Thursday, May 28, 2009

It's a Wrap

To see today's Holy See-US at 25 Symposium uncut, streaming video is up and running of the morning (Dolan/Sambi/Glendon) and mid-morning (ambassadors' panel) sessions, with the rest to come in short order.

Meanwhile, the day's closing remarks came from the chancellor of the bishops' university -- the capital's Archbishop Donald Wuerl.

Benedict XVI's first major Stateside appointee three years ago this month, Wuerl spoke from a unique, significant perspective among today's roster, addressing not the diplomatic side of Vatican relations, but the role of the diocesan bishop at the crossroads of church and state.

Here below, the archbishop's fulltext:

On a personal note, all thanks to the many kind folks here in the capital who've written in through the week with invites to a coffee or a beer. I'd honestly love nothing more than getting the chance, but it's back to the road in a few -- the morning brings a speaking gig in New York, and a pretty daunting one at that.

Chaotic days as ever... and even after Memorial Day, on and on it goes. Please keep up the prayers.

Hope today's DC feed was useful -- as always, a ton of thanks for checking in... and, of course, stay tuned.


The Episcopal Church Welcomes... "Father Oprah"

After a scandal erupted earlier this month over published photos of Fr Alberto Cutié and a woman with whom he was secretly involved in a relationship, the media-savvy cleric and TV host dubbed "Father Oprah" -- an immensely-popular figure in Latino circles -- stunned his South Florida base and beyond earlier today by being received into the Episcopal church and announcing that he'll marry Ruhama Buni Canelis, his love of two years...

...and given Cutié's profile, immense media coverage was had:
The small, private ceremony happened at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Trinity Cathedral, the church's South Florida headquarters in downtown Miami.

Cutié, dressed in a white dress shirt, a black jacket and black dress pants, sat smiling beside his fiancé during the half-hour ceremony. Priests and deacons from the Episcopal church were by his side -- many notably accompanied by their wives.

Bishop Leo Frade, head of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida, officiated as Cutié and Canellis knelt in front of the bishop and were received into the Episcopal church....

''I am continuing the call to spread God's love,'' Cutié said at a later news conference, adding that he he has gone through a ``deep spiritual and ideological struggle.''

Cutié got into trouble with the Archdiocese of Miami earlier this month when compromising pictures of the 40-year-old cleric were published in the Spanish-language magazine TVnotas. The magazine's pages showed Cutié in blue shorts lying on his back embracing Canellis and kissing her, a violation of his vow of chastity [sic]....

On Thursday, Cutié and Canellis knelt in front of their new bishop and a handful of priests as Frade recited the traditional words to receive new members of the church.

''We recognize you as a member of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church;and we receive you into the fellowship of this communion. God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless, preserve and keep you. Amen,'' Frade said.

In previous interviews, Frade had said he and Cutié had spoken following the media frenzy surrounding the priest, which included an appearance on CBS' The Early Show and Spanish-language network Univisión, in addition to national and international newspapers.

In the interviews, Cutié has said he loves the woman and hinted at marriage and kids in the future.

Frade, who has been friends with Cutié for seven years and first met him through a Cuban ecumenical group, has said the popular priest had also spoken privately with leaders of other Christian denominations, such as Baptists and Lutherans. It is unclear if those conversations focused on joining those churches.

In South Florida, at least five former Catholic priests serve in the Episcopal church. Nationally, there are more than 100 Episcopal priests who were once Catholic.

''This doesn't say anything less of our sister church,'' Frade said Thursday. ``We have many Episcopal priests that have left the Episcopal church because they disagree with the ordination of women, and we have many Catholics that have joined our church. The road between Rome and Canterbury gets lots of traffic.''

After the news broke, Archbishop John Favalora of Miami released the following statement on Cutié's "separation from the church":
I am genuinely disappointed by the announcement made earlier this afternoon by Father Alberto Cutié that he is joining the Episcopal Church.

According to our canon law, with this very act Father Cutié is separating himself from the communion of the Roman Catholic Church (c. 1364, §1) by professing erroneous faith and morals, and refusing submission to the Holy Father (canon 751). He also is irregular for the exercise of sacred orders as a priest (canons 1041 and 1044, §1) and no longer has the faculties of the Archdiocese of Miami to celebrate the sacraments; nor may he preach or teach on Catholic faith and morals (cannon 1336, §1). His actions could lead to his dismissal from the clerical state.

This means that Father Cutié is removing himself from full communion with the Catholic Church and thereby forfeiting his rights as a cleric. Roman Catholics should not request the sacraments from Father Cuité. Any sacramental actions he attempts to perform would be illicit. Any Mass he says would be valid but illicit, meaning it does not meet a Catholic’s obligation. Father Cutié cannot validly officiate at marriages of Roman Catholics in the Archdiocese of Miami or anywhere.

Father Cutié is still bound by his promise to live a celibate life, which he freely embraced at ordination. Only the Holy Father can release him from that obligation.

To the Catholic faithful of Saint Francis de Sales Parish, Radio Paz and the entire Archdiocese of Miami, I again say that Father Cutié’s actions cannot be justified, despite his good works as a priest (statement of May 5, 2009). This is all the more true in light of today’s announcement. Father Cutié may have abandoned the Catholic Church; he may have abandoned you. But I tell you that the Catholic Church will never abandon you; the Archdiocese of Miami is here for you.

Father Cutié’s actions have caused grave scandal within the Catholic Church, harmed the Archdiocese of Miami − especially our priests – and led to division within the ecumenical community and the community at large. Today’s announcement only deepens those wounds.

When Father Cutié met with me on May 5th, he requested and I granted a leave of absence from the exercise of the priesthood. Because of this, he could no longer be the administrator of St Francis de Sales Parish or the General Director of Radio Paz. For the good of the Church and to avoid the media frenzy, I chose not to impose publicly an ecclesiastical penalty, although his admitted actions clearly warranted it. Since that meeting, I have not heard from Father Cutié nor has he requested to meet with me. He has never told me that he was considering joining the Episcopal Church.

I must also express my sincere disappointment with how Bishop Leo Frade of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida has handled this situation. Bishop Frade has never spoken to me about his position on this delicate matter or what actions he was contemplating. I have only heard from him through the local media. This truly is a serious setback for ecumenical relations and cooperation between us. The Archdiocese of Miami has never made a public display when for doctrinal reasons Episcopal priests have joined the Catholic Church and sought ordination. In fact, to do so would violate the principles of the Catholic Church governing ecumenical relations. I regret that Bishop Frade has not afforded me or the Catholic community the same courtesy and respect.

In my nearly 50 years as a priest, I have often preached on Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son – which really should be called the parable of the Forgiving Father (Luke 15, 11-32). Perhaps the story told by the Lord so long ago is applicable to our discussions this afternoon.

A father had two sons. One of them took his inheritance early and left home, spending his money wantonly. The father waited patiently for the return of his prodigal son, who after he had seen the error of his ways, repented and returned home. Upon his return, the father lovingly embraced him and called him his son. I pray that Father Cutié will “come to his senses” (Luke 15, 17) and return home. The Catholic Church seeks the conversion and salvation of sinners, not their condemnation. The same is my attitude toward Father Cutié.

We must not forget, however, that there were two sons in the Lord’s story. The other son, who never left home, was angry that his erring brother was welcomed home by the father. To all faithful Catholics, I say what the father said to this second son: “You are with me always and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice. This brother of yours was dead and has come back to life. He was lost, and is found” (Luke 15, 31-32).

