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Contact: Christopher Heffron
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CHeffron@franciscanmedia.org

February 15, 2004     549 Words

Archbishop Sean Patrick O'Malley: A New Shepherd in Boston

CINCINNATI—The job description might as well have read something like: "Anguished archdiocese of Boston in need of compassionate and strong archbishop to repair lives damaged by the clergy sex-abuse crisis." Not the easiest job to take on, yet Sean Patrick O'Malley, who was appointed to Boston's beleaguered archdiocese in July of 2003, is weathering this storm with compassion, intelligence and faith.

The life, career and faith journey of this remarkable man are featured in the March cover story of St. Anthony Messenger entitled, "Archbishop Sean Patrick O'Malley: A New Voice in Boston." Contributing Editor Jack Wintz, O.F.M., traveled to Boston to interview O'Malley, who has taken on the unenviable task of guiding this bruised archdiocese from darkness to light. After February 22, the article will be posted at: AmericanCatholic.org.

The clergy sex-abuse crisis rocked the Catholic Church like nothing before. The first wave of that crisis hit in Boston. After Cardinal Bernard Law resigned as archbishop in December of 2002, and after an exhaustive search to find the right person to soothe Boston's wounds, Archbishop Sean Patrick O'Malley, a Capuchin Franciscan, who had previously headed the diocese of the Virgin Island, Fall River (Massachusetts) and Palm Beach (Florida), was appointed to the job in July of 2003. It's one few would have the courage to take on, but O'Malley approached it in a sensitive yet straightforward manner.<

"I think today's crisis is an opportunity for us to refocus on what is essential in our faith, namely, our sense of communion, the centrality of the sacraments and our call to holiness and service," he says.

Part of that ideal was to right the wrongs of those who suffered abuse. O'Malley made it a priority to arrange financial settlements for the victims and their families, as well as provide therapy for as long as they needed it. Within six weeks of his installation, O'Malley had already reached an $85 million settlement covering 552 lawsuits. Compensation aside, O'Malley has tackled Boston's sexual-abuse crisis with a friar's compassion, showing great concern for those who suffered abuse. He hopes that those abused by priests can forgive.

"I would ask that they return to prayer as an important part of healing—and also to realize that part of healing has to be forgiveness. For it's only at that point that we can be free."

The archbishop believes the worst of the sex-abuse crisis is behind us and that bishops around the country are committed to following their new national policies. Now is a time for healing and moving forward.

O'Malley's role as archbishop is one he takes very seriously, but his role as a friar is paramount. During his installation ceremonies at Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross on July 30, 2003, Archbishop O'Malley made it clear that he stood before them as a friar and what that meant in his life.

"As your archbishop, I am your shepherd; as a friar, I am your brother. I have come to serve you, to wash your feet, as Jesus says, and to repeat the great Commandment: Love one another as Christ loved us."

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