Candor marks interview with Boston’s new spiritual leader

Archbishop-designate Seán O’Malley found time during his first day in the archdiocese to meet briefly with Antonio Enrique, editor of The Pilot.

Q. Archbishop, your appointment is being received with expectation by the 2.1 million Catholics of the archdiocese. What would you like to say your new flock?

A. A greeting of great affection and love and an appeal for their prayers and for unity among our Catholics to help bring about healing in this very difficult time, so that as a Church we can reach out to victims of sexual abuse, help raise the spirits of our clergy, and inspire people to continue to be faithful to the message of Christ as members and disciples in the Catholic Church.

Q. You mentioned the priests. After a year and a-half of revelations, the Boston clergy, many would say, is demoralized, and even its unity has been somewhat fractured. There is a need to restore unity and heal those wounds. How high will this rank among your priorities?

A. That will be one of my highest priorities. Logically, it’s not something one person can do alone. I’m hoping I might be able to encourage and challenge the priests to minister to one another and to realize that in all the demands on their time, the parishes and pastoral activities, that the ministry to the fraternity of priest has to be a priority for all members of the clergy.

Q. You have scheduled in your first day a meeting with victims. Why?

A. Obviously, it is an important gesture to show that we realize the great dimension of the problems and that we want to be able to begin to reach and to hear from victims themselves their appreciation of their present situation.

Q. You are well aware that one of the most pressing issues at this point is the pending offer by the archdiocese to settle more than 400 pending cases. Do you plan to keep working in the same direction or do you plan to change the strategy?

A. I don’t know what has been done. I know that under Bishop Lennon there has been progress made. I will certainly do everything I can to promote that and to bring about the settlement. We see this as an important factor in the healing process.

Q. The demography of the Church is greatly changing. Many of the new immigrants to this country share our Catholic faith, whether they come from Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe or Africa. How do you plan to serve these new communities in a still very mono-cultural Church?

A. I have a lot to learn first. Certainly, in my own ministry I have been very involved in immigrant communities ever since I was ordained. In fact, I didn’t start to celebrate Mass in English until I practically became a bishop. I was working in Washington. Refugees were pouring in from the Caribbean, from South America... so it was a time when the needs of immigrants were certainly foremost in the needs of Washington... because originally I was slated to go to the missions, but then I was re-routed to work with immigrants in Washington. I was in Washington almost 20 years.