In this beautiful parable Jesus teaches us that God is a loving and forgiving Father. Each of us has experienced that love, each of us needs that forgiveness; for we are all sinners. If our brother comes home, let us celebrate with the Father.

In conclusion, I commend and salute the priests of the Archdiocese of Miami and all priests who faithfully live and fulfill their promise of celibacy. By their fidelity to their promise they reflect more clearly to the world the Christ whose total gift of himself to the Father was pure and chaste love for his brothers and sisters. In our times so pre-occupied with sex, the gift of celibacy is all the more a sign of the Kingdom of Heaven where, as scripture says, there will be “no marrying or giving in marriage” (Matthew 22, 30). I encourage all Catholics to pray for and support our dedicated priests.
Given the faculties of a deacon by his new bishop, Cutié will preach his first sermon as an Episcopalian on Sunday morning at a Miami parish.

Al Diaz/Miami Herald(1); AP(2)


For President's Pick, a Papal (Nuncio's) Blessing

In an unplanned intervention here at CUA, the papal nuncio to Washington Archbishop Pietro Sambi leaped to the mic for a second time during this morning's program to note the "wonderful and unexpected coincidence" of Miguel Diaz's nomination as the next US ambassador to the Holy See on the eve of today's symposium for the 25th anniversary of Vatican-Washington relations.

"I would like to express to [Diaz] my congratulations and best wishes," Sambi said, "as his partner on the other side to collaborate with him on what is our main reason of life: to improve relations."

The unexpected move was the nuncio's first public comment on an action of the Obama administration since it came to office. As the Holy See's representative to the US government, Sambi was present at the 44th President's inauguration on 20 January.

Multiple sources with advance knowledge of the administration's move have confirmed that Diaz received the Vatican's clearance to be named in advance of the announcement. What's more, one well-informed church official added an unsolicited, categorical denial of widely-circulated rumors earlier this spring that the Holy See had given a thumbs-down to multiple other names for the posting.

And now, to lunch.


Scenes from the Pryz

Live from Catholic U... lots to type, but in the meantime, a livestream of today's talks and panels is up and running.

SVILUPPO: Among other morning developments....
  • In the same room where the Pope addressed the nation's Catholic educators just over a year ago, Archbishop Pietro Sambi's opening talk quoted heavily both from B16's reflections after his Stateside trip last spring, noting along the way that the Pope's praise of the US' "healthy secularism" where the church "can carry out its mission with freedom and commitment" and serve, too, as a "critical conscience" was the same "argument" he developed several months later on his visit to France. By the same coin, "democracy can only flourish," Sambi said, echoing the pontiff, "when political leaders and those they represent are guided by truth and bring the wisdom born of firm moral principle to decisions affecting the life and future of the nation." "In a world without truths, democracy loses its foundation," the Vatican envoy added, quoting Pope John Paul II.
  • Tapped to explain the historical context of the day's observance, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York recalled that, on Pio Laghi's elevation to ambassador-level status, the Holy See's first pro-nuncio to the States remarked that all the move changed was that he could "enter the White House by the front door, in the daytime -- and he had to get a better suit." While the name of the current incumbent of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was conspicuous by its absence for the symposium's first hour-plus, Dolan -- himself a onetime aide at the DC nunciature -- leaned heavily on the import of courtesy in fostering US-Vatican partnership his remarks; in 1893, the Gotham prelate noted, it was Rome's lending of maps to the Great Columbian Exhibition in Chicago that paved the way to the Holy See's long-sought establishment of an Apostolic Delegation at Washington to oversee the American church on-ground. Noting that progress rarely came easy, Dolan added that the establishment of a papal mission came four decades after a disastrous yearlong investigatory visit by a Vatican emissary that resulted in a fanning of "vile anti-Catholicism" (riots included) and was termed a "blunder from every point of view" by the then-archbishop of St Louis, the long-reigning Peter Richard Kenrick.
  • In the morning's first reference to last night's announcement of President Obama's intent to nominate Cuban-born theologian Miguel Diaz as the nation's next ambassador to the Holy See, CUA President Fr David O'Connell CM said that the move's timing added to the day's "exciting" feel. Of the eight Stateside legates since full relations were established in 1984, three are here, all of them appointees of Republican administrations: Ambassadors Thomas Melady (1989-93), Jim Nicholson (2001-05), and this morning's keynote speaker: the post's last occupant, Mary Ann Glendon, who served from early 2008 until her return to Boston in January. When a panel of the Villa Richardson alums was asked about Diaz's arrival on the scene, Melady blessed the nominee's resumé and voiced his hopes for the post's designated next occupant. In her first major US turn since declining Notre Dame's Laetare Medal due to the President's appearance at the university's commencement, Glendon added that Diaz should realize that, on his arrival, "he is inserting himself into an ongoing operation" -- noting the two powers' continuing efforts to, among others, combat human trafficking. "Great opportunities" exist in the post, she said, "concerning not so much the Holy See, but the other ambassadors who are present" -- especially those from Latin America -- in the hope of finding "fruitful new ground."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Capital Briefing

Good evening from the nation's capital... where tonight's announcement of the President's pick to represent the States at the Vatican has only heightened the profile of tomorrow's Catholic University of America daylong symposium to commemorate the 25th anniversary of full diplomatic relations between the US and the Holy See.

Sure, the actual milestone passed quietly in early January. Given everything that's happened since, however, the event's timing was a masterstroke.

While CUA plans to have tape of the day's talks up and running by the evening -- and even C-SPAN might well be jumping in, to boot -- full coverage of the event will unfold here in real-time tomorrow, so stay tuned for it... and because not a thing 'round these parts could happen without 'em, another huge word of thanks to everyone whose generous support keeps what you're seeing up and running.

(And to said page-savers and e.mailers a quick word: yes, you're still owed a behind-the-scenes thanks... and it'll be yours soon. Please forgive the hold-up; suffice it to say, these days have been even more chaotic than usual, and this fried-brain scribe can't wait to catch a breather to begin sorting through the back-office mess.)

In the meantime, however, tonight your daily feed comes again from the place where no less than B16 himself first begged down a "new Pentecost" on the Stateside church during last year's PopeTrip to these shores.

With the feast of the Spirit's descent -- the "birthday of the church" -- returning this weekend, it's still not too late to return to the First Novena that preceded it, that through "a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit" on us all and our bringing It to the world, He might continue to renew the face of this earth.


Obama to Vatican: "Buenos Diaz"

Building on the report below, it's happened.

After 8pm tonight, the White House announced a slate of President Obama's intended nominees for several high-profile posts.

Among the group, Miguel Diaz -- a systematic theologian and Rahner specialist currently on the faculty of Benedictine-run St John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota -- was revealed as the President's choice to become the US ambassador to the Holy See.

Pending his approval by the (Catholic-chaired) Senate Foreign Relations Committee and confirmation by the full body, the 45 year-old Havana-born scholar who rose from humble roots in Miami would become the first Latino to hold the post as Hispanics continue their ascent as the majority bloc of the nation's 65 million Catholics.

In an interview with Catholic News Service at Obama's inauguration, Diaz said he was looking forward "to moving beyond the politics of fear to the politics of hope." He said Obama was "committed to working" with people who defend "life in the womb" and deeply respects people who hold positions he does not agree with.

