Wednesday, February 22, 2006

THE CONSISTORY: "Cardinal Sean" Speaks

Calling membership in the College of Cardinals "a challenge" which took some courage to accept, and that it is "good for the church in Boston," Cardinal-designate Sean P. O'Malley spoke with reporters earlier today on the nature of his impending status and his reaction to it.

Contrary to the usual practice of an announcement-day press conference in the local church, O'Malley took questions via conference call. While church officials would not divulge his whereabouts, the cardinal-designate is in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he is participating in the ongoing Apostolic Visitation of US seminaries. He will return to his archdiocese on Saturday.

Saying that the "Holy See also is aware of the need for Boston to be the principal focus of [its] archbishop, and particularly during this very crucial period in our [archdiocesan] history," O'Malley downplayed the global significance of his own cardinalate, saying that he had turned down numerous commitments and invitations since arriving as archbishop in the summer of 2003.

While his new responsibilities will almost certainly bring with them membership in a handful of curial dicasteries, O'Malley said that his required travel to Rome would be "occasional" and that he hopes "to be able to continue to focus on Boston and to be able to get out of some of the kinds of commitments that might, in other times or other places, be an ordinary part of a cardinal's life."

His voice barely rising above a whisper -- at points almost being drowned out by the sound of reporters typing into their computers in the background -- O'Malley said he believed his elevation on Pope Benedict XVI's first list of new cardinals "is as much about the church in Boston as it is about me." He asked prayers that he may receive "the strength and the light to be able to accept this responsibility."

The one light moment of the eleven-minute session came when the designate, who will become Boston's fifth prince of the church when he is elevated at the consistory on March 24, was asked if he will continue his Franciscan-inspired practice and seek to be known as "Cardinal Sean" as opposed to the more formal "Cardinal O'Malley." Chuckling, the archbishop replied that "I guess so -- I haven't thought about that. I'm used to using my given name."

In response to a question concerning the less-than-enthused reaction to his elevation levied by groups representing victims of clergy sex abuse, O'Malley said that "We have tried to respond to the needs," noting his own outreach to victim-survivors and their presence on boards and other bodies dealing with abuse at the archdiocesan level. "I know there's so much more that needs to be done," he continued, "and we will continue to try and work for healing among the survivors and the whole diocese."

The archdiocese of Boston will mark the 200th anniversary of its foundation in 2008 and, together with New York, has the longest unbroken line of cardinal-archbishops in the United States. O'Malley -- who now joins his predecessors William O'Connell (elevated in 1911), Richard Cushing (1958), Humberto Medeiros (1973) and Bernard Law (1985) in having received the call to the College -- spoke to this in explaining Boston's unique place in the American Catholic tapestry.

"There are many fine bishops all over the United States," he said, "but the archbishop of Boston is often the one that is designated to be a cardinal. The church of Boston is a very important church with a glorious history, and although we've had a very bad patch in the last few years, still the church of Boston is very important to the universal church.... [T]he fact that the archbishop is, once again, named a cardinal is an indication of that connection with the universal church and the importance of the church of Boston to the Holy Father and to the Catholic church throughout the world."