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Pope Francis to participate in Cardinal Law's funeral service

The move has upset some sexual abuse survivors who say the disgraced former Boston archbishop should not be given the honor.
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Cardinal Law was Archbishop of Boston in 1984 until 2002 when he resigned amidst the scandal that priests were molesting minors. Photo: Reuters

Pope Francis will take part in the funeral service for Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston who died Wednesday at 86 and left a disgraced legacy associated with the sexual abuse scandals within the Catholic Church.

Law’s funeral Mass will be held Thursday in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and will be presided over by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, as well as other cardinals and bishops, according to the Catholic News Agency.

Francis, who has previously highlighted the importance of forgiveness in his public speakings, will preside over the rite of Last Commendation and the Valediction.

In a statement, Francis offered condolences to the College of Cardinals for Law’s death.

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“I raise prayers for the repose of his soul, that the Lord, God who is rich in mercy, may welcome him in His eternal peace, and I send my apostolic blessing to those who share in mourning the passing of the cardinal, whom I entrust to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary Salus Populi Romani,” Francis said in the statement.

The official statement from the Vatican did not mention the sexual abuse of minors within the Catholic Church.

Law was ordained as a priest in 1981 and appointed archbishop of Boston in 1984, a position he held until 2002. He resigned from that position following multiple reports exposing a system of abuse in the Catholic Church in Boston in which priests who sexually abused minors were not removed from the ministry.

The scandal was chronicled by the Boston Globe Spotlight Team through multiple articles at the time and was turned into a feature film in 2015.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, who succeeded Law as the archbishop of Boston, issued a statement Wednesday in which he apologized to those who were sexually abused during Law’s leadership.

“I recognize that Cardinal Law’s passing brings forth a wide range of emotions on the part of many people,” Cardinal O’Malley said in his statement. “I am particularly cognizant of all who experienced the trauma of sexual abuse by clergy, whose lives were so seriously impacted by those crimes, and their families and loved ones. To those men and women, I offer my sincere apologies for the harm they suffered, my continued prayers and my promise that the Archdiocese will support them in their effort to achieve healing."

O’Malley will not be at Law’s funeral, the Boston Globe reported, as he just returned from a week in Rome. He was able to visit Law in the hospital, his spokesperson told the Globe.

Victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests are outraged over the Church’s funeral plans, CNN reported. Many did not have condolences to offer about Law’s death and believe that he does not deserve a service of such honor.

"I think it should be very quiet and not celebrated," said Alexa MacPherson, a Boston-area native who says she was sexually abused by a priest as a child, at a news conference on Wednesday. "There's nothing to celebrate [with] somebody who allowed children to be victimized and to have a lifetime of irreparable damage."