Monday, August 18, 2014

No Wrap, Not Yet

SVILUPPO: An hour's exchange on topics ranging from bombing Iraq to visiting China and resigning the papacy, a full English transcript of the Pope's in-flight presser has been posted by America magazine.

A Korean Air jet for the return trip, the Volo Papale left Seoul at Midnight Eastern... keeping with Papa Bergoglio's custom, however, the last round of news from the long weekend journey has yet to hit.

The plane set to land in Rome at 5.45pm local (11.45am ET), only on wheels-down will Francis' press conference at cruising altitude emerge. On Thursday's inbound flight, the Pope promised a Q&A on the way back in what he termed "the lion's den" of the press cabin, but adding with a smile that "these lions don't bite."

After 13 hours in the air, the encounter's rollout should run more smoothly than that of the return presser from May's trip to the Holy Land, when the short flight coupled with a packed 40-minute back and forth made for a period of chaos once the plane touched down.

Everybody ready?

-30-

"This Is the Message I Leave You: Trust In the Power of Christ's Cross!"


HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
MASS FOR PEACE AND RECONCILIATION
MYEONG-DONG CATHEDRAL
SEOUL
18 AUGUST 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As my stay in Korea draws to a close, I thank God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon this beloved country, and in a special way, upon the Church in Korea. Among those blessings I especially treasure the experience we have all had in these recent days of the presence of so many young pilgrims from throughout Asia. Their love of Jesus and their enthusiasm for the spread of his Kingdom have been an inspiration to us all.

My visit now culminates in this celebration of Mass, in which we implore from God the grace of peace and reconciliation. This prayer has a particular resonance on the Korean peninsula. Today’s Mass is first and foremost a prayer for reconciliation in this Korean family. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us how powerful is our prayer when two or three of us join in asking for something (cf. Mt 18:19-20). How much more when an entire people raises its heartfelt plea to heaven!

The first reading presents God’s promise to restore to unity and prosperity a people dispersed by disaster and division. For us, as for the people of Israel, this is a promise full of hope: it points to a future which God is even now preparing for us. Yet this promise is inseparably tied to a command: the command to return to God and wholeheartedly obey his law (cf. Dt 30:2-3). God’s gifts of reconciliation, unity and peace are inseparably linked to the grace of conversion, a change of heart which can alter the course of our lives and our history, as individuals and as a people.

At this Mass, we naturally hear this promise in the context of the historical experience of the Korean people, an experience of division and conflict which has lasted for well over sixty years. But God’s urgent summons to conversion also challenges Christ’s followers in Korea to examine the quality of their own contribution to the building of a truly just and humane society. It challenges each of you to reflect on the extent to which you, as individuals and communities, show evangelical concern for the less fortunate, the marginalized, those without work and those who do not share in the prosperity of the many. And it challenges you, as Christians and Koreans, firmly to reject a mindset shaped by suspicion, confrontation and competition, and instead to shape a culture formed by the teaching of the Gospel and the noblest traditional values of the Korean people.

In today’s Gospel, Peter asks the Lord: “If my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” To which the Lord replies: “Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy times seven” (Mt 18:21-22). These words go to the very heart of Jesus’ message of reconciliation and peace. In obedience to his command, we ask our heavenly Father daily to forgive us our sins, “as we forgive those who sin against us”. Unless we are prepared to do this, how can we honestly pray for peace and reconciliation?

Jesus asks us to believe that forgiveness is the door which leads to reconciliation. In telling us to forgive our brothers unreservedly, he is asking us to do something utterly radical, but he also gives us the grace to do it. What appears, from a human perspective, to be impossible, impractical and even at times repugnant, he makes possible and fruitful through the infinite power of his cross. The cross of Christ reveals the power of God to bridge every division, to heal every wound, and to reestablish the original bonds of brotherly love.

This, then, is the message which I leave you as I conclude my visit to Korea. Trust in the power of Christ’s cross! Welcome its reconciling grace into your own hearts and share that grace with others! I ask you to bear convincing witness to Christ’s message of reconciliation in your homes, in your communities and at every level of national life. I am confident that, in a spirit of friendship and cooperation with other Christians, with the followers of other religions, and with all men and women of good will concerned for the future of Korean society, you will be a leaven of the Kingdom of God in this land. Thus our prayers for peace and reconciliation will rise to God from ever more pure hearts and, by his gracious gift, obtain that precious good for which we all long.

Let us pray, then, for the emergence of new opportunities for dialogue, encounter and the resolution of differences, for continued generosity in providing humanitarian assistance to those in need, and for an ever greater recognition that all Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people. They speak the same language.

Before leaving Korea, I wish to thank President Park Geun-hye, the civil and ecclesiastical authorities and all those who in any way helped to make this visit possible. I especially wish to address a word of personal appreciation to the priests of Korea, who daily labor in the service of the Gospel and the building up of God’s people in faith, hope and love. I ask you, as ambassadors of Christ and ministers of his reconciling love (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-20), to continue to build bridges of respect, trust and harmonious cooperation in your parishes, among yourselves, and with your bishops. Your example of unreserved love for the Lord, your faithfulness and dedication to your ministry, and your charitable concern for those in need, contribute greatly to the work of reconciliation and peace in this country.

Dear brothers and sisters, God calls us to return to him and to hearken to his voice, and he promises to establish us on the land in even greater peace and prosperity than our ancestors knew. May Christ’s followers in Korea prepare for the dawning of that new day, when this land of the morning calm will rejoice in God’s richest blessings of harmony and peace! Amen.

-30-

Sunday, August 17, 2014

In Korea, Francis Is Spreading. Literally.

Even with a day to go, the stories coming out of the Pope's weekend in South Korea have been flooding the space: from estimates of a crowd as big as a million for yesterday's beatification of 124 local martyrs to Francis' earthy, unarmored Kia Popemobile, shirking a helicopter to ride a public bullet-train, taking enough selfies to make a Kardashian blush and – in an unscheduled stop at Seoul's Jesuit base – decrying how "much damage" has been done to the church by "our clerical attitudes."

Of course, all these share the common thread of a focus far less drawn from the "script" of talks and events than the spontaneous moments that've come up. Along those lines, then, the shot above might just take the cake: in a private moment this morning at the Nunciature in Seoul, Papa Bergoglio baptized and confirmed Lee Ho Jin – the father of a Sewol ferry victim who asked Francis to confer the sacrament during a Friday meeting with relatives of those lost in the April sinking that killed 300 on-board.

