Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Wenski, "Capital of the Hemisphere"

But six days after one seismic transfer on the Stateside bench came into effect, another comes today in Miami, as the Southeast's largest local church welcomes Archbishop Thomas Wenski back home as head of the 1.3 million-member South Florida fold.

With a cardinal and some 50 bishops -- including a delegation from the Cuban bench and a majority of the Haitian hierarchy (all old friends) -- expected to be on hand, the 2pm installation might be another 12 or so hours away... but in a classic move by the 59 year-old native son, the tri-lingual fulltext of his inaugural homily has already been posted on the archdiocesan site.

Here, the English snip:
Sometimes I tell people – only half in jest – the best thing about Miami and South Florida is that it is so close to the United States. Miami is certainly part of the United States, this great land of opportunity and freedom. And Miami can rightfully claim to be our nation’s new Ellis Island – for it has become a port of entry for refugees and immigrants from around the world, but especially from the Caribbean, Central and South America. Of course, there was no Statue of Liberty here to welcome the newcomers – and sometimes those newcomers were not very welcomed anyway; but for the past 52 years under the leadership of my predecessors, Archbishops Coleman Carroll, Edward McCarthy and John C. Favalora, the Church of Miami was here to extend her maternal embrace to all. For the Church is the Father’s House – and all God’s children should feel at home in their Father’s House, and here in the Archdiocese of Miami – in our parishes, schools and charitable institutions – we have welcomed newcomers – from the first refugees fleeing the Cuban Revolution to this year’s victims of Haiti’s January earthquake. And we’ve learned that the best way to make someone feel at home in their “Father’s House” is to speak their Mother’s tongue.

And while Miami (and South Florida) is part of these United States, it also has become a vital part of the various nations from which our people have come: Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Colombia and the rest of the Caribbean, South and Central America. South Florida is truly a transnational community – and that, more than the sun and the beautiful beaches, explains why those who live here find it such a dynamic and exciting place to live.

Sometimes, Miami boasts that it is the capital of the hemisphere. The presence here today of Bishops from Cuba, Haiti and Puerto Rico, I think, shows that this is no idle boast....

Here in the Archdiocese of Miami, we have our problems, our challenges to face - the economic crisis and the closing of schools and more than a dozen parishes, have frustrated everyone and angered many. But let’s not feel sorry for ourselves. Our brothers and sisters in Haiti, Cuba and elsewhere have challenges much more daunting than our own – with far less resources than we have. We can be tempted, like Martha in the gospel, to be worried about many things – but let us not forget the one thing necessary: our relationship with Jesus Christ.

With the light of the Risen Christ and with the power of the Holy Spirit we must continue to announce the good news of Jesus Christ and invite all to an encounter with him in the Church so that they might have life in him. We have no other treasure but that: the gift of encounter with Jesus Christ. As the bishops of Latin America said at the Fifth Conference of CELAM in 2008: “We have no other happiness, no other priority but being instruments of the Spirit of God, in the Church, so that Jesus Christ may be known, followed, loved, adored, and communicated to all, despite difficulties and resistances.”

Some of those difficulties and resistances are found within us – sometimes faith is found weakened, hope uncertain and charity grown cold. Pope Benedict remarked last month commenting on the scandal of clerical sex abuse of children and young people: “The greatest persecution of the Church does not come from the enemies outside, but is born from inside the Church.”

This “suffering of the Church inside the Church that comes from the sins that exist from inside the Church” will not be solved by better computer programs, more efficient business practices, or even by better preaching –what is required rather is conversion, a recommitment on the part of all to live the faith coherently.

But there are other difficulties and resistances found outside as well as inside the Church. The increasing sway within our culture of what Pope Benedict has called the “dictatorship of relativism” is a growing challenge to the Church’s mission to bring the gospel to all. This radically secular world view wishes to reduce faith to the realm of the “private” and the “subjective” and thus tries to limit our freedom to serve, whether in health care, education or social services. It tries to exclude our voice, the voice of the Church, in the public square. To a world tempted to live as if God doesn’t matter and therefore a world that teeters on the brink on despair, we need to witness to hope by showing– by what we say and do (and by what we won’t do) – how beautiful, how joyful life is when one lives convinced that God does indeed matter. And, because God matters, we are also called to model a life in which man matters as well.

For this reason, Catholics should involve themselves in the public square – and do so coherently and unapologetically. This is not to “impose our views” but to “make our proposal” about what is necessary for human flourishing in society. Thus, we bring to public policy debates on issues of human life dignity, justice and peace, immigration reform, and marriage and the family an understanding of the human person that, while founded on the Christian Scriptures, is also accessible to human reason.

While this understanding expressed in the Church’s social teachings can seem to be quite complex, I believe it can be summarized in one simple phrase: no man is a problem. This why as Archbishop of Miami I will continue to proclaim a positive and consistent ethic of life: no human being – no matter how poor or how weak - can be reduced to just a problem. When we allow ourselves to think of a human being as a mere problem, we offend his or her dignity. And, when we see another human being as a problem, we often give ourselves permission to look for expedient but not just solutions. The tragic history of the 20th Century shows that thinking like this even leads to “final solutions”.

For us, Catholics, therefore, there can be no such thing as a “problem pregnancy” – only a child who is to be welcome in life and protected by law. The refugee, the migrant –even one without “papers” - is not a problem. He may perhaps be a stranger but a stranger to be embraced as a brother. Even criminals – for all the horror of their crimes – do not lose their God-given dignity as human beings. They too must be treated with respect, even in their punishment. This is why Catholic social teaching condemns torture and advocates for the abolition of the death penalty.

As I begin my service to this local Church as its fourth Archbishop, I ask for your support, your cooperation – and, most of all, I ask for your prayers. We begin a new chapter in this history of this local Church – and so, this is the time for us all – priests, deacons, religious and members of Christ’s faithful – to assess our fervor and to find fresh enthusiasm for the spiritual and pastoral responsibilities that lie ahead of us. We must look ahead and, like Peter, trusting in Christ’s words, “put out into the deep”. Duc in altum. The Lord has already assured us: “I am with you always.”

So let’s us begin. Let us start afresh from Christ.
And with that, a new era dawns -- and not just in South Florida, but Tallahassee, Havana and Port-au-Prince... and even beyond.

A fuller look to come in the morning... as always, stay tuned.

PHOTO: Archdiocese of Miami