"Wherever we can, we should advance life at all stages," Diaz said.

Reached at his home Wednesday, Diaz read a brief statement expressing gratitude for the opportunity and saying, "I wish to be a diplomatic bridge between our nation and the Holy See, and if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, I will continue the work of my predecessors and build on 25 years of excellent relations with the Holy See."

He declined to answer questions about his positions on issues, saying it would be inappropriate before his confirmation hearing....

The son of a waiter and a data-entry operator, Diaz was the first person in his family to attend college. He taught religious studies and theology at Barry University, the University of Dayton and Notre Dame. From 2001 to 2003, he was academic dean at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Fla.

Diaz is fluent in English, Spanish and Italian. He is past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States, and a father of four.

According to public records, Diaz donated $1,000 to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint committee of Obama and the Democratic National Committee. He served on the Obama campaign's Catholic advisory board.

The Diaz nomination is the West Wing's second prominent nod to Latino Catholics in as many days: yesterday, the President nominated Federal Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor of New York to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the retirement of Justice David Souter.

While the SCOTUS pick's practice of the faith is somewhat unclear, pending confirmation the 1972 valedictorian of the Bronx's Cardinal Spellman High School would become the first Hispanic ever to sit on the high court and, seemingly, the current top bench's sixth Catholic among its nine justices.

As a whole, Hispanics broke 2-to-1 for the winner at November's presidential election.

At America, Michael Sean Winters -- a generally positive ad intra voice on the administration, but also a notable critic of Obama's "Domesday" speech at Notre Dame -- welcomes the pick... albeit with a caveat:
Of course, Mr. Diaz is not being sent to Rome as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He is going to represent our country. His choice was unexpected, certainly, but the selection shows that the Obama team, which has so far had an uneven relationship with Catholic concerns, was not going to waste this appointment on a fundraiser and reduce the ambassadorship to a sinecure. Mr. Diaz is a serious Catholic, he has served as Academic Dean of the seminary in Boynton Beach, and a professor at several Catholic universities....

I think appointing a theologian is a bit of a risk. The Obama team has tended to rely on the Leftie Catholic choir, which is not always the best judge of hierarchic or Vatican sensibilities. That choir also tends to bring its baggage in the form of a track record of support for liberal concerns in areas such as ecclesiology or the ordination of women, which raise red flags in Rome and at the USCCB....

Still, I am sure the Vatican will be pleased that President Obama has selected a man of substance and of faith as its ambassador. He was not my candidate but he is a fine choice.

PHOTO: St John's University


Obama Fills the Villa?

Greetings from the road to Washington. Literally.

On the eve of tomorrow's CUA symposium commemorating the silver anniversary of US-Vatican diplomatic relations (i.e. the reason for your narrator's current coordinates), President Obama has reportedly settled on his choice of the nation's next ambassador to the Holy See...

...and if you thought the church-circle chatter over the freshly-unveiled Supreme Court nominee would be interesting, just wait.

No announcement has yet come from the White House, but one is expected shortly. Given the timing of the buzz, the Administration is likely hoping to have its nominee in place at Villa Richardson by Obama's expected 8 July meeting with Pope Benedict at the Vatican.

Apologies for the linkless post -- this is what happens when no wi-fi's to be found and you've gotta post from
your phone...

More as it happens; as always, stay tuned.

SVILUPPO: After 8pm tonight, the White House announced that the President intends to nominate Miguel Diaz -- a professor of theology at St John's University in Collegeville -- as the next US ambassador to the Holy See.


History in the Lehigh Valley: A Non-Philadelphian to Allentown

Just last week, Bishop Fran Malooly of Wilmington named the diocese's longtime Chancellor, Msgr John Barres, to his first pastorate....

This morning, however, Pope Benedict named the 48 year-old cleric as the fourth bishop of Allentown.

While Holy Child on Naamans Road loses out on the deal, the Lehigh Valley church of 275,000 gets its locals' oft-stated wish leading up to today's move: for the first time in its 48 year history, its ordinary will hail from somewhere other than the archdiocese of Philadelphia, from which the five upstate counties were spun off in 1961.

No shortage of Allentowners might've hailed the end of River City domination this morning, but indeed, it's still all in the family -- they've got Channel 6 in the First State, too, you know... even if its ecclesial culture is markedly different.

Baptized by Fulton Sheen, the New York native -- a son of Protestant converts and product of both the famed WASP bastion Andover Academy and Princeton University -- becomes the first Wilmington priest to leave as a bishop since 1900, when local boy Benjamin Keiley was sent to lead the diocese of Savannah, which then encompassed all of Georgia and Florida.

Ordained in 1989, Barres (pronounced "BARR-is") succeeds Bishop Edward Cullen, who reached the retirement age of 75 in March 2008. A social worker with a Harvard MBA, Cullen took care of some tough calls over recent years that leave the diocese in better shape for his successor, most notably overseeing a parish consolidation effort that, with heavy lay input, slimmed its church-count by nearly a third, from 151 to 104.

A veteran of the Wilmington chancery with additional degrees from Washington's Theological College at Catholic University, an NYU MBA in management and Opus Dei's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, the bishop-elect was named vice-chancellor of the Diamond State diocese in 1999 and its chancellor the following year. The Ivy alum is likewise fluent in Italian, French and Spanish; with the Allentown church's Hispanic contingent having exploded over the last decade, the latter is of particular import.

The home-diocese of two rising stars of the Stateside bench -- Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville and Bishop Ronald Gainer of Lexington -- for the first time Allentown receives a bishop who isn't already a bishop. In that light, the Cathedral of St Catherine of Siena will host its first-ever episcopal ordination along with Barres' installation rites on 30 July.

On a related note, last week Cullen named a new rector for the diocesan seat: Msgr Andrew Baker, who's returning home from a decade of service at the Congregation for Bishops, where he became the head of the mitre-making dicastery's English desk.

The customary Appointment Day presser has been called for 11am at the Allentown cathedral.

Likewise this morning, the Pope named Msgr Lee Piché, vicar-general of the archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis, as the lone auxiliary for the Twin Cities' church of 850,000.

Named Archbishop John Nienstedt's top assistant last year, the bishop-elect, 51, marked his silver jubilee as a priest yesterday. A Columbia grad in philosophy and former professor of it at St Thomas Seminary, Piché's served as a pastor in three parishes, including one alongside the vicar-general's post.

The bishop-elect will be ordained on 29 June, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

SVILUPPO: From Wilmington, a "very proud" Malooly sends off Allentown's bishop-elect with high praise:
In Bishop-elect Barres, the Church of Allentown will receive a shepherd who is deeply spiritual, exceptional in his theology and dedicated to his ministry.

In my first year in the Diocese of Wilmington he has shepherded and guided me around the diocese. In that time I have seen his pastoral concern, much like The Curé of Ars. When we would enter a church before a Saturday or Sunday Mass and he would see people standing in line for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, he would immediately go into one of the other confessionals to help minister that sacrament.

You receive a bishop with a missionary spirit not unlike Saint Paul. He is always looking to see how he can invite others to experience the Lord in their lives. You will quickly discover why, for twenty years of priesthood, he has been one of the most loved and respected priests of our diocese.
PHOTO: Diocese of Allentown


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

For Pope2You, a Pope-Less Launch

On Sunday's World Communications Day, somebody behind the walls flipped a switch and threw open the doors to Pope2You, the Holy See's Web 2.0 portal.