After the ceremony, it emerged that Lee took Francis as his baptismal name. The catechumen had reportedly been preparing to become a Christian for some time prior to meeting the Pope.

Amplified by wall-to-wall coverage on the state broadcaster KBS, the rapturous scenes of the days have served yet again to bolster Francis' status as a mega-draw on the road, and the freewheeling energy he's brought to the intense schedule should (but, for some, likely won't) suffice to rebut another round of speculation on the state of the 77 year-old's health.

It should be noted here that, aside from the three-yearly global observance of World Youth Day, overseas papal travel in August has traditionally been avoided until this visit. If anything, Assumption Day – the Ferragosto holiday which marks Italians' exodus to the beach and hillsides – invariably saw the Popes offer their one public Mass of the summer residency at Castel Gandolfo's parish church. While Francis made his lone trip to the Alban town to follow suit last year, this vacation season has seen Castel completely shut out.

Tomorrow's closing day of the Korea trek brings a poignant coda as the Pope celebrates a morning Mass in Seoul's cathedral for peace and reconciliation between North and South Korea, both of which marked the 69th anniversary of the peninsula's independence from Japan on Friday. While the Communist North refused the invite to send a delegation to the liturgy, the democratic South's President Park Geun-hye – a daughter of the country's military dictator of the 1960s and '70s – is expected to attend.

Speaking of this trip's geopolitical angle, meanwhile, after reports that Beijing had demanded the return of Chinese priests from Korea and blocked young people from traveling for the visit, AsiaNews reported earlier today that some 300 Chinese youth were in attendance at today's closing Mass for the continent's Youth Day, the next of which will be held in Indonesia (the world's largest Muslim country) in 2017.

Having accomplished a well-known item on his "bucket list" with his first-ever visit to Asia, Francis already has plans to double down: in mid-January, the Pope will open his 2015 calendar with a weeklong swing through Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

As that'll be just his fourth overseas trip following next month's one-day jaunt to Albania, at least temporarily, Asia will have the unprecedented boast of the lion's share of a pontiff's time on the road. For now, once this visit enters the books, a key gauge of its success won't take long to be found: whether a Korean church which has posted phenomenal numbers of adult converts over the last several decades sees even more of an uptick next Easter.

-30-

"Asian Youth, Wake Up! Go Forward!"


HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
CLOSING MASS OF THE SIXTH ASIAN YOUTH DAY
HAEMI CASTLE
17 AUGUST 2014

Dear Young Friends,

The glory of the martyrs shines upon you! These words – a part of the theme of the Sixth Asian Youth Day – console and strengthen us all. Young people of Asia: you are the heirs of a great testimony, a precious witness to Christ. He is the light of the world; he is the light of our lives! The martyrs of Korea – and innumerable others throughout Asia – handed over their bodies to their persecutors; to us they have handed on a perennial witness that the light of Christ’s truth dispels all darkness, and the love of Christ is gloriously triumphant. With the certainty of his victory over death, and our participation in it, we can face the challenge of Christian discipleship today, in our own circumstances and time.

The words which we have just reflected upon are a consolation. The other part of this Day’s theme – Asian Youth! Wake up! – speaks to you of a duty, a responsibility. Let us consider for a moment each of these words.

First, the word “Asian”. You have gathered here in Korea from all parts of Asia. Each of you has a unique place and context where you are called to reflect God’s love. The Asian continent, imbued with rich philosophical and religious traditions, remains a great frontier for your testimony to Christ, “the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). As young people not only in Asia, but also as sons and daughters of this great continent, you have a right and a duty to take full part in the life of your societies. Do not be afraid to bring the wisdom of faith to every aspect of social life!

As Asians too, you see and love, from within, all that is beautiful, noble and true in your cultures and traditions. Yet as Christians, you also know that the Gospel has the power to purify, elevate and perfect this heritage. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit given you in Baptism and sealed within you at Confirmation, and in union with your pastors, you can appreciate the many positive values of the diverse Asian cultures. You are also able to discern what is incompatible with your Catholic faith, what is contrary to the life of grace bestowed in Baptism, and what aspects of contemporary culture are sinful, corrupt, and lead to death.

Returning to the theme of this Day, let us reflect on a second word: “Youth”. You and your friends are filled with the optimism, energy and good will which are so characteristic of this period of life. Let Christ turn your natural optimism into Christian hope, your energy into moral virtue, your good will into genuine self-sacrificing love! This is the path you are called to take. This is the path to overcoming all that threatens hope, virtue and love in your lives and in your culture. In this way your youth will be a gift to Jesus and to the world.

As young Christians, whether you are workers or students, whether you have already begun a career or have answered the call to marriage, religious life or the priesthood, you are not only a part of the future of the Church; you are also a necessary and beloved part of the Church’s present! You are Church’s present! Keep close to one another, draw ever closer to God, and with your bishops and priests spend these years in building a holier, more missionary and humble Church, a holier, more missionary and humble Church, a Church which loves and worships God by seeking to serve the poor, the lonely, the infirm and the marginalized.

In your Christian lives, you will find many occasions that will tempt you, like the disciples in today’s Gospel, to push away the stranger, the needy, the poor and the broken-hearted. It is these people especially who repeat the cry of the woman of the Gospel: “Lord, help me!”. The Canaanite woman’s plea is the cry of everyone who searches for love, acceptance, and friendship with Christ. It is the cry of so many people in our anonymous cities, the cry of so many of your own contemporaries, and the cry of all those martyrs who even today suffer persecution and death for the name of Jesus: “Lord, help me!” It is often a cry which rises from our own hearts as well: “Lord, help me!” Let us respond, not like those who push away people who make demands on us, as if serving the needy gets in the way of our being close to the Lord. No! We are to be like Christ, who responds to every plea for his help with love, mercy and compassion.

Finally, the third part of this Day’s theme – “Wake up!” – This word speaks of a responsibility which the Lord gives you. It is the duty to be vigilant, not to allow the pressures, the temptations and the sins of ourselves or others to dull our sensitivity to the beauty of holiness, to the joy of the Gospel. Today’s responsorial psalm invites us constantly to “be glad and sing for joy”. No one who sleeps can sing, dance or rejoice. I don’t like to see young people who are sleeping. No! Wake up! Go! Go Forward! Dear young people, “God, our God, has blessed us!” (Ps 67:6); from him we have “received mercy” (Rom 11:30). Assured of God’s love, go out to the world so that, “by the mercy shown to you”, they – your friends, co-workers, neighbors, countrymen, everyone on this great continent – “may now receive the mercy of God” (cf. Rom 11:31). It is by his mercy that we are saved.

