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St. Louis Archbishop to Take Over Philadelphia Archdiocese


Archbishop Justin F. Rigali of St. Louis a theological conservative who spent three decades at the Vatican, was appointed yesterday by Pope John Paul II to succeed Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua of Philadelphia, who is retiring at the age of 80.

Philadelphia is a historic American archdiocese with more than 1.5 million Roman Catholics. The archbishop there is traditionally made a cardinal, enabling him to vote on the next pope.

Cardinal Bevilacqua introduced his successor at a news conference in Philadelphia yesterday morning, saying of Archbishop Rigali, "He is a man of piety, prayer and deep faith, known for his loyalty to the Holy Father and for his unwavering fidelity to the teachings of the church."

In his nine years in St. Louis, Archbishop Rigali, 68, won the admiration of church conservatives by emphasizing a return to the Roman Catholic sacraments. He expressed his opposition to abortion by fighting, although unsuccessfully, the sale of a Jesuit-owned university hospital complex to a secular corporation to prevent the hospitals from performing abortions and from dispensing birth control.

"He has done very good things in St. Louis," said Helen Hull Hitchcock, who lives in St. Louis and is director of Women for Faith and Family, a conservative Catholic group.

When a liberal Catholic reform group called Catholics for Renewal sought to meet in St. Louis parishes a few years ago, Archbishop Rigali forbade it, said Dan Daly, a founder of Call to Action, which is affiliated with the reform group.

"He did not brook differences of opinion very well, and at this point in time in the church, that may be problematic bringing that to Philadelphia," Mr. Daly said.

Archbishop Rigali also came under harsh criticism in St. Louis from victims of sexually abusive priests.

"He's among the least open and least compassionate bishops," David Clohessy, a St. Louis resident who is national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said. "In the nine years he's been in St. Louis, we've never met with him, nor any of his auxiliary bishops, despite repeated attempts."

Mr. Clohessy said there were several priests with accusations against them still in ministry. The spokesman for the archbishop, Jim Orso, said that Archbishop Rigali removed all 10 priests credibly accused of abuse from ministry last year.

Archbishop Rigali had agreed to meet last year with two leaders of the Survivors Network, Mr. Orso added. But when the group wanted more members at the meeting, the archbishop called it off; this was a version of events that Mr. Clohessy did not dispute.

Jennifer M. Joyce, who serves as prosecutor for the City of St. Louis and is the elected prosecutor there, met with Archbishop Rigali in March 2002 to encourage him to report abuse allegations to authorities.

"I walked away from that meeting with the belief that there were many people who had reported these incidents to the church over the years, but that those reports were not passed on to law enforcement," Ms. Joyce said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Ms. Joyce said she had learned of the extent of the abuse problem in St. Louis only after she went on television and asked victims to come forward. After that, she said, the archbishop has been cooperative in providing information to her investigators. One priest and one former priest have been criminally charged, she added.

Archbishop Rigali is to be installed as archbishop of Philadelphia on Oct. 7. The pope has not yet appointed a new archbishop for St. Louis.

Until the installation, Cardinal Bevilacqua will remain in Philadelphia. He is the oldest American cardinal still running an archdiocese. As expected, he had offered his resignation five years ago when he turned 75, but the pope did not accept it until yesterday.

Archbishop Rigali, who was born in Los Angeles and ordained a priest there as well, is one of the first West Coast priests to be named archbishop of a large East Coast archdiocese, said the Rev. Thomas Reese, author of "Inside the Vatican" and editor of the Jesuit magazine America.

Archbishop Rigali went to Rome as a young priest to study canon law at Pontifical Gregorian University. In 1964, he entered the Vatican diplomatic service, and later became the English-language translator for Pope Paul VI. He traveled abroad with Pope Paul VI and, later, with Pope John Paul II.

He held several other important posts in the Vatican: in 1989, he was named secretary for the Congregation for Bishops, which makes recommendations on the appointment of bishops, and in 1990, he became the secretary of the Cardinal of Cardinals.

He was appointed archbishop of St. Louis in 1994, and five years later was rewarded when Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis. Archbishop Rigali's official biography points out that this was the pope's only visit to a single American diocese during his pontificate.

"He's somebody who's very well connected in the Vatican, is highly respected and trusted by Vatican officials, and somebody the pope knows personally," Father Reese said. "For that reason, the appointment is not surprising."

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests