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Spotlight Report

  Cardinal Bernard Law gestures as he speaks during the celebration of Mass at the Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston (AP Photo)

A rousing send-off for Law before conference

By Michael S. Rosenwald, Globe Staff, 6/10/2002

Just days before leaving for a critical meeting of bishops in Dallas, Cardinal Bernard F. Law celebrated one of his most vigorous and animated Masses in months yesterday, pounding his fist during his homily and declaring, ''We are one in the human family.''

The Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross was Law's last there until the end of summer. He customarily uses the time to attend retreats and visit other churches. Nearly 400 parishioners packed the pews yesterday and gave him a rousing send-off.

Many, if not most, were drawn by the annual multicultural Mass, with the Archdiocese of Boston gathering hundreds of area Catholics and priests native to a dozen or so countries: Haiti, Italy, Ethiopia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, to name a few.

Law has been hounded by the media and Catholics around the world, but his strongest defenders have been local minorities. Last month, dozens of Hispanic supporters chanting in support of Law on the front steps of the cathedral faced harsh words from protesters.

The cardinal pointed out that the cathedral was built two centuries ago by immigrants and that it has been a place of worship for people of all races ever since. ''What an impovishered church we would be were it not for the immigrant presence here,'' he said.

During his homily, Law asked parishioners to stand when he read off their native country: Nigeria, Uganda, Sudan, Republic of Congo. He rolled his tongue while pronouncing the Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries. Applause followed, louder and louder with each country, reaching a crescendo when dozens of Brazilians leapt to their feet and cried out upon hearing their nation announced.

At one point, a group of Haitian women danced in front of the altar to their native music, performed by a special choir.

''We gather under this altar not because of our fundamental differences,'' Law said, ''but because of our unity. We are one in the human family. God is our father.''

''We are equal in love, equal in dignity, one in faith,'' he added.

Law, who watched intently as Bible readings were spoken in Cape Verdean and Vietnamese, also asked for special prayers for him and other bishops who will gather Thursday in Dallas for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' meeting.

At the much-anticipated meeting, church leaders are expected to devise a national policy for dealing with sexual abuse by clergy.

''We will be attempting to respond nationally to what we have responded to locally in terms of our policy in handling cases of sexual abuse by clergy,'' Law said yesterday, raising the issue for the first time in nearly a month. ''In Dallas, we will be looking at what we can establish nationally as a norm, and so I would ask your prayers for that.''

Meanwhile, a priest in East Longmeadow announced this weekend that he was withholding weekly collections for the Springfield Diocese, according to the Springfield Union-News Sunday Republican.

The Rev. James J. Scahill of St. Michael's parish told parishioners of his plans because the Most Rev. Thomas L. Dupre, bishop of the diocese, has not removed a convicted child molester and priest from the payroll.

Yesterday, Law also announced special days of prayer - Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at the cathedral, following daily Mass - to coincide with the bishops' meeting. Law is bringing with him recommendations from a special commission he appointed in January to look at the best ways to protect children.

Law said the commission has ''greatly aided'' him.

The cardinal, who hasn't talked to reporters in months, did not disclose how he feels about the upcoming meeting, but he appeared relaxed. After Mass, he greeted parishioners as usual. He spent several minutes with some, addressed some in Spanish, posed for pictures, let parishioners kiss his ring, and blessed them one by one.

Michael S. Rosenwald can be reached by e-mail at mrosenwald@globe.com.

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 6/10/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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