Dear young people of Asia, it is my hope that, in union with Christ and the Church, you will take up this path, which will surely bring you much joy. Now, as we approach the table of the Eucharist, let us turn to our Mother Mary, who brought Jesus to the world. Yes, Mother Mary, we long to have Jesus; in your maternal affection help us to bring him to others, to serve him faithfully, and to honor him in every time and place, in this country and throughout Asia. Amen.

Asian youth, wake up!

[Ed. Note: At the close of the liturgy, the site of the next Asian Youth Day was announced: Indonesia – the world's largest Muslim country – in 2017.]

-30-

"With My Identity, My Empathy and Openness, I Walk With the Other" – The Pope's Roadmap for the Asian Church

ADDRESS OF POPE FRANCIS
TO THE BISHOPS OF ASIA
HAEMI SHRINE
17 AUGUST 2014

I offer you a warm and fraternal greeting in the Lord as we gather together at this holy site where so many Christians gave their lives in fidelity to Christ. I have been told that some are nameless martyrs, since we do not know all their names: they are saints without a name. But this makes me think about the many, many holy Christians in our churches: children and young people, men, women, elderly persons… so very many of them! We do not know their names, but they are saints. It is good for us to think of these ordinary people who are persevering in their lives as Christians, and the Lord alone recognizes their sanctity. Their testimony of charity has brought blessings and graces not only to the Church in Korea but also beyond; may their prayers help us to be faithful shepherds of the souls entrusted to our care. I thank Cardinal Gracias for his kind words of welcome and for the work of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in fostering solidarity and promoting effective pastoral outreach in your local Churches.

On this vast continent which is home to a great variety of cultures, the Church is called to be versatile and creative in her witness to the Gospel through dialogue and openness to all. This is the challenge before you! Dialogue, in fact, is an essential part of the mission of the Church in Asia (cf. Ecclesia in Asia, 29). But in undertaking the path of dialogue with individuals and cultures, what should be our point of departure and our fundamental point of reference, which guides us to our destination? Surely it is our own identity, our identity as Christians. We cannot engage in real dialogue unless we are conscious of our own identity. We can’t dialogue, we can’t start dialoguing from nothing, from zero, from a foggy sense of who we are. Nor can there be authentic dialogue unless we are capable of opening our minds and hearts, in empathy and sincere receptivity, to those with whom we speak. In other words, an attentiveness in which the Holy Spirit is our guide. A clear sense of one’s own identity and a capacity for empathy are thus the point of departure for all dialogue. If we are to speak freely, openly and fruitfully with others, we must be clear about who we are, what God has done for us, and what it is that he asks of us. And if our communication is not to be a monologue, there has to be openness of heart and mind to accepting individuals and cultures. Fearlessly, for fear is the enemy of this kind of openness.

The task of appropriating and expressing our identity does not always prove easy, however, since – being sinners – we will always be tempted by the spirit of the world, which shows itself in a variety of ways. I would like to point to three of these. One is the deceptive light of relativism, which obscures the splendor of truth and, shaking the earth beneath our feet, pulls us toward the shifting sands of confusion and despair. It is a temptation which nowadays also affects Christian communities, causing people to forget that in a world of rapid and disorienting change, “there is much that is unchanging, much that has its ultimate foundation in Christ, who is the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Gaudium et Spes, 10; cf. Heb 13:8). Here I am not speaking about relativism merely as a system of thought, but about that everyday practical relativism which almost imperceptibly saps our sense of identity.

A second way in which the world threatens the solidity of our Christian identity is superficiality, a tendency to toy with the latest fads, gadgets and distractions, rather than attending to the things that really matter (cf. Phil 1:10). In a culture which glorifies the ephemeral, and offers so many avenues of avoidance and escape, this can present a serious pastoral problem. For the ministers of the Church, it can also make itself felt in an enchantment with pastoral programs and theories, to the detriment of direct, fruitful encounter with our faithful, and others too, especially the young who need solid catechesis and sound spiritual guidance. Without a grounding in Christ, the truths by which we live our lives can gradually recede, the practice of the virtues can become formalistic, and dialogue can be reduced to a form of negotiation or an agreement to disagree. An agreement to disagree… so as not to make waves… This sort of superficiality does us great harm.

Then too, there is a third temptation: that of the apparent security to be found in hiding behind easy answers, ready formulas, rules and regulations. Jesus clashed with people who would hide behind laws, regulations and easy answers.... He called them hypocrites. Faith by nature is not self-absorbed; it “goes out”. It seeks understanding; it gives rise to testimony; it generates mission. In this sense, faith enables us to be both fearless and unassuming in our witness of hope and love. Saint Peter tells us that we should be ever ready to respond to all who ask the reason for the hope within us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15). Our identity as Christians is ultimately seen in our quiet efforts to worship God alone, to love one another, to serve one another, and to show by our example not only what we believe, but also what we hope for, and the One in whom we put our trust (cf. 2 Tim 1:12).

Once again, it is our living faith in Christ which is our deepest identity, our being rooted in the Lord. If we have this, everything else is secondary. It is from this deep identity – our being grounded in a living faith in Christ – it is from this profound reality that our dialogue begins, and this is what we are asked to share, sincerely, honestly and without pretence, in the dialogue of everyday life, in the dialogue of charity, and in those more formal opportunities which may present themselves. Because Christ is our life (cf. Phil 1:21), let us speak “from him and of him” readily and without hesitation or fear. The simplicity of his word becomes evident in the simplicity of our lives, in the simplicity of our communication, in the simplicity of our works of loving service to our brothers and sisters.

I would now touch on one further aspect of our Christian identity. It is fruitful. Because it is born of, and constantly nourished by, the grace of our dialogue with the Lord and the promptings of his Spirit, it bears a harvest of justice, goodness and peace. Let me ask you, then, about the fruits which it is bearing in your own lives and in the lives of the communities entrusted to your care. Does the Christian identity of your particular Churches shine forth in your programs of catechesis and youth ministry, in your service to the poor and those languishing on the margins of our prosperous societies, and in your efforts to nourish vocations to the priesthood and the religious life? Does it make itself felt in their fruitfulness? This is a question I raise, for each of you to think about.

