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Spotlight Report

Protesters target Easter service

Law, beset by crisis, cites 'wounds,' hope

By Michael Rosenwald, Globe Staff, 4/1/2002

On the Roman Catholic Church's annual celebration of rebirth, little girls skipped toward the Cathedral of the Holy Cross yesterday wearing pastel dresses that evoked Easter's colors and the promise of spring.

But they had to pass protesters holding signs saying ''House of Rape'' and ''Hold on to your children.'' And once inside the church, they could hear chants of ''Boycott this church,'' along with the soothing sounds of the organ.

Easter, it seemed, was more complicated this year.

As Roman Catholics around the world celebrated their holiest of days, they did so knowing of sexual abuse allegations against scores of priests near and far.

Cardinal Bernard Law, at the center of the controversy here, made several references to the church's troubles, saying that on Easter the church was ''wounded by public sin and the scandal of the abuse of children by clergy.''

''Even though we carry in our hearts those who bear the wounds of betrayal through abuse inflicted by others, especially by clergy, even though we experience the pain of dissent within the church,'' Law said, ''nonetheless, we fix our gaze with unshakable hope of the risen Lord. He is our light.''

Easter, he reminded parishioners several times, ''invokes us not to focus on our imperfections and sins, but on the holiness of God.''

''We beg the prayers of Mary, of all the saints of God ... that this Easter celebration will raise us up in our individual lives, the archdiocese, and the lives of the church. Renew our lives by the spirit of the risen Lord that is already within us.''

Jesus' rising from the tomb on Easter brings a ''newness of life,'' Law said, and a ''hope of healing and renewal.''

Law, who was flanked by several bodyguards following the service, was joined during Mass by Bishop Metropolitan Methodios, the presiding hierarch of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Boston.

Methodios did not specifically mention the troubles within the Catholic Church, but told Law, ''I'm with you always,'' and that he hoped the cardinal would have the strength to ''continue serving the people of God.''

The dozen or so protesters outside held signs pleading with Law to do otherwise. Many critics say the cardinal should resign because of the diocese's past mistakes in dealing with priests accused of abusing children.

One man holding a sign that said ''Let us prey'' introduced himself to other protesters by saying, ''I want my church back.'' Another man tied himself to a wooden crucifix. Police took away his nails.

''You need to pray,'' one woman told a protester. ''This is not the answer.''

''The answer is, boycott this church,'' the protester replied, using a bullhorn.

Inside, Law issued no direct pleas for prayer for sexual abuse victims. He did ask that parishioners pray for the end of terrorism, particularly in the Middle East.

Toward the end of the Mass, Law declared in a strong, vibrant tone that echoed through the cathedral, ''The church is not a political institution, not a sociological institution. It is a community of faith. To know us is to know what we believe.''

He said that includes teachings revealed through the church.

Then he asked those kneeling in the pews, their heads bowed, whether they believed in God. In unison, they said ''yes.''

Michael Rosenwald can be reached at mrosenwald@globe.com

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 4/1/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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