Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Unity" Eve

Apparently, the appointment will be formally announced tomorrow... but already, reaction's beginning to emerge on B16's expected choice of Bishop Kurt Koch of Basel -- until last year, president of the Swiss bishops -- as the Vatican's next chief ecumenist at the helm of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and, indeed, the lead hand on the global church's relations with the Jewish community.

Shown above (right) with the Pope during the latter's 2008 pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the 60 year-old prelate will bring a contrast of style from his soon-to-be predecessor, the colorful Cardinal Walter Kasper, who won high marks among the dialogue partners, yet famously tussled with the now-pontiff shortly after his arrival in Rome over the primacy of the universal church versus that of the local churches.

A native of the diocese he's led since 1996 -- and a longtime member of the dicastery he's tipped to head -- Italian reports have already circulated quotes from Koch saying, in essence, that accusations of B16's desire to "retreat" from the legacy of the Second Vatican Council are the result of "ignorance, or a willful intention of some theologians who would know better, but loudly say otherwise" (an alleged reference to interventions on the issue made by Fr Hans Kung).

Benedict, the nominee added, "absolutely doesn't want to go 'backward,' but wants instead to bring the church into the deep... pressing forward even today for a new 'reformation' of the church from within, and thus to restore its authentic form, already realized in the Council."

Already, a welcome statement for the new Unity Czar's come from the head of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches, Dr Olav Fyske Tveit:
"We rejoice at the appointment of Bishop Kurt Koch as president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity", said Tveit commenting the news in Moscow. "We welcome his appointment and look forward to working with him for the visible unity of the church", he added.

Tveit said that "Bishop Koch is well known for his openness and deep ecumenical commitment. His book 'That all may be one; Ecumenical perspectives' is an excellent summary of the present state of ecumenical dialogue and relations".

"We see in Bishop Koch a reliable partner for all those involved in the ecumenical movement and trust he will continue Cardinal Walter Kasper's emphasis on spiritual ecumenism", Tveit said.

"Bishop Koch has been given a very important responsibility as the call for all Christians to be one comes from Jesus Christ himself", Tveit said. "I wish him much joy in fulfilling this calling, and that God may give him strength."

The Kingmaker

Above all on this busy morning, there's a new sheriff in town -- the world's 5,000-plus high-hats have a new overseer.

In a move without precedent, a Canadian prelate has been named to lead one of the nine Congregations of the Roman Curia. Yet on an even more seismic plane, for the first time in history the Vatican's "Big Three" dicastery chiefs -- State, CDF and Bishops -- are dominated not just by two North Americans, but two non-Europeans.

A 2pm press conference will take place in Quebec as Cardinal Marc Ouellet reacts to his appointment as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. For the rest, here's the feed compiled earlier this month as reports of the move began to surface.

* * *
The pick to enter the Vatican's "Big Three" and head up the celebrated Thursday Table that votes to recommend episcopal appointees to the pontiff has long enjoyed Benedict's high regard and solid trust.

A veteran of the Communio school (and still a member of the journal's editorial board), Ouellet is no stranger to the Curial world. A product of the Gregorian and onetime professor at the Lateran, in 2001 the dogmatic theologian was ordained a bishop and made secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, from which post he was sent back to Canada's mother-see 18 months later and, within a year, given the red hat long denied his predecessor. In the time since, among other things, the Sulpician was touted as papabile at the 2005 Conclave, won high marks for his turn as relator (spokesman) at the 2008 Synod of Bishops dedicated to the Word of God, and has been spoken of since this pontificate's early days as a member of B16's "kitchen cabinet."

Over recent weeks, the cardinal's been at the center of a heated debate over abortion up North, one sparked after he echoed church teaching by calling the procedure a "moral crime" irrespective of its circumstances.

After protests ensued from politicians and women's groups and he was branded an "ayatollah" in the press, Ouellet said that "there is a legitimate debate about promoting human life, about respect for the unborn."

Canadian society "is very weak on that," he added.

A forceful voice in a Quebecois square where he recently observed that "the church... has no power anymore," the cardinal's resume likewise includes extensive experience in the secondary area of competence long entrusted to the oversight of the Congregation for Bishops, having served a decade in South America as a student, professor and seminary rector in Colombia.