Finally, together with a clear sense of our own Christian identity, authentic dialogue also demands a capacity for empathy. For dialogue to take place, there has to be this empathy. We are challenged to listen not only to the words which others speak, but to the unspoken communication of their experiences, their hopes and aspirations, their struggles and their deepest concerns. Such empathy must be the fruit of our spiritual insight and personal experience, which lead us to see others as brothers and sisters, and to “hear”, in and beyond their words and actions, what their hearts wish to communicate. In this sense, dialogue demands of us a truly contemplative spirit of openness and receptivity to the other. I cannot engage in dialogue if I am closed to others. Openness? Even more: acceptance! Come to my house, enter my heart. My heart welcomes you. It wants to hear you. This capacity for empathy enables a true human dialogue in which words, ideas and questions arise from an experience of fraternity and shared humanity. If we want to get to the theological basis of this, we have to go to the Father: he created us all; all of us are children of one Father. This capacity for empathy leads to a genuine encounter – we have to progress toward this culture of encounter – in which heart speaks to heart. We are enriched by the wisdom of the other and become open to travelling together the path to greater understanding, friendship and solidarity. “But, brother Pope, this is what we are doing, but perhaps we are converting no one or very few people....” But you are doing it anyway: with your identity, you are hearing the other. What was the first commandment of God our Father to our father Abraham? “Walk in my presence and be blameless”. And so, with my identity and my empathy, my openness, I walk with the other. I don’t try to make him come over to me, I don’t proselytize. Pope Benedict told us clearly: “The Church does not grow by proselytizing, but by attracting”. In the meantime, let us walk in the Father’s presence, let us be blameless; let us practice this first commandment. That is where encounter, dialogue, will take place. With identity, with openness. It is a path to greater knowledge, friendship and solidarity. As Saint John Paul II rightly recognized, our commitment to dialogue is grounded in the very logic of the incarnation: in Jesus, God himself became one of us, shared in our life and spoke to us in our own language (cf. Ecclesia in Asia, 29). In this spirit of openness to others, I earnestly hope that those countries of your continent with whom the Holy See does not yet enjoy a full relationship, may not hesitate to further a dialogue for the benefit of all. I am not referring to political dialogue alone, but to fraternal dialogue… “But these Christians don’t come as conquerors, they don’t come to take away our identity: they bring us their own, but they want to walk with us”. And the Lord will grant his grace: sometimes he will move hearts and someone will ask for baptism, sometimes not. But always let us walk together. This is the heart of dialogue.

Dear brothers, I thank you for your warm and fraternal welcome. When we look out at the great Asian continent, with its vast expanses of land, its ancient cultures and traditions, we are aware that, in God’s plan, your Christian communities are indeed a pusillus grex, a small flock which nonetheless is charged to bring the light of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. A true mustard seed! A very small seed… May the Good Shepherd, who knows and loves each of his sheep, guide and strengthen your efforts to build up their unity with him and with all the members of his flock throughout the world. And now, together, let us entrust your Churches, and the continent of Asia, to Our Lady, so that as our Mother she may teach us what only a mother can teach: who you are, what your name is, and how you get along with others in life. Let us all pray to Our Lady.

[Ed. Note: Off-script additions included in text.]

-30-

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Bishop, "Guardian of Memory and Guardian of Hope"

ADDRESS OF POPE FRANCIS
TO THE BISHOPS OF KOREA
OFFICES OF THE EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE
SEOUL
14 AUGUST 2014

Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with deep affection and I thank Bishop Peter U-il Kang for his words of fraternal welcome on your behalf. It is a blessing for me to be here and to witness at first hand the vibrant life of the Church in Korea. As pastors, you are responsible for guarding the Lord’s flock. You are guardians of the wondrous works which he accomplishes in his people. Guarding is one of the tasks specifically entrusted to the bishop: looking after God’s people. Today I would like to reflect with you as a brother bishop on two central aspects of the task of guarding God’s people in this country: to be guardians of memory and guardians of hope.

To be guardians of memory. The beatification of Paul Yun Ji-chung and his companions is an occasion for us to thank the Lord, who from the seeds sown by the martyrs has brought forth an abundant harvest of grace in this land. You are the children of the martyrs, heirs to their heroic witness of faith in Christ. You are also heirs to an impressive tradition which began, and largely grew, through the fidelity, perseverance and work of generations of lay persons. It is significant that the history of the Church in Korea began with a direct encounter with the word of God. It was the intrinsic beauty and integrity of the Christian message – the Gospel and its summons to conversion, interior renewal and a life of charity – that spoke to Yi Byeok and the noble elders of the first generation; and it is to that message, in its purity, that the Church in Korea looks, as if in a mirror, to find her truest self.

The fruitfulness of the Gospel on Korean soil, and the great legacy handed down from your forefathers in the faith, can be seen today in the flowering of active parishes and ecclesial movements, in solid programs of catechesis and outreach to young people, and in the Catholic schools, seminaries and universities. The Church in Korea is esteemed for its role in the spiritual and cultural life of the nation and its strong missionary impulse. From being a land of mission, yours has now become a land of missionaries; and the universal Church continues to benefit from the many priests and religious whom you have sent forth.

Being guardians of memory means more than remembering and treasuring the graces of the past; it also means drawing from them the spiritual resources to confront with vision and determination the hopes, the promise and the challenges of the future. As you yourselves have noted, the life and mission of the Church in Korea are not ultimately measured in external, quantitative and institutional terms; rather, they must be judged in the clear light of the Gospel and its call to conversion to the person of Jesus Christ. To be guardians of memory means realizing that while the growth is from God (cf. 1 Cor 3:6), it is also the fruit of quiet and persevering labor, past and present. Our memory of the martyrs and past generations of Christians must be one that is realistic, not idealized or “triumphalistic”. Looking to the past without hearing God’s call to conversion in the present will not help us move forward; instead, it will only hold us back and even halt our spiritual progress.

In addition to being guardians of memory, dear brothers, you are also called to be guardians of hope: the hope held out by the Gospel of God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ, the hope which inspired the martyrs. It is this hope which we are challenged to proclaim to a world that, for all its material prosperity, is seeking something more, something greater, something authentic and fulfilling. You and your brother priests offer this hope by your ministry of sanctification, which not only leads the faithful to the sources of grace in the liturgy and the sacraments, but also constantly urges them to press forward in response to the upward call of God (cf. Phil 3:14). You guard this hope by keeping alive the flame of holiness, fraternal charity and missionary zeal within the Church’s communion. For this reason, I ask you to remain ever close to your priests, encouraging them in their daily labors, their pursuit of sanctity and their proclamation of the Gospel of salvation. I ask you to convey to them my affectionate greeting and my gratitude for their dedicated service to God’s people.

