Monday, August 31, 2009

O’Malley encounters Obama at funeral for senator (Contribution)

For those of us on the O’Malley beat, there were lots of interesting moments yesterday, but none more so than the lengthy greeting that Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley had with President Obama.

O’Malley, of course, is the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston and has been sharply critical of Obama’s support for abortion rights (“This man has a deplorable record when it comes to prolife issues,’’ O’Malley told me after the election).

I asked O’Malley’s spokesman, Terry Donilon, what the two men talked about, and he e-mailed back, “If he chooses to speak about it, he will in the blog, but it was a pleasant and gracious chat.’’

He said that the conversation lasted two to three minutes and that the cardinal welcomed the president to Boston and the basilica. He would not say whether there was a more substantive exchange.

O’Malley technically presided over the Mass, but he was not the principal celebrant or the homilist, and he was visible mostly at the end, as he said the final prayers of commendation over the late senator’s body.

O’Malley’s tone, even on the happiest of occasions, is somber, and he added a funereal touch to the funeral’s close as he honored the body with incense, a sign of respect for the body and a sign of God’s blessing.

O’Malley’s participation in the Mass has been controversial in some particularly conservative corners of the antiabortion movement, but drew strong praise from the Rev. James Martin, associate editor of America magazine, who blogged: “Cardinal O’Malley’s decision to attend the funeral is large-hearted, compassionate, pastoral, sensitive and, above all, Christian. . . . Cardinal O’Malley has been clear about his strong opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, his simple presence at the funeral shows his support of forgiveness, compassion and that quality perhaps most missing in today’s church: mercy.’’

Religious leaders reflect on Kennedy dedication to others

The big story this week, in religion as well as in politics, was the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Multiple religious leaders offered thoughts on the senator’s death. Here are some excerpts:

From Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston: “We join with his colleagues in Congress and the people of Massachusetts in reflecting on his life and his commitment to public service. For nearly half a century, Senator Kennedy was often a champion for the poor, the less fortunate, and those seeking a better life. Across Massachusetts and the nation, his legacy will be carried on through the lives of those he served. We pray for the repose of his soul and that his family finds comfort and consolation in this difficult time.’’

From Barry Shrage, president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies: “Whenever the Jewish community needed help, Ted Kennedy was always there. . . . If his brothers were the symbol of the dream that drove and continues to drive my generation, Ted represented the hard work required, day in and day out, to turn those dreams into reality. Boston, Massachusetts, our people, the Jews of Greater Boston, and all the oppressed of the earth will all miss him.’’

From the Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association: “Senator Kennedy had a gift for reaching out to religious people and lifting up our shared commitment to equality and the betterment of humanity. We can honor Senator Kennedy by carrying forward his legacy of working on behalf of those who are marginalized in this country. . . . By giving our resources and commitment to the causes of fairness and equality, we move toward realizing the American dream to which Kennedy dedicated his years of public service.’’

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