us, to love our neighbor, to feed the hungry, to care for the sick, to announce the good news to the poor."

O'Malley did not mention the clergy sexual abuse crisis or other specific issues that have faced the church, and only alluded to its challenges, saying, "Sometimes there are tensions in a family. Sometimes there are sibling rivalries. But discipleship in the church means being brothers and sisters in the lord."

The bulk of O'Malley's homily focused on the importance of love as a Christian value.

He urged Catholics to attend weekly Mass, and, at the end of the Mass, offered a plenary indulgence, a controversial practice which the Catholic catechism describes as "a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven."

The only references to current news events were in foreign languages during the intercessory prayers. The prayer in Haitian Creole referred to "economic uncertainty" in the nation, while the prayer in Korean was "for the survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their families." About a dozen protesters were outside the cathedral at the start of the Mass, holding signs and shouting requests for the archdiocese to publish a list of accused priests.


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