If we accept the challenge of being a missionary Church, a Church which constantly goes forth to the world and, especially, to the peripheries of contemporary society, we will need to foster that “spiritual taste” which enables us to embrace and identify with each member of Christ’s body (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 268). Here particular care and concern needs to be shown for the children and the elderly in our communities. How can we be guardians of hope if we neglect the memory, the wisdom and the experience of the elderly, and the aspirations of our young? In this regard, I would ask you to be concerned in a special way for the education of children, supporting the indispensable mission not only of the universities, but also Catholic schools at every level, beginning with elementary schools, where young minds and hearts are shaped in love for the Lord and his Church, in the good, the true and the beautiful, and where children learn to be good Christians and upright citizens.

Being guardians of hope also entails ensuring that the prophetic witness of the Church in Korea remains evident in its concern for the poor and in its programs of outreach, particularly to refugees and migrants and those living on the margins of society. This concern should be seen not only in concrete charitable initiatives, which are so necessary, but also in the ongoing work of social, occupational and educational promotion. We can risk reducing our work with those in need to its institutional dimension alone, while overlooking each individual’s need to grow as a person and to express in a worthy manner his or her own personality, creativity and culture. Solidarity with the poor has to be seen as an essential element of the Christian life; through preaching and catechesis grounded in the rich patrimony of the Church’s social teaching, it must penetrate the hearts and minds of the faithful and be reflected in every aspect of ecclesial life. The apostolic ideal of “a Church of and for the poor” found eloquent expression in the first Christian communities of your nation. I pray that this ideal will continue to shape the pilgrim path of the Church in Korea as she looks to the future. I am convinced that if the face of the Church is first and foremost a face of love, more and more young people will be drawn to the heart of Jesus ever aflame with divine love in the communion of his mystical body.

Dear brothers, a prophetic witness to the Gospel presents particular challenges to the Church in Korea, since she carries out her life and ministry amid a prosperous, yet increasingly secularized and materialistic society. In such circumstances it is tempting for pastoral ministers to adopt not only effective models of management, planning and organization drawn from the business world, but also a lifestyle and mentality guided more by worldly criteria of success, and indeed power, than by the criteria which Jesus sets out in the Gospel. Woe to us if the cross is emptied of its power to judge the wisdom of this world (cf. 1 Cor 1:17)! I urge you and your brother priests to reject this temptation in all its forms. May we be saved from that spiritual and pastoral worldliness which stifles the Spirit, replaces conversion by complacency, and, in the process, dissipates all missionary fervor (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 93-97)!

Dear brother Bishops, with these reflections on your role as guardians of memory and of hope, I want to encourage you in your efforts to build up the faithful in Korea in unity, holiness and zeal. Memory and hope inspire us and guide us toward the future. I remember all of you in my prayers and I urge you constantly to trust in the power of God’s grace: “The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one” (2 Thess 3:3). May the prayers of Mary, Mother of the Church, bring to full flower in this land the seeds planted by the martyrs, watered by generations of faithful Catholics, and handed down to you as a pledge for the future of your country and of our world. To you, and to all entrusted to your pastoral care and keeping, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

-30-

Between South and North, "The Quest For Peace Is A Challenge For Each of Us"

ADDRESS OF POPE FRANCIS
TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA
CHEONGWADAE (THE BLUE HOUSE)
SEOUL
14 AUGUST 2014

Madam President,
Honorable Government and Civil Authorities,
Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Dear Friends,

It is a great joy for me to come to Korea, the land of the morning calm, and to experience not only the natural beauty of this country, but above all the beauty of its people and its rich history and culture. This national legacy has been tested through the years by violence, persecution and war. But despite these trials, the heat of the day and the dark of the night have always given way to the morning calm, that is, to an undiminished hope for justice, peace and unity. What a gift hope is! We cannot become discouraged in our pursuit of these goals which are for the good not only of the Korean people, but of the entire region and the whole world.

I wish to thank President Park Geun-hye for her warm welcome. I greet her and the distinguished members of the government. I would like to acknowledge also the members of the diplomatic corps, the civil and military authorities, and all those present who by their many efforts have assisted in preparing for my visit. I am most grateful for your hospitality, which has immediately made me feel at home among you.

My visit to Korea is occasioned by the Sixth Asian Youth Day, which brings together young Catholics from throughout this vast continent in a joyful celebration of their common faith. In the course of my visit I will also beatify a number of Koreans who died as martyrs for the Christian faith: Paul Yun Ji-chung and his 123 companions. These two celebrations complement one another. Korean culture understands well the inherent dignity and wisdom of our elders and honors their place in society. We Catholics honor our elders who were martyred for the faith because they were willing to give their lives for the truth which they had come to believe and by which they sought to live their lives. They teach us how to live fully for God and for the good of one another.

A wise and great people do not only cherish their ancestral traditions; they also treasure their young, seeking to pass on the legacy of the past and to apply it to the challenges of the present. Whenever young people gather together, as on the present occasion, it is a precious opportunity for all of us to listen to their hopes and concerns. We are also challenged to reflect on how well we are transmitting our values to the next generation, and on the kind of world and society we are preparing to hand on to them. In this context, I think it is especially important for us to reflect on the need to give our young people the gift of peace.

This appeal has all the more resonance here in Korea, a land which has long suffered because of a lack of peace. I can only express my appreciation for the efforts being made in favor of reconciliation and stability on the Korean peninsula, and to encourage those efforts, for they are the only sure path to lasting peace. Korea’s quest for peace is a cause close to our hearts, for it affects the stability of the entire area and indeed of our whole war-weary world.

The quest for peace also represents a challenge for each of us, and in a particular way for those of you dedicated to the pursuit of the common good of the human family through the patient work of diplomacy. It is the perennial challenge of breaking down the walls of distrust and hatred by promoting a culture of reconciliation and solidarity. For diplomacy, as the art of the possible, is based on the firm and persevering conviction that peace can be won through quiet listening and dialogue, rather than by mutual recriminations, fruitless criticisms and displays of force.

Peace is not simply the absence of war, but “the work of justice” (cf. Is 32:17). And justice, as a virtue, calls for the discipline of forbearance; it demands that we not forget past injustices but overcome them through forgiveness, tolerance and cooperation. It demands the willingness to discern and attain mutually beneficial goals, building foundations of mutual respect, understanding and reconciliation. May all of us dedicate these days to peace, to praying for it and deepening our resolve to achieve it.

