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Protestant, Anglican, Jewish leaders applaud choice

By Betsy A. Lehman, Globe Staff, 1/24/1984

ising to speak before thousands of Lutherans in Hynes Auditorium in July 1976, Bishop Bernard Francis Law began in unusual fashion. He sang.

Rev. James A. Nash, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches and a Methodist, introduced the bishop at the convention, and while the name of the song has faded from his memory, the audience's reaction has not.

"He really awed the crowd," Nash said. "His voice was beautiful, and his selection was quite appropriate to the context. He literally had that audience in his palm."

Nash, whose council represents 17 Protestant and Anglican denominations, joined other Boston religious leaders in expressing pleasure today at the announcement of Bishop Law's appointment as archbishop of Boston, citing his personal attributes and his support for the civil rights and ecumenical movements.

"My impression of the guy is that he's very bright, sensitive, charming," Nash said. "I have to say that if I had a vote in the matter, Bernie Law, without exaggeration, would have been my choice. I think he's precisely the kind of person who will be valued here."

Bishop Law's interest in social justice was mentioned repeatedly by religious leaders interviewed today. Sister Barbara Higgins, president of the Boston Sisters' Senate, representing 4085 religious women, said of the appointment:

"We're very pleased to welcome him to Boston. Our agenda gives high priority to community-building among all the people of God, social justice issues and peace- building through education, and I believe he resonates well with our agenda."

Rev. Laurence Borges, director of the diocese's Apostolate of the Spanish Speaking, said, "Needless to say, I'm very, very pleased that he's fluent in Spanish, and I'm very pleased that he's a young man because . . . he'll be getting around the diocese.

"That he has worked so much and so well with the civil rights movement in Mississippi is marvelous and will help us to overcome the remnants of racism we still have in ourselves. . . . I anticipate that he will reach out to groups other than the Hispanic community -- the Portuguese, Cape Verdeans, Laotians, Vietnamese and Haitians.

"All in all," said Borges, "I think we're going to be blessed with a very fine man."

Rev. William B. Lawson, ecumenical officer for the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, issued a statement saying the diocese rejoiced at the announcement.

"I am sure that I speak for Bishop John B. Coburn, who is presently in Africa, when I say that we look foward eagerly to his coming. The relationship between the Archdiocese and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts has been an increasingly warm and open one. Our earnest prayer is that we will continue to grow to new depths in that relationship. . . . Bishop Law's rich background in the ecumenical movement and the struggle for human rights will be a most welcome addition in our life together."

Rabbi Herman Blumberg, director of the New England region of the American Jewish Committee, said today, "The Pope could have chosen someone who would have been very conservative. The fact that he seems to have chosen a young and vigorous person who has been on the cutting edge of social and religious activities is very significant."

Bishop Law, the rabbi said, "appears to be a progressive type person who will carry the church forward."

Rev. Stanley S. Harakas, representing the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Boston, with 60 parishes throughout New England, said: "We're delighted that the Holy See has apppointed a new archbishop for the Roman Catholic Church in Boston. Our information indicates to us some very happy and favorable things, in that we understand him to be most ecumenically involved and concerned with the social and moral issues of our time. We pray that God will bless him and his ministry."

This story ran in the Boston Globe on 1/24/1984.
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