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Voice of Faithful, O'Malley meet

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley met yesterday with local leaders of Voice of the Faithful, the first sit-down meeting he has had with the lay group since they were banned from meeting in parishes in 2002.

O'Malley and the Rev. Richard Erikson, vicar general and moderator of the curia, met with four representatives of the Voice of the Faithful, including Dorothy Kennedy, the group's spokeswoman.

``It was a good meeting," said Kennedy, who was reached by telephone moments after the meeting, which lasted an hour and a half. Kennedy declined to comment on what was discussed and whether future meetings were planned.

Last week, O'Malley's office downplayed the significance of the meeting and said the cardinal has not decided to revise the Boston Archdiocese's policy toward the group, including a ban imposed on the group by Cardinal Bernard F. Law.

Leaders of the group, which was formed in Wellesley at the height of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in February 2002, said the meeting symbolized O'Malley's willingness to talk with an organization that has been demonized by some in the church.

Voice of the Faithful, which says it has 30,000 members across the country, has had a three-point agenda since its founding: Support victims of abuse, support ``priests of integrity," and its most controversial goal, ``to shape structural change within the church."

While group leaders would not discuss yesterday's agenda, the Boston organization has advocated legislative changes to remove or modify statutes of limitations that make it difficult to bring legal charges in sexual abuse accusations dating from years ago, and the group has also been urging the archdiocese to publicly list names of abusive priests.

Terrence C. Donilon, spokesman for the archdiocese, described the meeting as ``a helpful conversation about important issues and the continued renewal of parish life in the archdiocese."

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