The prefect of Bishops has simultaneously held the presidency of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America since 1969. Ouellet is already a longtime consultor to the Southern task-group.

Lastly, one task Ouellet will likely tackle with relish in his new post is an impending reinvention of the hierarchy in Quebec -- no fewer than half of the province's 19 dioceses will "open" over the next two years as their incumbents reach the retirement age of 75.

Of course, that work now begins at the top -- with the choice of his successor.


Out With a Bang

And lo and behold, folks, seemingly everything drops....

This morning, the Pope named:
  • Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, 66, as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and the post's traditional secondary assignment of president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America;
  • Archbishop Rino Fisichella, 58, as president of the new Pontifical Council, which bears the official name of "Promoting the New Evangelization";
  • Archbishop Celestino Migliore, 58 tomorrow -- since 2002, the Holy See's highly-regarded Observer (nuncio) to the UN in New York (and leader of the Vatican's "green" push of recent years) -- as apostolic nuncio to Warsaw;
  • and finally, Fr John Cihak -- a priest of Portland in Oregon ordained in 1998 and already on Vatican service -- as an assistant papal ceremoniere.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Live from Rome... Of Sorts

Lest anyone missed it and wanted to watch, here -- through the generosity of CatholicTV's on-demand servers -- fullvid of this morning's Pallium Mass (homily... and worship aid in one, two, three parts):


At Docket's End, Blase of Glory

And well, folks, it just doesn't stop.... At least, not yet.

As ever, so much for gliding toward the finish line.

Fresh off this morning's pallium-fest, Rome's pre-summer desk-clearing is looking to continue in the morning....

For one, local media in Eastern Washington is reporting that tomorrow will see the appointment of Bishop Blase Cupich of Rapid City to lead the 90,000-member diocese of Spokane.

Heavily in the winds for the last several months, the reported move has the makings of a "rescue operation," placing a particularly well-equipped prelate at the helm of one the Stateside church's hardest-hit outposts in the fallout of the clergy sex-abuse crisis.

Faced with a docket of some 180 civil suits, in December 2004 the Spokane church became the third US diocese to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, emerging from the process in April 2007 on its agreement to pay a $48 million settlement. As a result of the "thorny" proceedings, the diocese's operational structure was overhauled, while in the trenches, considerable reports of low morale have circulated.

A native of Omaha, sacramental theologian by training and onetime locale at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, Cupich, 61, had barely returned home from seven years as rector of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus before his appointment to South Dakota’s Black Hills, where he succeeded the figure who’s gone on to become the Catholic right’s standout voice on these shores... one from whom he's often presented a pointed contrast.

Given the manageable nature of the 30,000-member Rapid City church -- one of American Catholicism’s ten smallest dioceses by size -- Cupich has built an unusually high national profile, writing often in the top journals, winning elections to key USCCB posts and leading retreats and seminars across the map.

Currently head of the bishops' Committee for the Protection for Children and Young People -- and, ergo, the Stateside church’s lead hand on addressing the fallout of the ongoing abuse crisis -- the tech-savvy prelate has shown a penchant for taking on the elephants in the room: prior to the 2008 election, Cupich was one of the few top clerics to address the issue of race that, in some quarters, loomed over the presidential campaign, memorably cautioning his confreres at their plenary in the vote's wake that "a prophecy of denunciation quickly wears thin." More recently, with the resurgence of wide coverage of the scandals in the press, the bishop took again to America, this time to lay out "12 things" the US church had learned as a result of its experience in 2002 and beyond.

The Spokane church is well-accustomed to a bishop with national standing: the diocese's sixth ordinary will succeed Bishop William Skylstad, whose 20-year tenure was highlighted by his service as vice-president and, from 2004-2007, president of the US bishops.

Speaking of which, the bench's leadership turns over in November with the end of Cardinal Francis George's three-year mandate as conference president. In keeping with the body's almost-invariable tradition -- broken only once since 1969 -- the vote would see the elevation of the current #2, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, to the top post. At the same time, the significantly polarized state of things has seen a new trend begin to emerge: the alternation of the lead slots between the bench's "orthodox" and "progressive" wings.