Even so, the moment marked yet another blown opportunity by the Vatican media shop, and even upwards -- if they were really serious about the new venture, the launch honors would've been done by B16 himself.

Sure, he takes pride in being the "Pope of Words," but into his pontificate's fifth year, while shots exist of Joseph Ratzinger tickling the ivories in the white robes, speaking to the press at 35,000 feet, examining manuscripts at the Vatican Library and appearing in the studios (above) of Vatican Radio (itself launched by a Pope in 1931), never once has the reigning pontiff been captured at a keyboard -- ergo, for all his newfound bullishness on the import of new technology, the message will ring hollow until a laptop appears, even fleetingly, on the Apartment's main desk and the world gets to see it.

Not for nothing, after all, does Pius XII's beloved typewriter remain enshrined at the Home Office.

Granted, Benedict's never been the tech-savvy type -- any cyber-work he's needed has always been handled by aides. Yet while words go a long way, the computer screen is more like its boob-tube predecessor than tends to be realized; the web might be more conducive to text than TV, but it still relies heavily on visuals to back up the words and give them life. When you mix in the nature of a church whose message-strategy leans so heavily upon the central figure of Peter's successor and his charge to "strengthen [his] brothers" -- and the current Pauline Year B16 designated in tribute to the church's first "great communicator" -- the Pope's assurances earlier this year of having "learned the lesson that... the Holy See will have to pay greater attention" to the internet, both as information-source and communion-builder, only amp up the reality that the pledge's concrete proof depends directly on tangible reinforcement from the top.

After January's debut of the Vatican's Google-built YouTube channel, Sunday's launch marked this year's second rollout of a major add-on to the Holy See's web presence. Yet even as it remains the Apartment's custom for a photo to be taken and released of the Pope signing his major documents on the day of their publication to underscore the weight they carry, the newly-intensified 'net outreach that bears Benedict's name and image still waits on the same treatment... and 'til that change comes, for all the time and energy put into it, the effort's intent to connect will just continue to fall flat.

Bottom line: what's a Pope2You without the Pope?


Monday, May 25, 2009

Killed On Mission: An Oblate "Saint"

As the Stateside crowd pauses today to remember our civil fallen, it's worth recalling that the church's own continue to give their lives as they serve in harm's way, too.

In that light, long known for "taking risks" to aid those in need, Oblate of Mary Immaculate Fr Larry Rosebaugh was shot and killed in a carjacking last week in Guatemala, where he lived and worked with the poor for the better part of three decades.

A veteran activist for peace and the marginalized, the 74 year-old Wisconsin native dubbed "Lorenzo" recently received permission to return to the States, where he planned to work the fields in his boyhood home of St Louis.
Rosebaugh lived through two civil wars, and most of his days were marked by the violence of the Latin America slums where he worked, ate and slept. And yet his life was dedicated to nonviolence and peace. For those who loved Rosebaugh, that made the end of his life all the more poignant.

"Lorenzo's violent and unexpected death has given us another saint," said the Rev. Vicente Louwagie, the Oblates' provincial superior in Mexico.

At Rosebaugh's funeral Wednesday, in a suburb of Guatemala City, Louwagie described the priest as "a mix between St. John the Baptist and St. Francis of Assisi," according to Catholic News Service, "from his smile, his eyes, to his unforgettable flowing white beard."

Bob Graf, a friend from Milwaukee, had known Rosebaugh since the 1960s. "He was a very simple, humble person, and he radiated a gentleness and kindness," Graf said.

Details of the murder were vague — a roadside robbery gone awry, or possibly a failed carjacking. An official at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City said she could not comment.

Various English-language news reports said gunmen opened fire on Rosebaugh — who was driving — and four other Oblates on Monday evening as they drove to a meeting about 300 miles north of the capital. The men stole the equivalent of $125, a cell phone and some religious ornaments.

A Guatemalan newspaper, Prensa Libre, reported that the masked gunmen fired when the priests refused their command to stop, killing Rosebaugh and wounding a Congolese Oblate, the Rev. Jean Claude Nowama.

The robbery was not unusual for Oblates working in Guatemala, especially in the north, where the order's priests previously have been stopped by thieves. Nevertheless, by the end of the week, some of Rosebaugh's friends began questioning whether there were political motives behind his murder....

Linking Rosebaugh's murder to his political advocacy for the poor came naturally for those who knew the skinny, soft-spoken, bespectacled man, who sported thrift-store clothes and a huge, bushy white beard, and whose life thoroughly blended the political and the holy.

"He was driven by his desire to be with the poor," said Mary Lou Pedersen, a friend from Chicago. "That's where he wanted to be and that's where he went."
Among tributes to Rosebaugh came one from his Oblate confrere and seminary classmate, now Cardinal Francis George of Chicago.

The murdered priest's work "was not just philanthropy," the USCCB chief told the St Louis Post-Dispatch.

"He was a voice for Christ among the poor."

PHOTO: OMI Communications/St Louis Post-Dispatch


Sunday, May 24, 2009

In Remembrance

This Memorial Day weekend, the nation pauses to recall the sacrifice of its fallen -- one which, 233 years into its history, continues even into the present.

In tribute to the hundreds of thousands who've given their lives on the battlefield -- especially the almost 400 servicemen and women killed on-duty in Iraq and Afghanistan since last May's end -- the DC-based archdiocese for the Military Services held its annual Memorial Day Mass last week at Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception:
"We remember those who gave their lives for us. They left selfishness behind in service of a higher ideal," said Archbishop Timothy Broglio, archbishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA....

About 1,800 military personnel, their families and others attended the Mass.

"We gather as an archdiocesan family to place before His throne of grace those who have gone before us in magnificent service to this nation," Archbishop Broglio said. "We also pray for peace and for those in harm's way."

The archbishop called on those at the Mass to show others the same love that Jesus shows them.

"The true source of love is God. The challenge for us is to remain in the love that Jesus transmits to us," Archbishop Broglio said. Recalling that "Jesus gave up His life for His friends, regardless of their appreciation," the archbishop reminded those at the National Shrine "to love as Jesus loved. To do that, we must first welcome His heart into our hearts."

That love, he added, must include the survivors of those who have died in the line of duty as well as those who have been injured or maimed by battle. Archbishop Broglio urged those at the Mass to "pray for them and practice compassion."

The prelate said Memorial Day offers a "concrete reminder" to pray for the dead, respect life, and care for families of military personnel killed in action, those suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disease and those wounded in battle.

Noting that the Church is still celebrating Easter, the archbishop called the "Easter victory" a "gracious gift of our loving Father" that is "a victory over sin and death with the promise of eternal life."

Recalling his recent pastoral visit to Iraq, Kuwait and military bases throughout Europe, Archbishop Broglio noted that he is "shepherd of one-quarter of those stationed down range." He said that in meeting with the servicemen and women, he discovered they have the same prayer intentions: the safety of their family, friends, members of their unit and to return home safely.

The Mass included the posting and the retiring of the Colors, the singing of the National Anthem and America the Beautiful and the mournful sounding of Taps for those who died this past year....

Prior to the Mass, military personnel, their families and others, gathered for a recitation of the rosary, offering prayers for the country, wounded and deceased military members and victims of war.

Archbishop Broglio also made a plea for more priests to serve in the Military Archdiocese. He said military priests are needed to "make sure our men and women in uniform have access to the sacraments."
Encompassing all US military installations both at home and abroad, the AMS coordinates the pastoral care of the nation's 1.4 million Catholics in uniform.



