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College of Cardinals

Biographical notes

[Updated: 22.11.2011]


Notice: the biographical notes are only a working instrument for the press, for the exclusive use of accredited journalists.


LAW Card. Bernard Francis




Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, Archpriest emeritus of the Papal Liberian Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome and Archbishop emeritus of Boston (USA), was born on 4 November 1931 in Torreón, Mexico, son of a U.S. Air Force colonel. He finished his studies at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts; entered St. Joseph's Seminary at St. Benedict, Los Angeles and from 1955 to 1961, studied at the Pontifical Josephinum College at Worthington, Ohio.

He was ordained a priest for the diocese of Natchez-Jackson (now Jackson) on 21 May 1961. From 1963-1968 he was the editor of the Natchez-Jackson, Miss. diocesan newspaper; from 1968-1971 he was the director of the NCCB committee on ecumenical and interreligious affairs.

On 22 October 1973 he was appointed Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in Montana and received episcopal ordination on 5 December 1973.

In 1975 he invited to his diocese all 166 members of the Vietnamese religious order, the Congregation of Mary Coredemptrix, and two years later ordained to the priesthood twelve members of this religious institute.

Succeeding Cardinal Humberto Medeiros, he was appointed by John Paul II on 11 January 1984 Archbishop of Boston, the third largest ecclesiastical see in the U.S. He set out as objectives for the pastoral administration of the archdiocese: personal spiritual renewal of the faith, evangelization, social justice and peace, catechesis of the Catholic faith, and vocations. His first pastoral letter emphasized the need to strengthen parish life, at the heart of which is the liturgy.

The cardinal of Boston has often been the spokesman for Catholics in the United States on behalf of Christian unity and the progress of Catholic-Jewish relations. His vast experience acquired in this area has been put at the disposition of the universal Church as consultor to the commission for the religious relations with Judaism (1976-1981) and as member of the Secretariat for Christian Unity. In 1981 he was appointed Vatican delegate to oversee the acceptance of Episcopalian converts into the Catholic priesthood.

He has also held several posts within the U.S. National Catholic Conference of Bishops.

Archbishop emeritus of Boston, 13 December 2002.

Archpriest of the Patriarchal (now Papal) Liberian Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, 27 May 2004- 21 November 2011.

Created and proclaimed Cardinal by John Paul II in the Consistory of 25 May 1985, of the Title of S. Susanna (St. Susanna).


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