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Political, church leaders pleased

By Betsy A. Lehman and Stephanie Chavez, Globe Staff, 1/25/1984

ising before thousands of Lutherans in Hynes Auditorium eight years ago, in July 1976, Bishop Bernard Francis Law, the keynote speaker, began in an unusual fashion. He sang.

Rev. James A. Nash, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches and a Methodist, introduced the bishop at the conference of the Lutheran Church in America. While the name of the song has faded from his memory, the audience's reaction has not.

"He really awed the crowd," Rev. Nash said. "His voice was beautiful, and his selection was quite appropriate to the context. He literally had that audience in his palm."

Rev. Nash, whose council represents 17 Protestant and Anglican denominations, joined other Boston religious and political leaders in expressing pleasure at the announcement yesterday of Bishop Law's appointment as archbishop of Boston.

All cited Law's personal attributes and his staunch support for the civil rights and ecumenical movements as the traits they hope will mark his spiritual governance of the nation's third largest archdiocese.

"I have to say that if I had a vote in the matter, Bernie Law, without exaggeration, would have been my choice," Rev. Nash said. "I think he's precisely the kind of person who will be valued here."

Most Rev. Lawrence J. Riley, auxiliary bishop of Boston and regional bishop for Greater Boston, has been a friend since he was a Harvard student and the then Fr. Riley was a chaplain there.

"By disposition I found him to be mild-mannered, very patient, affable, courteous -- a quiet personality, frank and open, and really a perfect gentleman," Riley said.

Mayor Raymond L. Flynn, who is planning to greet Bishop Law at Logan Airport on Friday when he visits Boston, said yesterday that he is looking forward to a "fine working relationship" with the new archbishop.

"In many ways," Flynn added, "his spiritual mission in Boston will result in direct contact with the problems those of us in government service are working to address, such as the plight of the homeless, the loneliness of the elderly and the affliction of poverty in the midst of abundance." A spokesman noted that Flynn and Law met several years ago and the two know each other on a first-name basis.

Other political leaders, including Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, Sen. Paul Tsongas and House Speaker Thomas W. McGee also expressed their pleasure in the appointment yesterday.

Bishop Law's interest in social justice was often mentioned by religious and political leaders interviewed.

Sister Barbara Higgins, president of the Boston Sisters' Senate, representing 4085 religious women, said of the appointment:

"We're very pleased to welcome him to Boston. Our agenda gives high priority to community-building among all the people of God, social justice issues and peace-building through education, and I believe he resonates well with our agenda."

Senator Edward Kennedy issued a statement from his Washington office saying that Bishop Law is an "eminent theologian with a distinguished record of leadership and compassion on social justice and other fundamental issues of our time. He is a worthy successor to Cardinal Cushing and Medeiros and I look forward to his ministry as the new leader of the Archdiocese of Boston."

Rev. Laurence Borges, director of the diocese's Apostolate of the Spanish Speaking, said, "Needless to say, I'm very, very pleased that he's fluent in Spanish, and I'm very pleased that he's a young man because . . . he'll be getting around the diocese."

Rev. William B. Lawson, ecumenical officer for the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, issued a statement saying the diocese rejoiced at the announcement.

"The relationship between the Archdiocese and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts has been an increasingly warm and open one. Our earnest prayer is that we will continue to grow to new depths in that relationship . . . ."

Rabbi Herman Blumberg, director of the New England region of the American Jewish Committee, said, "The Pope could have chosen someone who would have been very conservative. The fact that he seems to have chosen a young and vigorous person who has been on the cutting edge of social and religious activities is very significant."

This story ran in the Boston Globe on 1/25/1984.
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