Garden State = Ordination Country

Yet again, the nation's biggest bevy of new priests this Ordination Season belongs to the archdiocese of Newark, which welcomed welcomed 13 to the "Long Black Line" yesterday:
Ten of the men, ordained at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark by Archbishop John J . Myers, at a morning Mass in which they lay prostrate and were anointed with oil, were born in foreign countries. Three are from Colombia, two are from Nigeria, and one comes from each of the following nations: Italy, Ecuador, South Korea, the Dominican Republic and Hungary.

Increasingly, Catholic priests are foreign-born. About a quarter of the new priests being ordained nationally this year in the Catholic Church are from other nations.

In New Jersey, an ethnically diverse state, several of the priests from abroad likely will be assigned to parishes where large numbers speak their native language.

"Approximately one-third of the Catholics in the (Newark) Archdiocese are foreign-born, and approximately 40 percent are Latino," said Monsignor Robert Wister, a church historian at Seton Hall University. "Just as the people have come from other countries, so a great number of seminarians have."

Several of the foreign-born priests grew up in the United States. Others took years of church-sponsored English classes while seminarians.

The four other Roman Catholic dioceses in New Jersey also are ordaining priests this month. Last week, the Camden Diocese ordained two. Yesterday, the Metuchen Diocese ordained three, and the Paterson Diocese seven. Next Saturday, the Trenton Diocese will ordain three.

The Paterson Diocese's seven make up the diocese's largest ordination class since 1978, according to its bishop, Arthur Serratelli. Six are from other countries: three from Poland, one from the Philippines, one from Israel, and one from Colombia.

"I think it's great," Serratelli said of his new priests' origins. "I've noticed in parishes that people consider American parishes, we have a great influx of Latinos. So there's an even greater need for more Latino priests who speak Spanish."...

If the estimates provided by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University are correct, this will be the third year in the last five that the Newark Archdiocese has had the highest number of men being ordained [in the nation]. It had 17 ordained in 2006, and 13 in 2007.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee might be awaiting its eleventh archbishop, but the 700,000-member church yesterday saw its largest crop since 1992:

Six seminarians were ordained priests before an overflow crowd of more than 1,500 who hugged, wept and shook the cathedral's colonnades with applause during the 2 1/2 -hour ceremony.

"We are so blessed by this great flock of new priests. We're seeing a new day in which parents are happy to see their sons choose to come to the priesthood," said Auxiliary Bishop William Callahan, who presided over the ordination....

For many in the cathedral, the group's size made the ordination a sensation.

"This year's ordination is really significant both in the number and the quality. There were years over the last 10 or 15 years when we had one, two, none," said Father Donald Hying, rector at St. Francis de Sales Seminary, 3257 S. Lake Drive, St. Francis. "I just see a dynamism and vitality going forward in these men who are willing to lay down their lives for God."

"I have been crying for two days with excitement. There are so many ordained at once," said Bernadette Igl of Elkhorn, Strand's aunt, as she greeted friends and wiped away more tears.

For the candidates, the ordination was the end of a journey that started with what they all termed their "great call" to the priesthood.

"This lifts us all up," Esch said. "It's a sense that the renewal of the priesthood that started with Archbishop Timothy Dolan goes on. It means the church is alive and strong. God is still calling to men, and I'm grateful to God for the great call."

There was a sense of healing, too. Brandl said the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic priesthood were an obstacle that he had overcome to be a priest.

"I had to put what some people did to give the church a black eye behind me," Brandl said. "I didn't want anything to come between me and my Lord."

During his homily at the ceremony, Callahan urged Catholics to begin "rejoicing in the gift of the priesthood and celebrate its integrity."

All was silence as the seminarians prostrated themselves before the altar. But after Callahan formally presented the new priests vested in stoles and chasubles - the symbols of office - the crowd stood and gave out with applause that resounded even outside the cathedral....

There are more to come, said Hying, who has seen a steady increase in enrollment at the seminary since the early 2000s, a mirroring of a national trend. He expects St. Francis' enrollment to hit 41 by this fall, its largest in two decades, and for 40 or more priests to be ordained over the next six years.

St. Francis, founded in 1845, is the state's only diocesan seminary. At its peak, it served about 500 students in high school, college and seminary programs.

Hying sees in this latest class a "tremendous desire to serve God's people in earnestness, and to be holy without being stuffy or pietistic."

But on Saturday, this group saw even more. O'Connell said: "This day is a blessing."

In his first class for the 2.5 million-member Gotham church, the Beer City's former archbishop ordained three earlier this month, while the 2 million member archdioceses of Chicago and Boston respectively welcomed nine and six new priests this weekend.

And not to be forgotten, just across the Hudson from Devils Country, the diocese of Brooklyn celebrated 20 new permanent deacons yesterday, among them a chemist, high school teacher, construction manager... and, yep, a taxi driver.

PHOTO: MaryJo Walicki/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Friday, May 22, 2009

No Hardball Left Behind

With World Communications Day upon us, let's just say the excitement isn't what it could be.

No surprise there, of course: as the ecclesial barometer shakes out, enthusiasm for the media mostly tends to register somewhere just above "crickets"... maybe even just below.

Either way, you get the idea.

In a perfect world, though, WCD should be a perfect reminder for the various elements of the church to reach out beyond their house organs to the wider world, especially in these days when, nationally, less than a quarter of the church shows up at the weekend, and -- at least, where they still blessedly exist -- the demographics of diocesan-newspaper readerships portend anything but growth going forward.

Bottom line: as anything internal mostly preaches to the choir, reaching the rest means engaging with the secular, mainstream press.

Sure, that might cause some to hyperventilate, break out in hives, whatever... but fret not: as the old saying goes, 80 percent of it is just showing up.

The rest isn't as hard as it might look, and luckily, just in time for this weekend's observance, one of the relative handful of the bench who does it with ease and relish has taken to recording another master class.

On his fifth anniversary at the helm of the 550,000-member Camden diocese, Bishop Joseph Galante sat down earlier this month for a lengthy TV chat with the River City's Pat Ciarrocchi -- one of the few mainstream journos around who's a proud, public and unapologetic daughter of the church.

It's no softball-fest, however -- and as he faced down questions ranging from his response to "Obama Dame" and dwindling numbers in the pews to the Camden church's controversial reconfiguration that'll see its 124 parishes nearly slashed in half, it's clear that Galante wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

In each local church, it falls to the bishop to be the chief teacher. But a stream of statements is never that job in full -- at its best, accomplishing that task means taking the press and its interest seriously and eagerly, kindly and courageously.

We might not see as much of that as we should... but, suffice it to say, it's a work that desperately needs doing... because, well, when questions go unanswered, bad things happen.

Especially to the great folks on all sides who've given their lives and work to staying "on the story," every good wish for a Happy -- and, given the long weekend, relaxing -- World Communications Day.


First Mass, First Row

Lest anyone missed it, an hour-long highlight reel from yesterday's installation in Westminster is up and running....

On his first full day in the job, however, Vin Nichols already finds himself in a spat.

In interviews on the eve of his enthronement, the new head of the English church responded to Wednesday's release of the "very distressing and disturbing" Irish report on abuse in church-run residential and industrial schools.

