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Spotlight Report

Bishop planning a low-key July 30 installation service

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 7/3/2003

Signaling his readiness to get to work restoring the Archdiocese of Boston, Bishop Sean Patrick O'Malley agreed yesterday to be installed as archbishop of Boston on July 30, several weeks earlier than expected.

O'Malley has told archdiocesan officials that he wants a low-key version of the installation ceremony, which is traditionally a service of great pageantry.

O'Malley, who was appointed archbishop of Boston on Tuesday by Pope John Paul II, is scheduled to arrive today in Palm Beach, Fla., where he had been serving as bishop. He is then scheduled to depart for a vacation in Portugal, a trip that was originally scheduled to last a month, but is now expected to be somewhat shortened.

Under canon law, O'Malley's installation must take place within 60 days of his appointment. In 1984, Cardinal Bernard F. Law waited the full two months to hold his ceremony. The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, the archdiocesan spokesman, said O'Malley had decided to begin his new job sooner, mostly to accommodate the vacation schedules of others.

O'Malley arrives at a difficult moment in the Archdiocese of Boston, which is facing a complex set of legal and financial problems, as well as a crisis of credibility, because of the clergy sexual abuse crisis. Roderick MacLeish Jr., a lawyer representing scores of victims suing the archdiocese, however, said he looks forward to O'Malley's speedy arrival. ''My clients will be thrilled,'' he said.

MacLeish said he hopes that O'Malley will be able to breathe new life into stalled settlement talks between the archdiocese and people who say they were victimized by priests.

O'Malley, a Capuchin friar committed to a life of simplicity, sharply limited the number of dignitaries invited to his installation last fall in Palm Beach, decided not to allow honor guards of colorful Catholic fraternal groups, and barred any fancy dinners.

That atmosphere contrasts sharply with the installation of Law as archbishop of Boston in 1984, a grand event attended by large contingents of Catholic fraternal groups, including the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of Malta, and the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, and attended by more than 130 Catholic bishops and more than 85 leaders of other faiths. The Mass was followed by a reception at a Boston hotel.

At the installation ceremony, O'Malley will formally ''take possession'' of the Archdiocese of Boston, its cathedral, and the bishop's seat, called the cathedra, which has sat vacant since Law resigned amid scandal on Dec. 13.

According to canon law, O'Malley's papal letter of appointment will be presented to the archdiocesan College of Consultors, which is made up of the local auxiliary bishops and several priests.

Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo -- the apostolic nuncio, or Vatican ambassador to the United States -- is expected to celebrate the installation Mass.

Michael Paulson can be reached at

This story ran on page A15 of the Boston Globe on 7/3/2003.
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