Lennon Gets Warm Welcome from Former Parishioners

By Robin Washington
Boston Herald
January 20, 2003

The interim leader of the Archdiocese of Boston celebrated Mass yesterday at the Scituate church where he once served as a parish priest, facing a throng of well-wishers and avoiding the weekly protests at Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

Bishop Richard Lennon, Boston's Apostolic Administrator, joined more than 650 parishioners filling every pew at St. Mary of the Nativity.

``St. Mary's is very special to me. It's where I began in 1973 as a new priest,'' Lennon said following the service, during which he made no mention of the church sex abuse scandal - except in passing as one reason he was not able to visit the church earlier.

Lennon said the visit was one of many he intends to make to local parishes. The bishop reiterated that healing was one of his top priorities as head of the church. ``We're going to have an archdiocesan program for Lent, for healing for the entire diocese,'' he said. ``I will be some Sundays going to the cathedral, but most Sundays I'll be going to different parishes around the diocese.''

At the cathedral, about 20 protesters denounced last week's news that a church lawyer deposed a clergy sex abuse victim's therapist. Phil DeAlbuquerque of Speak Truth To Power addressed the issue with a sign saying, ``Don't trust Lennon.''

``He's making it look like he didn't know anything about it and he has no control over it. But we don't believe him, especially in light of the (Msgr. Michael Smith) Foster case,'' DeAlbuquerque said.

Foster is the only priest accused then cleared of a sex abuse allegation in the past year. While Lennon has denied personal involvement in the case, a church memo shows he attended a two-hour meeting about it.

In Manchester, N.H., another group of protesters gathered outside St. Joseph's Cathedral, calling for Bishop John B. McCormack's resignation.

``The police there have more rules . . . We can't stand on church property, can't hold signs up saying `honk if you agree with us.' We ought to be up there with the ACLU,'' said Joseph Gallagher of the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors.

At the Scituate church, parishioner Noreen Daly noted the absence of demonstrators. ``I was wondering when I came down here would there be anybody here but, thankfully, no,'' she said. ``This was just a time for a peaceful, parochial visit from our bishop, to his roots, where he began. It's been a terrible, terrible time in the Archdiocese of Boston. Hopefully with Father Richard in place, the healing will come to this archdiocese. We badly need that.''


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