Catholic News Service photo
Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley delivers the homily during the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life Jan. 21 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The all-night vigil is held before the annual Ma rch for Life, which this year marked the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. 
Catholic News Service photo
Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley delivers the homily during the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life Jan. 21 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The all-night vigil is held before the annual Ma rch for Life, which this year marked the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. 
NEW YORK — Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley told Catholics gathered for a Jan. 19 festival, "You can't be a disciple on a solo flight."

"We are part of the community, part of God's family, and we have responsibilities for each other. Those who are suffering and those who are poor have a special claim on our love," he said at New York Encounter 2014.

In a freewheeling public conversation with Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, Cardinal O'Malley reflected on Pope Francis' admonition, "Go out, head for the periphery."

Msgr. Albacete is a theologian, author, former physicist and chairman of the board of advisers of the Crossroads Cultural Center, an organizer of the event.

More than 1,500 people attended the sixth annual encounter, a three-day public cultural festival designed as a witness to faith. The Jan. 17-19 event was also organized by the Catholic lay movement Communion and Liberation and held at the Manhattan Center.

Msgr. Albacete said Pope Francis encourages people to "leave the center and go to the periphery once in a while and see what's going on. By periphery, the pope means the inner city."

Cardinal O'Malley is one of eight members of the pope's advisory Council of Cardinals. He said the Holy Father's "culture of encounter" has touched people's hearts because "it's so basic" and is a reminder that the Gospel is about love, service and reconciliation.

All are called to be involved in the church's mission, Cardinal O'Malley said. "The Holy Father's approach completely blows to smithereens" the individualism of the culture and the current popular assertion "I'm spiritual, but I'm not religious," he said.

But it is difficult to combine sacramental ministry with help for the poor, Msgr. Albacete said. "There is conflict many times between works of justice that have to be done and my sacramental vocation."

Cardinal O'Malley said the pope believes the poor are underserved both pastorally and in the area of social services, and this is a significant challenge for the church. He described working with immigrants at the Centro Catolico Hispano in Washington, an "entirely church-sponsored agency" that worked in partnership with government organizations.

While the government's primary interest was the social welfare of the clients, the agency was called to serve the "whole person," including addressing spiritual needs, he said.

Cardinal O'Malley said healing was a "very important part" of his ministry in three of the four dioceses he has served. He called sexual abuse a "damaging, deep wound on the body of Christ that requires conversion and repentance for the whole community."

The church has taken the issue seriously and the instances of sexual abuse are greatly diminished in parishes and agencies, he said. Abuse has caused "terrible harm" but also an opportunity to show how "our God can bring good out of evil."

Cardinal O'Malley said there is an increase in the number of seminarians in the Archdiocese of Boston in the wake of the scandals. "We've gone from a shortage of seminarians to a shortage of room for them," he said. "These young men, sometimes against the protests of family and friends, want to be of service. ... They want to be part of the new evangelization."

"It's a very moving experience to see how God's grace moves in the church," he added.

Addressing his decision to allow the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, who was Catholic, to have a church burial despite his public support of abortion, Cardinal O'Malley said: "The mission of the church is to bury the dead. Burial is not just for them, but for the family and the community."

He said it was logical for him to be at the burial because the Kennedy family made great sacrifices for the country. His presence was "not an endorsement of all their positions, but a recognition of their humanity and our need to pray for the dead."

Msgr. Albacete and Cardinal O'Malley shared lighthearted, perhaps apocryphal, tales of their adventures together during a 45-year friendship. Msgr. Albacete characterized the well-attended event with Cardinal O'Malley as the closest thing to a Broadway appearance the two are likely to have.