Dear friends, your efforts as political and civic leaders are directed to the goal of building a better, more peaceful, just and prosperous world for our children. Experience teaches us that in an increasingly globalized world, our understanding of the common good, of progress and development, must ultimately be in human and not merely economic terms. Like most of our developed nations, Korea struggles with important social issues, political divisions, economic inequities, and concerns about the responsible stewardship of the natural environment. How important it is that the voice of every member of society be heard, and that a spirit of open communication, dialogue and cooperation be fostered. It is likewise important that special concern be shown for the poor, the vulnerable and those who have no voice, not only by meeting their immediate needs but also by assisting them in their human and cultural advancement. It is my hope that Korean democracy will continue to be strengthened and that this nation will prove to be a leader also in the globalization of solidarity which is so necessary today: one which looks to the integral development of every member of our human family.

In his second visit to Korea, twenty-five years ago, Saint John Paul II stated his conviction that “the future of Korea will depend on the presence among its people of many wise, virtuous and deeply spiritual men and women” (8 October 1989). In echoing his words today, I assure you of the continued desire of Korea’s Catholic community to participate fully in the life of the nation. The Church wishes to contribute to the education of the young, the growth of a spirit of solidarity with the poor and disadvantaged, and the formation of new generations of citizens ready to bring the wisdom and vision inherited from their forebears and born of their faith to the great political and social questions facing the nation.

Madam President, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you once more for your welcome and hospitality. May God bless you and all the beloved Korean people. In a special way, may he bless the elderly and the young people, who, by preserving memory and inspiring courage, are our greatest treasure and our hope for the future.

[Ed. Note: For the first time at a public event since his election in March 2013, Francis delivered the preceding speech in English – a language which he once termed "the toughest" for him to speak.]

-30-

Francis' "Continent of Hope" – In Korea, The Bridge-Building Continues

Before anything else, to those who've been asking after this scribe's whereabouts these last weeks, a heartfelt thanks. For now, just know that: 1. everything's fine, and 2. amid the first "normal" (read: quiet, easy) summer I've had in four years, a proper hiatus has been in order, and a tremendous gift.

...and now, back to work.

After an 11-hour flight that, in a first, took a Pope over Chinese airspace, early today saw Francis' arrival in Korea – Jorge Bergoglio's first-ever trip to Asia: the continent where, as a young Jesuit, he longed to serve as a missionary.

Beyond the personal facet, meanwhile, the long weekend visit brings a booming, home-grown Asian church face-to-face with its staunchest champion upon Peter's Chair in modern times, as well as providing a geopolitical story in the Pope's planned calls for reconciliation between the democratized South and the Communist North. (Having declined an invitation to send representatives to a Monday Mass in Seoul's cathedral for a peaceful resolution of the peninsula's long-simmering standoff, North Korea launched three short-range rockets into the East Sea about an hour before Francis' plane landed. The exercise has been interpreted as part of the North's protest over a joint US-South Korea military drill slated for later this month.)

Continuing the road-warrior scheduling unseen since the heyday of John Paul II, the four-day trip is set to include 11 major talks over 18 public events, with nary a break between them. While the visit's overarching purpose is for Francis to preside over Sunday's closing of Asia's three-yearly continental Youth Day, the keener thread in the wider church is likely to be Papa Bergoglio's first in-depth articulation of his rationale for seeing Asian Catholicism as his "continent of hope" – a moniker that, by pointed contrast, his predecessors reserved for Latin America.

The latter exercise begins at 5.30pm local time today with a speech to the Korean bishops, following a 4pm visit with President Park Geun-Hye and the South's top leadership at the head of state's residence, the Blue House. (All times are seven hours ahead of Rome, 13 hours from US Eastern, 16 Pacific.)

Here, the Vatican livefeed – texts, etc. will roll out on delivery....


(SVILUPPO: As the speech to the bishops was not broadcast, the video above is solely of the civil welcome ceremony.)

More to come – and, as always, everything in real-time via Page Three (either directly or down the right sidebar of the main page).

And lastly for now, with school already starting up in no shortage of spots – and, with it, many among us already headed back to the usual grind – here's hoping a beautiful summer's been had by one and all; hard to believe where it went. On this end, we remain a few weeks out until an almost surreal Fall Cycle kicks into full gear... still, as this "break from the break" begins, suffice it to say, it's good to be home.

-30-

Friday, July 04, 2014

Facing "A False Choice," At Fortnight's Close, The Church's Case

For the third year running, this 4th of July marks the finale of the US church's Fortnight for Freedom, the national initiative born amid the specter of the Obamacare contraceptive mandate's impact on Catholic entities and their ability to serve in sound conscience.

This time around, coming in the wake of ecclesial celebrations over Monday's 5-4 Supreme Court decision which green-lighted the Hobby Lobby craft chain's objection to the mandate on religious liberty grounds, the bench's closing message was delivered by the USCCB president, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, at today's Noon Mass in the nation's largest church, Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception:


-30-

"The Blessing of Equal Liberty"

We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope Francis, the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance.

To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Keeping with house custom for the great feasts of state, the preceding is the Prayer for the Nation penned and first delivered in August 1791 by American Catholicism's Founding Father, John Carroll of Baltimore – the first bishop on these shores, and a cousin of the lone Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.

The text has a special significance this July 4th; as today brings the Declaration's 238th birthday, this coming November 6 marks the 225th anniversary of the establishment of a diocese for the 13 founding states – then a fold of 22,000 Catholics, served by 22 "known priests."

Back to today, from the place where the "great experiment" was born, a Happy 4th to one and all – hope you're in for a safe, easy and beautiful weekend. Miss Smith, take us out:


-30-

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Barque Rocks On

Simply put, it is the oldest continuous office on Earth.

One thousand nine hundred eighty one years in existence.... Two hundred sixty-six occupants.... A line that encompasses great saints and walking scandals both, and every historical circumstance from the glories of human empire and the magnificence of monument to bloody rivers of war, imprisonment and persecution.

Just on the turns of the ages, even a nonbeliever can marvel at the papacy, and especially at the big moments, no shortage do. And for everything else that's surrounded it for close to two millennia, perhaps that's the greatest miracle of all – not that the institution founded upon Peter merely still exists, but how, whether in the heights of affection or political drives for its occupant's suppression, it's retained its relevance, recovering from the lulls as little more than a fleeting spell.

Indeed, just when it was supposedly rational to think that another spin of the wheel really could be curtains, all of a sudden, a new springtime dawns again....



Two thousand years later, just further proof that Somebody knew what He was doing at the start.

Buona festa to one and all.


-30-

"The Problem For Us Is Fear" – On Pope's Day, Francis Calls Bishops To "Follow"

Marking the patronal feast of Rome – and, indeed, the papacy itself – on this solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul the city's 266th bishop led the 30th anniversary of the tradition instituted by St John Paul II, conferring the pallium on 24 new metropolitan archbishops named over the last year.

