SAN FRANCISCO -- Archbishop William Levada, to be the highest-ranking American at the Vatican, was welcomed to Sunday Mass by parishioners, a few critics, and a subpoena compelling him to testify on sex abuse in the church.
Levada was handed the subpoena minutes before he began the procession to the altar at St. Mary's Cathedral.
It requires him to give a deposition on Aug. 12 concerning sex abuse allegations against priests in the archdiocese of Portland, Ore. He was archbishop there from 1986 to 1995.
The 69-year-old archbishop spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of 3,000 yesterday.
Levada told them that he would miss San Francisco, but that he looked forward to working as ''God's shepherd" in Rome.
''What I have experienced in the city of St. Francis . . . has been a great grace," Levada said. He is to leave this month for his appointment as head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a post held by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict XVI.
In that role, Levada will help shape doctrine, and will play a major role in the response to claims of sexual abuse by priests. As Levada spoke yesterday, about 50 protesters held a vigil outside with signs reading: ''In memory of children abused by clergy."
Since the scandal broke in 2002, hundreds of clergy have been removed from parish work and church leaders have set guidelines for dealing with allegations.
The US church says it has paid at least $840 million in settlements with victims since 1950. Levada has never been accused of abuse, but victims' groups, such as the national Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests, have said he did not rigorously pursue allegations of clergy molestation of children.
''They've kept everything secret, said a Survivors Network board member, Terrie Light.
''We're here saying it's not about protecting priests and their rights, but it's about protecting children," Light said.
A parishioner, Jake McGoldrick, a city supervisor, said Levada could be the voice that the church needs. ''Levada has a deep desire to advance the church," McGoldrick said. ''My feeling is that the pope is bringing him to Rome to say, 'What are we going to do to clean up this mess?' "