Cardinal Bernard Law's successor as archbishop of Boston said the pain felt by survivors of clergy sexual abuse in the wake of Law's death is a reminder that many wounds are still healing.
Law died Wednesday in Rome at the age of 86. He was reviled by many Catholics for shielding priests he knew had engaged in sexual abuse.
"This is a very difficult day for survivors and all of us in the Archdiocese of Boston and for me," Cardinal Sean O'Malley told reporters. "We have anticipated this day, recognizing that it would open a lot of old wounds and cause much pain and anger in those who have suffered so much already, and we share in their suffering."
O'Malley said Law's death is a painful moment for many victims and a reminder that "the hurt is still there." He said he's dedicated to helping those victims and re-establishing trust among Catholics.
"As the church must always do, we seek forgiveness for the sins of the past and for all of the things that were done or not done that have contributed to the suffering of so many," he said.
When asked whether he believes Law will be welcomed into heaven, O'Malley said he hopes everyone does but is not the one to judge.
O'Malley said there was more to Law than his mistakes, but he also understands why people might not want to hear that.
Law, who spent the final years of his career leading an important basilica in Rome and continued to wield considerable influence inside the Vatican, had been sick and was recently hospitalized.
O'Malley said he visited and prayed with Law while in Rome last week, and it was evident that he was dying.
"He was in and out of consciousness," he said. "He recognized me and he had been in the hospital for a couple of weeks, but it was a continuous decline."
Asked if he forgives Law, O'Malley said only "forgiveness is what Christianity is about," while also acknowledging "that doesn't make it easy."
Law's funeral is scheduled for Thursday at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. O'Malley said he will not attend, and understands why some are upset that Law is receiving a Vatican funeral.
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"I understand the difficulty with that and I understand how people are reacting to that," he said. "The Mass that he is receiving is what any cardinal in Rome would receive."