In that light -- and especially given the events of recent months -- who'll make the nine-prelate ballot is already a high topic of interest in the mill and promises to dominate the summer's lead topics on the chattering circuit.

* * *
Back East, meanwhile, likewise expected in the morning is the appointment of two auxiliary bishops for the nation's fourth-largest local church: the 1.8 million-member archdiocese of Boston... and in Rome, some forecasts hold that the traditional summer announcements of Curial chair-shifts will get underway, possibly with a surprise along the way.

As always, stay tuned.


"A Bond of Love, An Incentive to Courage"

Early this morning, keeping with tradition on this feast of Rome's patrons, the Pope conferred the pallium on the 38 metropolitan archbishops named around the world over the last year.

Unusually, this time around the entire class made it to Rome to receive the symbol of their new office -- in most years, a handful of the new archbishops find themselves unable to make the trip, in which cases the woolen band is sent to them following the annual rites to receive in a ceremony at home.

In keeping with tradition, the ancient "cloak" -- a symbol of the easy yoke of Christ and the special link between the metropolitans and the see of Peter -- is given with the following exhortation:
To the glory of Almighty God and the praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the apostles Peter and Paul, and of the Holy Roman Church, for the honor of the Churches, which have been placed in your care, and as a symbol of your authority as metropolitan archbishop: We confer on you the pallium taken from the tomb of Peter to wear within the limits of your ecclesiastical provinces.

May this pallium be a symbol of unity
and a sign of your communion with the Apostolic See,
a bond of love, and an incentive to courage.
On the day of the coming and manifestation
of our great God and chief shepherd, Jesus Christ,
may you and the flock entrusted to you
be clothed with immortality and glory.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
For those watching at home, though, hot off the wire are your pallium pics....

First, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati:

Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee:

and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami:

PHOTOS: Getty(1), Reuters(2-4)


"The Guarantee of Freedom"

Here in its Vatican translation, the Pope's homily from this morning's Pallium Mass on this feast of Saints Peter and Paul:
Dear brothers and sisters!

The biblical texts of this Eucharistic Liturgy of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, in their great wealth, highlight a theme that could be summarized thus: God is close to his faithful servants and frees them from all evil, and frees the Church from negative powers. It is the theme of the freedom of the Church, which has a historical aspect and another more deeply spiritual one.

This theme runs through today's Liturgy of the Word. The first and second readings speak, respectively, of St Peter and St Paul, emphasizing precisely the liberating action of God in them. Especially the text from the Acts of the Apostles describes in abundant detail the intervention of the Angel of the Lord, who releases Peter from the chains and leads him outside the prison in Jerusalem, where he had been locked up, under close supervision, by King Herod (cf. at 12.1 to 11). Paul, however, writing to Timothy when he feels close to the end of his earthly life, takes stock which shows that the Lord was always near him and freed him from many dangers and frees him still by introducing him into His eternal Kingdom ( see 2 Tim 4, 6-8.17-18). The theme is reinforced by the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 33), and also finds a particular development in the Gospel of Peter's confession, where Christ promises that the powers of hell shall not prevail against his Church (cf. Mt 16:18).

Observing closely we note a certain progression regarding this issue. In the first reading a specific episode is narrated that shows the Lord's intervention to free Peter from prison. In the second Paul, on the basis of his extraordinary apostolic experience, is convinced that the Lord, who already freed him "from the mouth of the lion "delivers him" from all evil", by opening the doors of Heaven to him. In the Gospel we no longer speak of the individual Apostles, but the Church as a whole and its safekeeping from the forces of evil, in the widest and most profound sense. Thus we see that the promise of Jesus - "the powers of hell shall not prevail" on the Church – yes, includes the historical experience of persecution suffered by Peter and Paul and other witnesses of the Gospel, but it goes further, wanting to protect especially against threats of a spiritual order, as Paul himself writes in his Letter to the Ephesians: " For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens"(Eph 6:12).