What's more, though, in the process Pope Francis gave himself a new one.... Well, a new-old one.

Six years after the chief MC Msgr Guido Marini devised a "Papal Pallium" adorned with red crosses for B16, at today's rites Francis ditched the model, restoring the same black-crossed version (above) worn by centuries of his predecessors and identical to that given every other archbishop. The sign of the "fullness of the episcopal office" which each metropolitan is entitled to wear at Masses within his province, the return to the common pallium serves to more fully underscore the woolen vestment's intended symbolism over the centuries – namely, a visible sign of the bond between the archbishops of the entire church and the See of Peter.

With the US represented by just one prelate – Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford – among others invested today were Archbishops Malcolm McMahon OP of Liverpool (head of the UK's largest diocese), Leo Cushley of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Paul Bui of Ho Chi Minh City, Wojciech Polak of Gniezno (the new Polish primate) and Franz Lackner OFM of Salzburg, a post whose centuries-old privilege of donning a cardinal's red vesture made him stand out among the violet zucchetti of the rest of the group.

While Papa Bergoglio's homily did not feature a similar bomb to last year's preach, in which Francis' unscripted call for a deepening of "synodality" in the church's governance sent shockwaves through the Vatican's Old Guard, today's text did see him launch a pointed examination of conscience for the prelates in attendance, asking them "Are we afraid?" and "if we are, what escapes do we seek to feel safe?"

"Do we seek the approval of the powers of this world?" Francis wondered, "or do we let ourselves be taken in by that pride which seeks gratification and recognition?" In the face of those temptations, the needed answer was to trust in "God's fidelity," he said, which must be "the source of our confidence and our peace."

Outside St Peter's, meanwhile, the pontiff returned to the front page of the newspapers in his own voice. For the second time in ten days, an interview with the Pope was released, this time in Il Messaggero, the dominant Rome-based daily, featuring his tidings to the city on its patronal feast. At the same time, the conversation focused much on what Francis called "moral" and "cultural degradation," which he said was visible in issues ranging from corruption and child prostitution to income inequality (the "golden calf" of "the money god") and poverty as well as – repeating an earlier comment – the "phenomenon" of valuing pets over people.

The first Pope-chat Francis has held with a female reporter, the Domus sit-down with Messaggero's Franca Giansoldati – which, notably, took place during Tuesday's infamous Italy-Uruguay World Cup match – likewise dwelt at length on the role of women in the church. (At right, Giansoldati is seen in an airplane selfie with Francis en route to last month's Holy Land tour.)

Saying that "Women are the most beautiful thing God has made," the Pope reiterated his call in Evangelii Gaudium that the "feminine question" in ecclesial life "must be deepened, otherwise you can't understand the church herself."

While Giansoldati explicitly set aside the question of female clergy, she asked Francis whether a woman would be named as head of a Curial dicastery, a prospect which the pontiff left the door wide open to by replying with a chuckle that "Well [orig: 'Beh'], many times priests [already] end up under the authority of their housekeepers."

Along the way, the pontiff exalted the figure of Pope Paul VI, who he'll beatify on 19 October at the close of the Synod for the Family. In Francis' judgment, Paul's 1975 exhortation on evangelization Evangelii Nuntiandi "remains an unsurpassed pastoral document," adding that, being "the first Pope who studied theology after the Council... for us Paul VI was the great light."

Asked where "the church of Bergoglio" is headed, the Pope said "Thank God I don't have a church, I follow Christ. I haven't founded anything." Programmatically speaking, though, he emphasized that "I've done nothing on my own," that his course of governance was merely "the fruit of the meetings before the Conclave" in the priorities and aspirations laid out by the cardinals. Still, as pertains to his own missionary vision, Francis again repeated that "the church must go out into the streets, seek the people, go into the houses, visit families, go toward the peripheries. It can't be a church that only receives, but one which offers."


Back to the basilica, today's rites made for the Pope's last major event before the Curia's summer hiatus, during which the release of his morning homilies at the Domus and the Wednesday audiences will be suspended.

That's not to say all will be quiet, however – beyond whatever spontaneous things come up (and they will), Tuesday brings the fifth meeting of Francis' "Gang of Eight" cardinal-advisers on the reform of the Curia; set to run four days, the session will be the group's longest to date. In addition, on Friday the Irish Catholic reported that the pontiff's first meeting with survivors of sexual abuse – the first papal meeting with victims at the Vatican – is expected to take place next weekend.

* * *
Here below, meanwhile, the Vatican's English translation of the Pope's homily at this morning's Mass for the Petrine feast....
On this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the principal patrons of Rome, we welcome with joy and gratitude the Delegation sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch, our venerable and beloved brother Bartholomaios, and led by Metropolitan Ioannis. Let us ask the Lord that this visit too may strengthen our fraternal bonds as we journey toward that full communion between the two sister Churches which we so greatly desire.

“Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod” (Acts 12:11). When Peter began his ministry to the Christian community of Jerusalem, great fear was still in the air because of Herod’s persecution of members of the Church. There had been the killing of James, and then the imprisonment of Peter himself, in order to placate the people. While Peter was imprisoned and in chains, he heard the voice of the angel telling him, “Get up quickly… dress yourself and put on your sandals… Put on your mantle and follow me!” (Acts 12:7-8). The chains fell from him and the door of the prison opened before him. Peter realized that the Lord had “rescued him from the hand of Herod”; he realized that the Lord had freed him from fear and from chains. Yes, the Lord liberates us from every fear and from all that enslaves us, so that we can be truly free. Today’s liturgical celebration expresses this truth well in the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm: “The Lord has freed me from all my fears”.

The problem for us, then, is fear and looking for refuge in our pastoral responsibilities.

I wonder, dear brother bishops, are we afraid? What are we afraid of? And if we are afraid, what forms of refuge do we seek, in our pastoral life, to find security? Do we look for support from those who wield worldly power? Or do we let ourselves be deceived by the pride which seeks gratification and recognition, thinking that these will offer us security? Dear brother Bishops, where do we find our security?

The witness of the Apostle Peter reminds us that our true refuge is trust in God. Trust in God banishes all fear and sets us free from every form of slavery and all worldly temptation. Today the Bishop of Rome and other bishops, particularly the metropolitans who have received the pallium, feel challenged by the example of Saint Peter to assess to what extent each of us puts his trust in the Lord.