After first sending his "heart out" to the victims whose "stories are now told in public," Nichols said he was likewise thinking "of those in religious orders and some of the clergy in Dublin who have to face these facts from their past, which instinctively and quite naturally they'd rather not look at.

"That takes courage," he added. "And also we shouldn't forget that this account today will also overshadow all of the good that they also did."

In response, the archbishop of Dublin launched an "unprecedented rebuke" across the Irish Sea:

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin described as "unhelpful" comments made by the new Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols.

The comments were also angrily condemned by victims in the wake of the major report on decades of abuse.

Dr Martin distanced himself completely from Archbishop Nichols' clumsy intervention.

"His comments, as reported, have not been helpful," Archbishop Martin told the Irish Independent.

"My thoughts and anger are entirely on the side of victims," he added.

"They are the real heroes of this story by finding the courage to come forward".

In an attempt to "defuse" the situation, a spokesman for the Westminster church underscored yesterday that, in his interventions, Nichols "unequivocally condemned all abuse, and his heart goes out to all those who have been abused."

London's archbishop likewise held that "the perpetrators of abuse should be held to account, and where the offences demand such action the perpetrator should face legal and police processes."

As for Dublin, however, this isn't the first time Martin has sided with victim-survivors protesting a prelate; as the Cloyne storm shook an already-tattered Irish church earlier this year, the former Vatican diplomat publicly embraced an Augustinian friar who made an "atonement walk" across the Isle, calling for the resignation of Cloyne's embattled Bishop John Magee after his mismanagement of accusations came to light.

Having refused to resign his post, Rome stripped Magee of his authority in early March, allowing him to retain his title but entrusting the Cork diocese's governance to an apostolic administrator.

* * *
On another London note, while Nichols experiences the first storm of his tenure in the British capital, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor fulfilled his "minor ambition" yesterday -- namely, becoming the first holder of the English church's top post ever to "get out alive."

Now getting situated at a retirement flat, the first archbishop-emeritus of Westminster realized he needed to learn how to cook, so the BBC went along as the cardinal took a lesson from one of the capital's top chefs.

PHOTOS: PA/Fiona Hanson


Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Lost Cause"? Call Rita

For the world beyond South Philadelphia -- and, for that matter, Staten Island -- tomorrow's the feast of St Rita of Cascia, a patroness of peace, healing, forgiveness... and, as no shortage of Italians will testify, "lost and hopeless causes."

Usually, finding a parking spot on the River City's Broad Street over these days of her Novena is one of the latter. But as the 15th century mother-turned-Augustinian mystic's national shrine there fills up 'round the clock with devotees this week -- all culminating in tonight's candlelight vigil and tomorrow's six Masses -- the faithful take matters into their own hands and park on the medians, the curbs, blocking fireplugs, atop fireplugs, seemingly wherever they can fit.

Of course, that's normally more than enough to get one's car ticketed or towed... but the miracles of Rita's intercession clearly continue -- year after year, the cars are rarely touched.

For all that's good in it, gang, we live in a world where shattered bonds, broken homes, great sufferings and dire realities take a daily toll, sometimes outside our window, sometimes in ways that've impacted our own lives. Thing is, though, when any of these touch any one of us, the entire body of the church is impacted, so helping our own find what they need to become whole again is a priority for us all... because only when all the rest are whole can we really be, too.

Whatever anyone's needs might be along those lines, the Novena Prayers are yours... so to those who could use one, here's to a shower of roses on St Rita's Day and always.


L'Osservatore "Simply Observes"

For all the firestorm that surrounded its run-up, not until post-Domesday did the Holy See's house organ L'Osservatore Romano venture a comment on President Obama's appearance at Notre Dame... and, indeed, a positive review at that, praising the commencement speaker for seeking "common ground" on abortion and departing from the "strident tone" of the campaign trail.

While the "papal paper" likewise ran a piece in Monday's pages to laud the US bishops' recently-launched campaign against the embryonic stem-cell research guidelines released by the pro-choice Democratic administration, the South Bend note -- coming on top of last month's relatively sanguine front-page editorial on Obama's first 100 days (which, it said, "didn't shake the world") -- has garnered downplaying, incredulity or downright scorn from critics on these shores, who've taken to wondering whether the outlet that's been Vatican-owned since 1885 has somehow drifted into schism.

(Shown at right is the paper's cover from last 5 November, when the paper's front-page analysis said that the prior night's election "will be compared, maybe even rightfully, to events like the fall of the Berlin Wall.")

Seemingly reflecting the paper's concern over the reaction to its so-dubbed "foolishness" -- calls for the editor's head included -- its lead hand has made a rare extra murem appearance to explain L'Osservatore's line.

In an interview with Il Riformista's Paolo Rodari -- one of the current Curia's "court scribes" in the Italian press -- Gian Maria Vian took a FOCA-centric view of things, seeing the Notre Dame speech as a reassuring sign that the bill nullifying state restrictions on abortion "is not a priority" in the West Wing:
“Obama has not upset the world,” he said. “His speech at Notre Dame has been respectful toward every position. He tried to engage the debate stepping out from every ideological position and outside every ‘confrontational mentality.’ To this extent his speech is to be appreciated.”

Vian continued, “Let me be clear, L’Osservatore stands where the American bishops are: we consider abortion a disaster. We must promote, always and at every level a ‘culture of life’.”

“What I want to stress is that yesterday, on this precise and very delicate issue, the President said that the approval of the new law on abortion is not a priority of his administration. The fact that he said that is very reassuring to me. It also underlines my own clear belief: Obama is not a pro-abortion [abortista -- "abortionist"] president,” he told Rodari.

“This is our policy, the way we inform. If a national bishops’ conference says something, we report it.” However, he continued, it is “appropriate to present other perspectives” to the readers so they can accurately judge "international information.”

According to Rodari, "the words of Vian are important. Because they speak about a confrontation between Obama and the Catholic Church which for now seems to be limited mainly [to] part of the American episcopate. A confrontation that the Holy See neither approves nor disapproves. Simply observes."
In an effort to "remake" the paper's stale image, Pope Benedict named Vian, 56, -- a scholar of historic Christianity -- to L'Osservatore's helm in late September 2007. (Intriguingly enough, the frequent editorialist had been serving on the faculty of Rome's La Sapienza University -- where Pope Benedict was forced to cancel a planned lecture early last year after heated student protests -- before taking the newsroom post.)

Since his appointment, the editor's largely been given an open tab by his superiors, among other things introducing color and more coverage of culture to the pages, including a November article commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Beatles' "White Album."

As Vian himself has confirmed in the past, however, Osservatore pieces that touch on international relations must be cleared by the Vatican's Secretariat of State before they can run in print.

On a related note, buzz in the circles tips a meeting between the Pope and President for 8 July, prior to the day's opening of the G8 Summit in quake-ravaged L'Aquila.


"The Lord Vincent"

Using the ancient rite that's long installed the archbishops of Canterbury, Vincent Gerard Nichols was enthroned this morning at Westminster Cathedral as the eleventh primate of England and Wales since the Reformation.

With the 63 year-old formally at the reins, Pope Benedict's appointees now sit in four of the English-speaking world's top six ecclesial posts.

Britain's Catholic Herald has full coverage in real time, including the text of Nichols' homily, given below.

