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Crowds, city's leaders welcome Archbishop-designate

By James L. Franklin, Globe Staff, 1/28/1984

n an intense, 7 1/2-hour visit, Boston's archbishop-designate met the city's leaders and hundreds of its people yesterday with an open smile, a handshake and a squeeze on the arm.

"Boston loves you," Bishop Bernard Francis Law was told in his first visit since his appointment to the 2-million-member archdiocese he will take over when he returns for his installation March 23.

He was enthusiastic in return about the "spontaneous warmth" he saw in the welcome by civic and religious leaders, the priests, sisters and people of the archdiocese.

Yet he warned against "false expectations" about who he is, so that there will be no "subsequent disappointment."

While Bishop Law said he hopes to be "a reconciler," a leader who is "open and encouraging," the prelate said he will teach Catholic doctrine "as clearly and forthrightly as I can."

Political categories such as liberal and conservative "are rather meaningless," said the 52-year-old bishop, dressed in black suit, Roman collar and a silver pectoral cross.

He described himself as "a man of faith deeply rooted in the Catholic Church."

Bishop Law said he hoped to present Catholic teaching on questions such as abortion, the death penalty and peace "in a sensitive way, patterned on Jesus Christ." But he said that "to be a clear teacher is a very special service."

The pattern for the day was set when Bishop Law arrived at Logan Airport by private aircraft shortly after 10:30 a.m.

He leaned forward, shaking hands and clasping the arm of the dignitaries who met him, seeking to have a few words of almost private conversation in the crowded lounge at the Eastern Airlines terminal.

The bishop joked about having moved so often in his life, saying that the Pope's delegate to the United States told him Thursday night that "after Boston, there is only heaven."

Less than 45 minutes later, he visited St. Ambrose Church, in Boston's Fields Corner neighborhood. The church was destroyed by a fire Tuesday just hours after the bishop's appointment to Boston was announced.

"That's far enough," cried out a worried Bishop Thomas V. Daily, administrator of the diocese, as Bishop Law walked deep into the roofless church beneath the looming, fire-weakened walls, past rows of charred pews. Fire officials believe the blaze was the result of arson.

Bishop Law emerged to tell a crowd of nearly 400 parishioners and news crews that "I hope it is not too long before I can talk to you inside."

Alluding to the violence during the struggle for civil rights in his years in Mississippi, the archbishop-designate said that over several years more than 60 Catholic churches were burned "as a sign of hate and death.

"That death didn't win -- those churches were rebuilt and in the process the community became closer than ever before," he said. "If it can happen there, I know it will happen here."

On his way to Dorchester from the airport, Bishop Law stopped to visit students at the elementary and high schools at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston's South End.

"You are the future," he told the cheering children in what is one of Boston's most ethnically diverse schools. "I hope you will join me in building it (the future* in the Lord."

Later Bishop Law said that despite the need for repairs and its location in a struggling urban neighborhood by the elevated Orange Line tracks, Boston's cathedral "is exactly what a cathedral ought to be -- I'm glad it is where it is."

He frequently mentioned his pleasure at the greeting by Protestant, Orthodox and Jewish leaders and noted that coming from rural, overwhelmingly Protestant Missouri, "I'm not used to being in the majority -- it's a bit overwhelming."

Though frequently asked about his plans as archbishop, the churchman said he would not rush to make plans or judgments. "The doctors told me two weeks ago that I am in excellent health," he said. "I will just let this unfold, although I will bone up on the history of the archdiocese."

At an afternoon press conference, Bishop Law was asked about his role in political controversies.

"I come not as a member of the House or Senate -- my role is to be a moral teacher," he said. "As there are a number in the same faith community, I expect to have an impact."

The bishop said he hoped that the "moral values" about which he will speak "will have a resonance in the broader community" and that he didn't see those values as being "in competition" with other groups.

On other issues he said:

  • "My position (on the ordination of women as priests* is the church's position. Women and men are equal and to deny that is a sin, but only men may be ordained. That is a paradox, just as it is a paradox to say that Jesus is both God and man."

  • While he "could probably fault (the US bishops' letter on nuclear weapons* in one or two or three places, he signed the letter and "it is my responsibility to teach out of that document and I would intend to do that."

  • Even if the state has a theoretical right to take life for the common good, "capital punishment is not a good choice for us in our society today."

  • "Unborn life is the most defenseless of human life, and it is hard to argue how taking that life can ever, under any circumstances, be justified."

  • Those who insist on celebrating the former, Tridentine Mass of the Catholic Church "do violence to something basic in the life of the church . . . I urge those who love that Mass, as I do, to be willing to enter more fully into the life of the church."

  • He was surprised at reports that it was his ambition to be the first American Pope. "I didn't even have the ambition to be archbishop of Boston. Besides I don't speak Italian -- or Polish."

    Following the press conference, Bishop Law met for more than an hour and a half with top officials of the Boston archdiocese before leaving for Logan Airport, where a Learjet supplied by an anonymous friend was waiting to begin his return trip to Missouri.

    On his way to the airport, however, Bishop Law stopped at the Jeanne Jugan Residence, a Somerville nursing home, for about 20 minutes. He made the stop, said Father Peter V. Conley at the request of Bishop Daily, whose mother is a resident at the nursing home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor.

    The archbishop-designate was presented a bouqet of flowers and some books, including a biography of the founder of the nursing home. Addressing approximately 120 nuns, residents and other staff members, Bishop Law said, "The appointment of a new archbishop is a time of new beginnings, new hope, and there is much we can expect from God, from his special grace." He led the group in a brief prayer and then briefly mingled with the residents and nuns, among them Sister Elizabeth who is 101 years old and has been at the nursing home as a staff member and patient for 70 years.

    Bishop Law left Boston shortly before 7 p.m. headed first for Pittsburgh and then, tomorrow, for Missouri.

    LAW ON THE ISSUES

    Here is what Archbishop-designate Bernard F. Law had to say on several issues at his press conference in Boston yesterday.

  • "My position (on the ordination of women as priests* is the church's position. Women and men are equal and to deny that is a sin, but only men may be ordained. That is a paradox, just as it is a paradox to say that Jesus is both God and man."

  • While he "could probably fault (the US bishops' letter on nuclear weapons* in one or two or three places," he signed the letter and "it is my responsibility to teach out of that document and I would intend to do that."

  • Even if the state has a theoretical right to take life for the common good, "capital punishment is not a good choice for us in our society today."

  • "Unborn life is the most defenseless of human life, and it is hard to argue how taking that life can ever, under any circumstances, be justified."

  • Those who insist on celebrating the former, Tridentine Mass of the Catholic Church "do violence to something basic in the life of the church . . . I urge those who love that Mass, as I do, to be willing to enter more fully into the life of the church."

  • He was surprised at reports that it was his ambition to be the first American Pope. "I didn't even have the ambition to be archbishop of Boston. Besides I don't speak Italian -- or Polish."

    This story ran in the Boston Globe on 1/28/1984.
    © Copyright Globe Newspaper Company.


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