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Spotlight Report

Law finds 'an oasis' among the young

Cardinal praises pope's remarks on clerical abuse

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 7/29/2002

TORONTO - Cardinal Bernard F. Law, wrapping up a six-day trip here with a delegation of 550 young Catholics from metropolitan Boston, said yesterday that he was heartened by their enthusiasm and support at a time when he has been facing criticism at home.

The pope's homily in Toronto

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''To be in the midst of this under any circumstances is to strengthen one's faith, but surely in these weeks and months, when we've had the particular challenge, the pathos, the particular aspect of the cross, it's an oasis to be with these young people and to get a glimpse of the future, a future that all of us want for the church,'' he said in a brief interview yesterday afternoon.

Law, who has been criticized for not acting over years to remove sexually abusive priests from ministry, has kept a lower profile than some American bishops in Toronto this week, staying closer to the local pilgrims rather than leading a public tutorial on Catholicism as some have done. But he celebrated Mass twice with the local delegates and joined them for a religious concert Friday night. He appeared on stage with Pope John Paul II Saturday night and again during a Mass yesterday.

Law said he welcomed the pope's remarks on clergy sexual abuse during his homily yesterday.

''I loved his homily, from beginning to end,'' Law said. ''I thought it was wonderful, and I'm anxious to be able to see it in print and to meditate on it. But I thought he did a masterful job in communicating the word. I think he did it beautifully.''

Law said he was struck that, when the pope praised the majority of priests for doing a good job, the crowd cheered.

''What's amazing to me - not surprising, but very noteworthy - was how instantaneously that congregation of young people responded to that positively and affirmatively,'' he said.

Law is scheduled to return to Boston today and to many challenges as he works to lead an archdiocese scarred by the clergy sexual abuse crisis. The legal skirmishes with alleged victims continue, and a fast-growing local lay reform group, Voice of the Faithful, is pressing for more power for laity in the church.

Law's aides have said archdiocesan agencies will not accept money raised by Voice of the Faithful, but Law has not met with or expressed his opinions about the group, and yesterday he declined to do so.

''At this point I'd rather not comment on Voice of the Faithful,'' he said. ''Bishop Walter Edyvean and several other folks are interacting with the leadership of Voice of the Faithful, and I think I'd rather hear from them before saying anything.''

But Law said he was not surprised that so many Catholics here for World Youth Day said that neither their faith in God nor in the church has been shaken by the sex abuse crisis.

''People who are truly in touch with the church understand that,'' he added. ''There are a lot of people in our society today who are on the periphery of the church, who are less connected to the church. But we know that evil is evil, we know that it is morally wrong to do violation to any human being in any way, including sexual abuse ... These young people understand that ... they know that the Lord is with them, and the holiness of the church.''

Michael Paulson can be reached at

This story ran on page A7 of the Boston Globe on 7/29/2002.
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