* * *
My brothers and sisters, I welcome you and I thank you all for coming to Westminster Cathedral today. I appreciate the presence and the prayers of each of you. I greet and thank the Apostolic Nuncio, here representing the Holy Father. Through him, I thank Pope Benedict for the confidence that he has placed in me in making this appointment and for his blessing as I take it up.

I thank the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl Marshal, for his presence and Lord Guthrie for representing the Prince of Wales. We are honoured that you are here. I am grateful also to Mr Paul Murphy, here representing the Prime Minister. I appreciate too the presence of politicians and civic leaders. I salute all the bishops, priests and deacons who are here, especially Their Eminences Cardinal Mahony from Los Angeles, Cardinal O'Brien of St Andrews and Edinburgh and Cardinal Seán Brady from Armagh. I am so glad to see so many fellow church leaders and leaders of other Faiths, from the West Midlands and, of course, from London. I thank Archbishop Rowan for his gracious words of welcome, too. I thank the BBC for broadcasting this ceremony live on television and I greet all those joining us at home.

May I also express my deep appreciation to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor for the very warm welcome that he has given to me and for his unfailing encouragement and support. Much more importantly, on behalf of so many, I want to salute the tremendous contribution he has made both to the Diocese of Westminster and to the Catholic Church nationally and internationally in his years as Archbishop of Westminster. His leadership has been unflinching and often very courageous, and I know that he will always have a special place in our affections and prayers.

The readings of the Scriptures that we have heard today centre on the figure of St Paul and we have heard Paul's own account of his dramatic conversion to Christ on the road to Damascus. It is a story of great power and one from which we can draw much encouragement.

In the first place, we learn that Paul was, "a zealous believer in God". His conversion then was not to belief in God but to belief in God's full presence in Jesus Christ.

This fact is important to us all. Through life-long belief, Paul was already open to the things of God, ready to recognise the touch of the Divine in the unexpected.

This is the true nature of the belief in God: it opens us to all that lies beyond. It's a constant invitation to go beyond our immediate knowledge and awareness, and even our current commitments. Faith in God is not, as some would portray it today, a narrowing of the human mind or spirit. It is precisely the opposite. Faith in God is the gift that takes us beyond our limited self, with all its incessant demands. It opens us to a life that stretches us, enlightens us, and often springs surprises upon us. Such faith, like love, sees that which is invisible and lives by it.

From Paul, then, we learn that the inner life of each one of us is crucial for our wellbeing. In our hearts we need the same openness to God as he had. This is expressed in daily moments of tranquillity and prayer when we regain a true sense of proportion, recognising afresh that God alone fulfils our deepest yearnings. Without such moments we quickly lose a sense of who we truly are.

It is before God that we gather here today, that he may touch and heal us.

But let us return to the Damascus road. Paul hears remarkable words: 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?' He recognises the voice of the Lord. Now he has to embrace the real identification between the risen Christ and the community of Christians he is persecuting. This is a troubling identification and it remains so today. Those who embrace belief in Christ Jesus are bound together in Him, in a real yet incomplete way, in his Body, the Church.

Faith is never a solitary activity nor can it be simply private. Faith in Christ always draws us into a community and has a public dimension. This community of faith reaches beyond ethnicity, cultural difference and social division, opening for us a vision of ourselves, and of our society, as having a single source and a single fulfilment. Indeed this vision of faith is expressed powerfully by St Paul when, in his letter to the Galatians, he says that in Christ, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus". This is a vision of true social cohesion, a promise which lies ahead and a signpost of which churches construct, Sunday by Sunday, with their communities of unity in diversity.

Faith builds community and it expresses itself in action. As a society, if we are to build on this gift of faith, we must respect its outward expression not only in honouring individual conscience but also in respecting the institutional integrity of the communities of faith in what they bring to public service and to the common good. Only in this way will individuals, families and faith communities become whole-hearted contributors to building the society we rightly seek.

Paul's conversion on the Damascus Road has a third aspect to it. His life is now centred on Christ and the Church. But he also grasps a truth about all creation. And he wants to share it.

In Christ his mind is now open, even to pagan philosophy. He now has the courage and the determination to go, for example, to the Areopagus in Athens and engage with the Greek philosophers. He struggles to find the language in which the insights and light of Christian faith can be brought into dialogue with the finest minds of his age.

As we know, his attempts at the Areopagus were not very successful. Yet this is a reminder of the task facing us all: that of the intense dialogue across faiths and our contemporary world.

At the heart of Paul's effort in Athens was an appeal to reason. He did not seek to impose his beliefs, nor exploit anxiety or fear. Rather he had learned that his faith in Christ was compatible with the mind's capacity for reasoned thought. Indeed it complemented it. Some today propose that faith and reason are crudely opposed, with the fervour of faith replacing good reason. This reduction of both faith and reason inhibits not only our search for truth but also the possibility of real dialogue. In contrast, as Pope John Paul memorably said: 'Faith and reason are the two wings on which the human spirit soars.' (Fides et Ratio n.1)

This dialogue needs to go beyond the superficial and the slogans. Respectful dialogue is crucial today and I salute all who seek to engage in it. In this the media have such an important part to play, not by accentuating difference and conflict, but by enhancing creative conversation. Let us be a society in which we genuinely listen to each other, in which sincere disagreement is not made out to be insult or harassment, in which reasoned principles are not construed as prejudice and in which we are prepared to attribute to each other the best and not the worst of motives. In these matters, we ourselves in the Churches have so much to learn and do.

Yet we also have much to contribute.

Paul's experience of the Risen Christ fired him with a new enthusiasm, a powerful commitment to the truth of humanity made clear in Christ. It was this experience that enabled Paul to face all the challenges of life with what he called 'the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus.'

This knowledge, which is of love, discloses the true worth of our humanity, our real dignity. This is its supreme advantage. For we human beings are not plasticine figures, to be moulded into shape at the hands of a political ideology, or under economic demands. Nor, at the end of the day, can we shape ourselves as we please, according to fashion or our untutored desires. We are not self-made. Our humanity, thankfully, is more deeply rooted and therefore resilient. Indeed our humanity is a gift to be respected not only from its beginnings to its natural end, but also in the other ethical demands it places on us all. Tragically this humanity is often corrupted and distorted, by the misuse of power, by every evil and disaster. But so often we see that the miracle of love is stronger than such corruption. Love has the power to reveal again the depth and truth of our humanity. This is achieved in the enduring love of parent for a wayward child, in the love of friend or spouse faithful through every crisis, and in the unconditional love given by the saint, often to the poorest and most forgotten.

This is the love given supremely in Christ, and in him crucified. In Him we find an unambiguous declaration, a manifesto, of our humanity in its full stature. And this manifesto is not a pamphlet but a person. It is, therefore, an invitation to know Him and be known by Him, to love Him and be loved by Him and so with Him find the fullness of life.

In Christ we see a maturity of love that flowers in self-sacrifice and forgiveness; a maturity of power that never swerves from the ideal of service; a maturity of goodness that overcomes every temptation, and, of course, we see the ultimate victory of life over death itself. In Christ our true destiny is proclaimed in the resurrection of the dead and his promised eternal fulfilment of life in the new heaven and new earth.

The paradox of faith is that when we conform our lives to Christ then we gain our true freedom. And its fruit is profound and lasting happiness. This is the testimony of the true disciples of Jesus, great and humble alike. It is a testimony which shines across the ages and still in our day.