Indeed, if we think of the two millennia of Church history, we can see that - as the Lord Jesus had announced (cf. Mt 10.16-33) – Christians have never been lacking in trials, which in some periods and places have assumed the character of real persecution. These, however, despite the suffering they cause, are not the greatest danger for the Church. In fact it suffers greatest damage from what pollutes the Christian faith and life of its members and its communities, eroding the integrity of the Mystical Body, weakening its ability to prophesy and witness, tarnishing the beauty of its face. This reality is already attested in the Pauline Epistle. The First Epistle to the Corinthians, for example, responds to some problems of divisions, inconsistencies, of infidelity to the Gospel which seriously threaten the Church. But the Second Letter to Timothy – of which we heard an excerpt - speaks about the dangers of the "last days", identifying them with negative attitudes that belong to the world and can infect the Christian community: selfishness, vanity, pride, love of money, etc. (cf. 3.1 to 5). The Apostle’s conclusion is reassuring: men who do wrong - he writes - "will not make further progress, for their foolishness will be plain to all" (3.9). There is therefore a guarantee of freedom promised by God to the Church, it is freedom from the material bonds that seek to prevent or coerce mission, both through spiritual and moral evils, which may affect its authenticity and credibility.

The theme of the freedom of the Church, guaranteed by Christ to Peter, also has a specific relevance to the rite of the imposition of the pallium, which we renew today for thirty-eight metropolitan archbishops, to whom I address my most cordial greeting, extending with it affection to all who have wanted to accompany them on this pilgrimage. Communion with Peter and his successors, in fact, is the guarantee of freedom for the Church's Pastors and the Communities entrusted to them. It is highlighted on both levels in the aforementioned reflections. Historically, union with the Apostolic See, ensures the particular Churches and Episcopal Conferences freedom with respect to local, national or supranational powers, that can sometimes hinder the mission of the ecclesial Church. Furthermore, and most essentially, the Petrine ministry is a guarantee of freedom in the sense of full adherence to truth and authentic tradition, so that the People of God may be preserved from mistakes concerning faith and morals. Hence the fact that each year the new Metropolitans come to Rome to receive the pallium from the hands of the Pope, must be understood in its proper meaning, as a gesture of communion, and the issue of freedom of the Church gives us a particularly important key for interpretation. This is evident in the case of churches marked by persecution, or subject to political interference or other hardships. But this is no less relevant in the case of communities that suffer the influence of misleading doctrines or ideological tendencies and practices contrary to the Gospel. Thus the pallium becomes, in this sense, a pledge of freedom, similar to the "yoke" of Jesus, that He invites us to take up, each on their shoulders (Mt 11:29-30). While demanding, the commandment of Christ is "sweet and light" and instead of weighing down on the bearer, it lifts him up, thus the bond with the Apostolic See – while challenging – sustains the Pastor and the portion of the Church entrusted to his care, making them freer and stronger.

I would like to draw a final point from the Word of God, in particular from Christ's promise that the powers of hell shall not prevail against his Church. These words may also have a significant ecumenical value, since, as I mentioned earlier, one of the typical effects of the Devil is division within the Church community. The divisions are in fact symptoms of the power of sin, which continues to act in members of the Church even after redemption. But the word of Christ is clear: " Non praevalebunt – it will not prevail" (Matt. 16:18). The unity of the Church is rooted in its union with Christ, and the cause of full Christian unity - always to be sought and renewed from generation to generation - is well supported by his prayer and his promise. In the fight against the spirit of evil, God has given us in Jesus the 'Advocate', defender, and after his Easter, "another Paraclete" (Jn 14:16), the Holy Spirit, which remains with us always and leads the Church into the fullness of truth (cf. Jn 14:16; 16:13), which is also the fullness of charity and unity. With these feelings of confident hope, I am pleased to greet the delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which, in the beautiful custom of reciprocal visits, participates in the celebrations of the patron saints of Rome. Together we thank God for progress in ecumenical relations between Catholics and Orthodox, and we renew our commitment to generously reciprocate to God's grace, which leads us to full communion.

