Cathedral galero honors Cardinal Medeiros

BRAINTREE -- In a small and largely unheralded event at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at the beginning of Holy Week, the Archdiocese of Boston honored the legacy of a former archbishop.

On March 29, the Monday of Holy Week, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, cathedral rector Father Kevin O’Leary and other staff members witnessed the hanging of a galero from the cathedral’s ceiling to honor Cardinal Humberto Medeiros, Archbishop of Boston from 1970-1983.

“We’ve always had a great love for the name of Cardinal Medeiros,” said Father Jonathan Gaspar, a co-director of the archdiocese’s Office of Worship and Spiritual Life and priest secretary to Cardinal O’Malley. “He was well respected by the priests of the diocese who were privileged to work with him. It was a moment of thanking God for a great man and a call to pray for all the priests and religious who built Boston up.”

Father Gaspar said that the galero was hung in honor of Cardinal Medeiros to mark the 25th anniversary of his death, and also as a reminder of the Year for Priests.

“It’s a reminder to pray for the deceased archbishops and a nod to our own history,” he said.

A galero is the wide-brimmed red hat with tassels once given to cardinals by the pope at their consistory. Since the 1970s, however, new cardinals have been presented with a small three-cornered cap called a biretta and galeros are mostly seen only depicted in the coats of arms of bishops and cardinals.

Father Gaspar said Cardinal Medeiros was the first Boston cardinal not to receive a galero from the pope.

Traditionally, in cathedrals around the world, galeros are hung from the ceiling to honor cardinals who died while serving their respective dioceses, Father Gaspar said. Already hanging over the altar of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross were galeros that once belonged to Cardinals William O’Connell and Richard Cushing.

Galeros are typically hung by a string, and Father Gaspar said that Catholic legend has it that when the string breaks and the galero falls, the late cardinal’s soul has passed into heaven.

When asked about this legend, Father Gaspar chuckled, noting that the “strings” used for the galeros hanging in Boston’s mother church are really steel cables.

Since Cardinal Medeiros did not have a galero of his own, Cardinal O’Malley purchased one while visiting Rome earlier this year, Father Gaspar said.

Recently, a galero was hung at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral to honor the late Cardinal Joseph Bernadin and at Fordham University to honor Cardinal Avery Dulles. Cardinal Bernadin died in 1996 while serving as archbishop in Chicago and Cardinal Dulles died in 2008 while serving as a theologian at the Jesuit university.

Cardinal O’Malley announced the hanging of a galero belonging to his predecessor at the archdiocese’s Chrism Mass the following day, March 30.

“It’s our way of memorializing his many, many years of ministry in the archdiocese,” Cardinal O’Malley said in his opening remarks at the Mass.