As I take up this new office, I ask for God's blessing. May we be deeply rooted in the Lord, and, at the same time, open to every prompting of the Holy Spirit. As St Paul tells us: 'Be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind...think of other people's interests your minds be the same as Christ Jesus.' May this be the experience of every family, in all of our schools, and in our parishes. From this wellspring emerges a profound desire to reach out to all, to engage in the work of building a world that reflects a little more closely the compassion, the justice, the tender mercy of God. This is the inspiration of Christian faith and one that serves our society well. This is the vision to which I readily commit myself today and for which I ask for your prayers and cooperation.


PHOTO: Getty(3); Reuters(1.2)


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

In London, "Vincent Eve"

And so it begins -- a stone's throw from the Houses of Parliament, Vincent Nichols' installation as the eleventh archbishop of Westminster got underway earlier tonight with Solemn Vespers in what's formally called the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Precious Blood.

On his homecoming to the capital -- where he served as an auxiliary bishop from 1992 to 2000 -- the 63 year-old appointee to the top ecclesial post in England and Wales didn't come with a prepared homily, so fullaudio of Nichols' talk is available on-demand courtesy of Archbishop's House.

With four cardinals and the Church of England's archbishops of Canterbury and York both heading up a congregation of some 2,500, EWTN will stream tomorrow's Installation Mass, slated to begin at noon local time (1100GMT; 7am Eastern).

North of the Border, meanwhile, Scotland's last seminary has ordained its final class -- Scotus College in Bearsden is shutting its doors due to low enrollment.



In Bay City, "MoJo" Goes "Rockstar"

The ink still dry on the announcement, Joe Cistone got a standing-room welcome [video] as Ken Untener's latest successor in Mid-Michigan today (...and if seeing those two names in the same sentence doesn't make your head spin, nothing ever will):
More than 100 people waited with anticipation for Cistone, who arrived about 2 p.m. after visiting with the students at All Saints Central High School.

Upon hearing of Cistone's arrival, the crowd fell silent and stood at attention. He entered to applause and signs of welcome handed out by the diocese before his arrival.

"The way the kids treated me, you would have thought I was a rock star," Cistone told the standing-room-only crowd.

"He's here! He's here," shouted one woman as Cistone entered Langley Hall at St. James....

"With everyone applauding for me I have no place to go but down," Cistone began after the crowd was seated. "And, the way the kids treated me, you would have thought I was a rock star."...

On Wednesday, the crowd laughed with the bishop as he talked about his time in Philadelphia, getting the call telling him he was being named Bishop and taking questions from audience members on topics such as his favorite Italian dish and his plans for the diocese. The topic of sports also came up.

"Maybe that's why I was sent here - to pray for the Lions," Cistone joked.

As for his favorite fare, Cistone said he loves pasta, especially his mother's manicotti.

On a more serious note, Cistone said his plans for the Diocese include a continued focus on Catholic education and increased emphasis on the importance of the Eucharist. He said he will discover new priorities as he becomes more familiar with the diocese and its people.
Among the challenges awaiting the new arrival: maintaining the momentum of his immediate predecessor, Archbishop-elect Robert Carlson, whose four years in Saginaw included a spike in the diocese's contingent of seminarians from two to 30-plus.

Suffice it to say, it's a heady task ahead... so Go Joe.

PHOTO: Octavian Cantilli/Bay City Times


"A Shameful Catalogue of Cruelty"

In another damning report to fall on the scandal-scarred Irish church, a decade-long government inquest reported today that the physical and sexual abuse experienced by children over six decades in industrial and residential schools run by religious orders was "shameful and disturbing," alleging that the communities often "failed to accept" responsibility for their members' actions and judging the response of the civil authorities woefully insufficient.

Alongside its findings -- mostly culled from the testimonies of over 1,000 victims -- a state Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse recommended that a permanent memorial to the survivors be constructed, including within it the 1999 apology of then-Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern "for our collective failure to intervene, to detect their pain, to come to their rescue."

After the release, the Christian Brothers -- who've been accused of "stifling debate" on the findings even into the present -- apologized "openly and unreservedly" for their order's role, the Isle's Cardinal-Primate said he was "profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed that children suffered in such awful ways" in the schools, while the archbishop of Dublin called the victims' "stories of horrible abuse... stomach turning," and "their courage in telling their stories, admirable.

"This is not a report to be put on a shelf," Diarmuid Martin added. "It’s a real cry for a new look at the way we care for our children.

"If we truly regret what happened in the past we must commit ourselves to a very different future."

In his homily at the capital's Chrism Mass last month, Martin repeated his prior forecast on the next inquiry's close -- namely, that this summer's report on abuse in the Dublin church "will shock us all.

"It is likely that thousands of children or young people across Ireland were abused by priests in the period under investigation," the archbishop said, "and the horror of that abuse was not recognized for what it is.

"The report," Martin said, "will make each of us and the entire church in Dublin a humbler church."

The schools report is but the latest shockwave from Irish Catholicism's two-decade-long abuse crisis to hit even in recent months.

After Bishop John Magee of Cloyne was alleged to have mishandled accusations in his diocese and refused to leave office after a state inquiry was chartered, the former private secretary to three Popes was stripped of his powers by the Vatican in early March.


Pope's 'Net Wishes: "Respect, Dialogue, Friendship"

In keeping with tradition following the Second Vatican Council, this weekend's Seventh Sunday of Easter likewise sees the global church's 43rd World Communications Day.

This time around -- in keeping with its 2009 theme of "New Technologies, New Relationships" -- the Holy See will roll out Pope2You, a Web2.0 platform (Facebook and iPhone application) intended to get a better penetration for B16's message, both unfiltered and with video.

All that said, however, the pontiff himself took time to make a special "appeal" to the church at the close of today's General Audience... giving it not in Italian, but English:
This coming Sunday, the Church celebrates World Communications Day. In my message this year, I am inviting all those who make use of the new technologies of communication, especially the young, to utilize them in a positive way and to realize the great potential of these means to build up bonds of friendship and solidarity that can contribute to a better world.

The new technologies have brought about fundamental shifts in the ways in which news and information are disseminated and in how people communicate and relate to each other. I wish to encourage all those who access cyberspace to be careful to maintain and promote a culture of respect, dialogue and authentic friendship where the values of truth, harmony and understanding can flourish.

Young people in particular, I appeal to you: bear witness to your faith through the digital world! Employ these new technologies to make the Gospel known, so that the Good News of God’s infinite love for all people, will resound in new ways across our increasingly technological world!
A project of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the networking initiative was designed by Fr Paolo Padrini -- the Italian priest behind iBreviary, the popular iPhone/iPod touch app containing the whole of the Liturgy of the Hours and daily Mass readings in five languages (Latin included) and, for the Milanese, the Ambrosian rite.

In another WCD event, the Vatican's chief spokesman, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, addressed both the Holy See's recent media debacles and the church's challenge of dealing with new media in his turn at the annual lecture for the Day hosted by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

Also head of Vatican Radio and church central's television outlet, the hardest-working man in the Roman Curia "startled" reporters on last week's papal pilgrimage to the Holy Land with his statement that Benedict XVI had "never, never, never" been a member of the Hitler Youth -- when, in fact, Joseph Ratzinger was forced to join it as a teenager in Nazi Germany and had admitted as much in the past.

Within hours of decrying the supposed "falsehood," Lombardi retracted the comment.

Meanwhile, acrobatics were had at today's Audience....

No joke.

PHOTOS: Getty(1); AP(2)