The Archdiocese of Boston has ordered a priest to stop praying outside of Senate President Robert E. Travaglini's home, where he and several followers had been protesting the senator's position on embryonic stem cell research, church officials and the priest said yesterday.
The Rev. Thomas DiLorenzo and several parishioners from his parish, Holy Rosary Parish in Winthrop, spent several days over recent weeks singing hymns in front of Travaglini's East Boston home, brandishing rosary beads, and carrying signs with slogans such as, ''Stop Playing God," and ''This is all about money."
DiLorenzo said in an interview yesterday that he was told to stay away from Travaglini's duplex after he sent a letter to the senator that mentioned one of the senator's children as well as his position on embryonic stem cell research.
DiLorenzo said that, while he did not consider the letter threatening, church officials told him the senator's wife took it seriously enough that she delivered it to the East Boston police station.
''I'm a marshmallow," DiLorenzo said. He added that the Travaglini children's apparent fear did not stop at least one of them from throwing snowballs at him. ''I wouldn't hurt anybody," he added.
DiLorenzo said he wrote the letter ''as a pastor" but would not be specific about why he mentioned one of Travaglini's children. Boston police said yesterday they had no record of having been contacted by Travaglini's wife.
Kelly Lynch, an archdiocese spokeswoman, confirmed yesterday that archdiocese officials have asked DiLorenzo to stay away from Travaglini's residence.
''As a matter of course, the archdiocese does not comment on personnel matters. However, I can confirm that Bishop [Richard] Lennon recently contacted Father DiLorenzo concerning Father DiLorenzo's public activities in the East Boston neighborhood," Lynch said. ''Bishop Lennon imposed limitations on Father DiLorenzo's activities there."
Travaglini did not return a phone call to his home, and his press secretary did not return a call to her cellphone.
Last month, Travaglini said that, while he would try to be attentive to DiLorenzo's objections, he would not abandon his legislation promoting stem cell research in Massachusetts.
''I am trying to be as respectful and as attentive to their position on the issue as I can," Travaglini said at the time. ''But I'm also focused on saving lives, and that's more important to me."
The stem cell legislation passed the state House and Senate with vetoproof margins almost a month ago.
An adviser to Travaglini who asked not to be named said Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley called the senator recently to acknowledge he regretted DiLorenzo's conduct.
The adviser also said Mayor Thomas M. Menino asked Travaglini whether he wanted extra police patrols outside his house to monitor the protesters.
A Menino spokesman said it is standard for police to patrol areas where demonstrators gather.
Travaglini's neighbors said they have not noticed the protesters chanting loudly along St. Andrew Road for at least a week, a change they hailed.
''I don't think they should have been there," said one of Travaglini's neighbors, requesting anonymity. ''They were annoying. . . . You don't walk with a cross in front of somebody's house and around the block. It's ridiculous."
But DiLorenzo defended the protests as a necessary form of resistance to what he considers Travaglini's immoral legislation promoting stem cell research.
He said his letter to Travaglini made the reasons for his opposition clear.
''I said, 'I have no hate for you,' " DiLorenzo recalled yesterday. '' 'I pray for you and your family every day. Secondly, you are either ignorant of the issue of embryonic stem cell research, or you are evil.' "
DiLorenzo said that because no one has been cured by embryonic stem cells, he believes the research is wrong.
DiLorenzo said that in his letter he told Travaglini he believes that if the senator is not ignorant about how the research works then he must only be supporting the bill because its passage will bring money and jobs to Boston.
DiLorenzo said he believes the church intervened in order to protect him from being tarnished by scandal.
''Travaglini, he's very powerful," DiLorenzo said. ''I was always taught we use our power to help people. . . . He's no more Catholic than Mickey Mouse."
Yvonne Abraham of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Suzanne Smalley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.