Dear friends, I cordially greet all of you: Cardinals, Brother Bishops, Ambassadors and civil authorities, in particular the Mayor of Rome, priests, religious and lay faithful. Thank you for your presence. May the Saints Peter and Paul help you to grow in love for the holy Church, the Mystical Body of Christ the Lord and messenger of unity and peace for all men. May they also help you to offer the hardships and sufferings endured for fidelity to the Gospel with joy for her holiness and her mission. May the Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles and Mother of the Church, always watch over you and especially over the Ministry of metropolitan archbishops. With her heavenly help may you always live and act in that freedom that Christ has won for us. Amen.
PHOTO: Getty


Monday, June 28, 2010

"Hurricane" Digest

On the eve of his reception of the pallium, South Florida's own Polish "Pope" took a moment to pray at the tomb of his ancestral homeland's most famous product of all, who Tom Wenski once dubbed an exemplar of "extreme holiness."

To be sure, the legacy of John Paul II is never far from Miami's first native-son archbishop. One of the two vision-texts of Wenski's episcopate is the late pontiff's Novo Millennio Ineunte ("at the dawn of the [third] millennium"), and just a day after his installation as earlier this month, the figure of Wojtyla loomed large in Wenski's homily at the church's annual Red Mass for lawyers, judges and public officials.

Assailing "the folly of Roe v. Wade" and what he termed the establishment of "a new secular religion" from the Supreme Court's rulings on abortion, the Southeast's polyglot Pole held up the example of the late pontiff as one that didn't seek to "impose his beliefs, his morality, nor seeking any special privileges for the Catholic church," but aimed instead for the standard "that the church proposes; she does not impose."

(While we're at it, just as his ringing defense of the unborn is likely to kick up some dust on the political Left, the Miami prelate's unstinting talk on immigration has already sparked grousing on the Right; one conservative commentary deemed the archbishop's Magisterium on migration a product of "radical socialist liberation theology" which serves to "foment... anti-American sentiment" among the undocumented.)

From last night, meanwhile, CNS' John Thavis relays the play-by-play at the reception for the 300-strong Wenskini at Villa Richardson, home of the Miami-bred US ambassador to the Holy See, Miguel Diaz, who happened to make some notable comments on the DC-Holy See relationship on the eve of a year since B16's first meeting with President Obama:
Recalling President Barack Obama's meeting last year with Pope Benedict, Diaz said that "while such a brief formal occasion doesn't allow for a deep relationship to develop, it is clear that the pope and the president share key values and philosophies as well as their Christian faith."

"Together they seek to make this a better world -- to foster peace, to promote justice and freedom, to feed the hungry, to heal the sick and to bring a message of life and hope to those desperate to hear it, as well as those who refuse to hear it," the ambassador said.

Diaz said the United States appreciates the immense value of faith-based organizations and their ability to "translate compassionate intent into practice," both domestically and in the international arena.

Archbishop Wenski said the Miami Archdiocese has a special vocation to welcome immigrants, especially from the Caribbean and Latin America. In that sense, he said, Miami has become "America's modern Ellis Island."

"The church in Miami and South Florida was always there for the newcomers. It was there for the Cubans right after the revolution in 1959 in Cuba. And it has been there now for the Haitians who have fled the earthquake and have come to South Florida for medical treatment. So Miami represents hope for so many people," he said.

The archbishop recalled Pope Benedict's praise of the healthy church-state relationship during his visit to the United States in 2008. But the pope also challenged the United States, he said, warning about a modern secularist trend toward "living as if God did not matter."

"As Catholics and Christians, our witness is to show to the world by the way we live how joyful life can be when we live convinced that God indeed does matter," he said.
PHOTO: Loggiarazzi


Objection Overruled

As it wraps up its term, earlier today the Supreme Court declined to hear a petition from the Holy See to halt a civil sex-abuse suit in which it was named as a defendant.

Though the Vatican's appeal was based on the normally inviolable foundation of the Holy See's immunity as a sovereign entity, the high court's ruling allows the case to proceed.

Here, the wire brief:
The Vatican wanted the federal courts to throw out the lawsuit that seeks to hold the Roman Catholic Church responsible for moving the Rev. Andrew Ronan from Ireland to Chicago to Portland despite the sex abuse accusations.

Sovereign immunity laws hold that a sovereign state — including the Vatican — is generally immune from lawsuits.