Peter recovered this trust when Jesus said to him three times: “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21: 15,16,17). Peter thrice confessed his love for Jesus, thus making up for his threefold denial of Christ during the passion. Peter still regrets the disappointment which he caused the Lord on the night of his betrayal. Now that the Lord asks him: “Do you love me?”, Peter does not trust himself and his own strength, but instead entrusts himself to Jesus and his mercy: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17). Precisely at this moment fear, insecurity and cowardice dissipate.

Peter experienced how God’s fidelity is always greater than our acts of infidelity, stronger than our denials. He realizes that the God’s fidelity dispels our fears and exceeds every human reckoning. Today Jesus also asks us: “Do you love me?”. He does so because he knows our fears and our struggles. Peter shows us the way: we need to trust in the Lord, who “knows everything” that is in us, not counting on our capacity to be faithful, but on his unshakable fidelity. Jesus never abandons us, for he cannot deny himself (cf. 2 Tim 2:13). He is faithful. The fidelity which God constantly shows to us pastors, far in excess of our merits, is the source of our confidence and our peace. The Lord’s fidelity to us keeps kindled within us the desire to serve him and to serve our sisters and brothers in charity.

The love of Jesus must suffice for Peter. He must no longer yield to the temptation to curiosity, jealousy, as when, seeing John nearby, he asks Jesus: “Lord, what about this man?” (Jn 21:21). But Jesus, in the face of these temptations, says to him in reply: “What is it to you? Follow me” (Jn 21:22). This experience of Peter is a message for us too, dear brother archbishops. Today the Lord repeats to me, to you, and to all pastors: Follow me! Waste no time in questioning or in useless chattering; do not dwell on secondary things, but look to what is essential and follow me. Follow me without regard for the difficulties. Follow me in preaching the Gospel. Follow me by the witness of a life shaped by the grace you received in baptism and holy orders. Follow me by speaking of me to those with whom you live, day after day, in your work, your conversations and among your friends. Follow me by proclaiming the Gospel to all, especially to the least among us, so that no one will fail to hear the word of life which sets us free from every fear and enables us to trust in the faithfulness of God. Follow me!
-30-

Friday, June 27, 2014

In Michigan, A Spartan Shift – Lansing Chancellor Raica to Gaylord

As the Curia's "end of school" desk-clearing reaches its close, the US' longest-standing vacancy has been settled.

At Roman Noon this Friday, the Pope tapped Msgr Steven Raica, 61 – chancellor of Lansing and, from 1999-2005, head of the Casa Santa Maria (the Roman residence for American priests in advanced studies) – as fifth bishop of Gaylord, the 65,000-member church comprising the northern 21 counties of Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

Born on the Upper Peninsula and rumored for its opening in Marquette earlier this year, in the slightly warmer rural post Raica succeeds another prominent figure from the Rome scene: now-Archbishop Bernard Hebda, the Harvard and Columbia-trained canon and civil lawyer who wept on being made to leave for the roiled, 1.4 million-member archdiocese of Newark as its coadjutor last fall.

A product of Michigan State, where he earned a bachelor's in mathematics before a JCD from the Gregorian, the "gentle and industrious" bishop-elect is believed to be the first US prelate who's fluent in sign language; for the first decade of his priesthood, Raica served as Lansing's diocesan director for deaf ministry alongside parish work. Beyond his assignments, the bishop-elect has been chaplain to the local Legatus as well as immersing himself in Communion and Liberation, the Milan-based movement which rose to even greater prominence in the last pontificate as B16's favorite.

As for what lies ahead, meanwhile, what Hebda referred to as "the needs of the church in Gaylord" would seem to mesh well with the profile of his successor: on his transfer to Newark after four years, Bishop Bernie just beginning to focus the diocese on planning its mid-range future, a challenge that's been particularly acute across Michigan given demographic shifts as harsh as the state's infamous winters. Alongside the structural realities, priestly vocations have proven another hurdle upstate, while Lansing has long bucked the trend, ordaining five in this year's batch, including identical twins who were profiled in The New York Times. (Gaylord will ordain one tomorrow, with His Grace-in-Waiting returning to perform the rite.)

In a statement released this morning, the bishop-elect mused on the confluence of his appointment and today's solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a figure whose "love and mercy" has repeatedly been part of his life and ministry.

Raica's ordination is scheduled for 28 August, the feast of St Augustine.

With today's move, the number of Stateside Latin-church vacancies falls to four – a group with Toledo now topping the pile – with another five led by ordinaries serving past the retirement age of 75. Earlier this month, it emerged that for the most prominent of the docket – of course, the heavily anticipated Chicago appointment – Cardinal Francis George had submitted his report on the state of the 2.3 million-member archdiocese, featuring his shortlist of preferred successors.

As the process can't reach Rome until the major investigation by the Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, is completed, it bears repeating that no movement is expected until the Congregation for Bishops reconvenes in September. Ergo, things will feel like this for a while....


That said, it's not yet safe to call the end of appointments for the summer – anything decided in the last lap before the recess can drop until July 15th, give or take.

Speaking of Michigan and archbishops, Sunday's feast of Saints Peter and Paul will see Pope Francis confer the pallium on just one American, the Detroit-born Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford, among 24 new metropolitans named over the last year around the globe.

Even so, folks, the most important thing for now is far simpler: it's a summer weekend – enjoy it.

SVILUPPO: Describing himself as "thrilled" at the news, a Lansing op sends this portrait of the bishop-elect....

This may sound a bit cliché, but he is truly one of the most kind, gentle, intelligent and faithful people I know.... He is very deliberate and thoughtful, has a great sense of humor and yet is very attentive. He is big on using technology and communications for evangelization....

If this is the sort of bishop Pope Francis is naming, I'm thrilled. He is solid but not an ideologue. He has chancery, Rome and parish experience. Though he loves pasta, travel and culture, he lives very simply. He's an excellent cook. His desk is very messy! He is bright, faithful and yet has no ax to grind.

I have never witnessed him to have an appetite for the sort of rhetoric we see from others in the U.S. hierarchy on the hot button issues. Like Pope Francis, I don't see +Raica watering anything down but I think his emphasis will be in line with this pope - on the positive aspects of our faith. I hope this is a sign of more good appointments to come. I think +Raica really reflects what we are hearing that Pope Francis wants – shepherds who are gentle, approachable, smell like the sheep and are open to bringing everyone closer to the Lord.
-30-

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Stacking out at 73 pages and released at Roman Noon, the all-important Instrumentum Laboris for October's Synod on the Family is available as both html and pdf.

Don't let somebody else be your brain, folks – do yourself a favor and actually read it.

-30-