But lower federal courts have ruled in this case that there could be an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act that could affect the Vatican. A judge ruled there was enough of a connection between the Vatican and Ronan for him to be considered a Vatican employee under Oregon law, and that ruling was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Sacramento.
In keeping with its custom, the SCOTUS requires the assent of four justices for a case to be placed on its docket.

With last year's confirmation of Justice Sonia Sotomayor -- who recently returned to her parochial alma mater in the Bronx -- the nine-member high court now has a historically-high bloc of six Catholics.

PHOTO: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times


Go Back Into the World: B16 Announces "New Evangelization" Council

At tonight's first Vespers for tomorrow's solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul -- the patrons of Rome -- Pope Benedict went public with one of the Vatican's worst-kept secrets of recent months, formally announcing the creation of a Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, the first Curial dicastery to be established from scratch in over a quarter-century.

While the pontiff didn't disclose the identity of his choice to lead the new Council, the lead Italian vaticanista Andrea Tornielli of Il Giornale -- who forecast the office's creation in late April -- previously tipped Archbishop Rino Fisichella, currently head of the Pontifical Academy for Life (and the de facto "chaplain" to Italy's political class), for the post. The office's genesis came from two prominent exponents of the "new movement" closest to Benedict, Comunione e Liberazione; the late CL founder Msgr Luigi Giussani proffered the idea to John Paul II as far back as the early 1980s, and the thought was recently revived to Benedict by the movement's highest-profile ally after the Pope, the patriarch of Venice Cardinal Angelo Scola.

In keeping with tradition, tonight's vigil was held at Rome's Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls... for the rest, a Vatican Radio brief relays a summary of B16's announcement:
Pope Benedict chose the Church the first great Christian missionary – St. Paul – to announce a new Pontifical Council dedicated to the evangelization of secularized Christian nations.

The Pope was celebrating the Vespers of the Vigil of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul in the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. During his homily, he spoke of how his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, had urgently proclaimed a new evangelization, aimed at countries which had long before received the Gospel.

Pope Benedict said he received this legacy upon his own election to the Chair of Peter, and noted the challenges of the present time are mostly spiritual.

He said he wanted to give the new Pontifical Council the task of promoting a renewed evangelization in countries with deep Christian roots which are now experiencing a sense of the “eclipse of God”, and becoming increasingly secularized.

He said this situation presents a challenge in finding the appropriate means in which to revive the perennial truth of the Gospel of Christ.
Of course, the presidency of the new council only adds to an already significant docket of Curial posts that stand to be filled over the coming weeks and months, including the top posts of the Congregations for Bishops, Clergy and Religious along with the presidency of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, where Cardinal Walter Kasper -- the eldest dicastery-head -- confirmed that his retirement was near at a weekend press-conference.

Kasper reached the traditional retirement age of 75 in March 2008.

Especially given the record of heightened Jewish-Catholic tensions over the course of the current pontificate, it's worth recalling that the holder of the Christian Unity portfolio additionally plays the Vatican's lead role on relations with Jews.



Vienna, Carpeted

Another day... another astonishing Vatican statement touching on the fallout of the European sex-abuse crisis.

Earlier today, the Pope received the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn (left) for what appears to have been a rather lengthy private audience.

The session was the first meeting between the pontiff and his onetime student since the Austrian prelate's recent comments implying an openness to a "re-examination" of mandatory priestly celibacy, slamming Cardinal Angelo Sodano's Easter reference to "petty gossip" (a comment echoing Benedict, and widely interpreted as a characterization of reaction to this spring's sex-abuse storm) and accusing the retired Secretary of State of obstructing a Vatican investigation into his predecessor, the late Cardinal Hans Hermann Gröer, who resigned in 1995 after multiple allegations of abuse were made against Gröer stemming from his days as a teacher at a Benedictine school.

After being taken to the Papal Woodshed for all of the above, the Holy See released the following communiqué, here in an English translation:
1. Today, the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna and President of the Austrian Episcopal Conference. He had asked to report personally to the Supreme Pontiff on the present situation of the Church in Austria. In particular, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn wishes to clarify the exact sense of his recent statements on some aspects of ecclesiastical discipline [read: priestly celibacy], as well as some judgments on the attachment had by the Secretariat of State, and in particular by the then-Secretary of State of Pope John Paul II of venerated memory, as regards the late Cardinal Hans Hermann Gröer, Archbishop of Vienna from 1986 to 1995.

2. Subsequently, invited into the meeting were Cardinals Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, and Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State.

In the second part of the audience, some widely-circulated misunderstandings partially derived by some comments of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn were clarified and resolved, for which he expressed his regret over the interpretations given.

In particular:
a) It is recalled that in the Church, when accusations are made against a Cardinal, the competence [of judgment] rests solely with the Pope; other instances have a function of consultation, always with the proper respect for persons.

b) The word "chiacchiericcio" ["chatter," "gossip"] was erroneously interpreted as a lack of respect for the victims of sexual abuse, for whom Cardinal Angelo Sodano holds the same sentiments of compassion and condemnation of evil, as expressed in diverse interventions of the Holy Father. That word, pronounced in his Easter address to Pope Benedict XVI, was taken literally from the papal homily of Palm Sunday and referred to the "courage that doesn't let one be intimidated by the chatter of dominant opinions."
3. The Holy Father, recalling with great affection his pastoral visit to Austria, conveyed to Cardinal Christoph Schönborn his greetings and encouragement to the Church in Austria and to its pastors, entrusting to the heavenly protection of Mary, so venerated at Mariazell, the path of a renewed ecclesial communion.
Notably absent from the word-eating fest: any retraction of Schönborn's comment -- made in the same meeting with journalists that saw the other addressed statements -- that the church "should give more consideration to the quality of homosexual relationships," and that "a stable [same-sex] relationship is certainly better than if someone chooses to be promiscuous."

PHOTO: L'Osservatore Romano/Pool


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Miss Widdecombe to B16's Court?

One of the Tory bench's more colourful and outspoken characters of recent decades -- and, to quote one ad intra sketch, "the rudest Catholic convert since Evelyn Waugh" -- Britain's Sunday Telegraph reports that the recently-retired Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe is "lined up" to become new PM David Cameron's pick to represent the UK as its Ambassador to the Holy See:
While there is likely to be surprise at the choice of such an outspoken figure for such a sensitive diplomatic role, Miss Widdecombe is a devout Catholic and is well-respected within the Church for her staunch defence of its orthodox teaching.

In an interview with Radio 4's Analysis programme, to be broadcast tomorrow, she expresses concern at growing intolerance to Christianity in Britain.

"I believe there's a malaise in society in general that doesn't understand and doesn't want to understand Christianity," she says.

"I think everywhere you look, we are now blurring the distinction between maintaining equality – which I agree with entirely – and respecting Christian conscience."

Referring to the introduction of new equality laws under the last government, which led to the closure of Catholic adoption agencies, she says: "In a truly free society nobody should be forced by law to promote something to which they have a serious conscientious objection."...

The decision to make Miss Widdecombe ambassador signals another move to reassure Britain's five-million-strong Catholic community.

Fluent in Latin, the language spoken in the Vatican [sic], she converted to Catholicism in 1993 after the Church of England voted to ordain women priests.

She is a close friend of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales until his retirement last year, and was consulted over the appointment of his successor.
A product of Oxford -- where she served on the leadership of its celebrated Union -- Widdecombe became MP for Maidstone in 1987, standing down from the seat at last month's General Election.

Author of a weekly column for the Express, the celebrated convert would succeed the Labour appointee Francis Campbell -- a former private secretary to Tony Blair who became the first Catholic to hold the post in 2005.

A veteran of the Foreign Office, Campbell's effectiveness in the ambassadorship ensured the survival of the British delegation to the Holy See, which had been targeted for downsizing prior to his appointment.


Live from Rome, The Wenski Wagon

And so, church, welcome to Pallium Week -- the end of the Vatican year, and likewise one of Rome's great showcases of the unity in diversity that is the faith at its best.

Joined by the traditional bands of pilgrims from home, some 38 new metropolitans will receive the symbol of their new office early Tuesday, including three Americans... yet while Archbishops Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati and Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee each spent part of their student days in the Eternal City, the Stateside delegation's lone figure without a Roman pedigree has already begun making a splash along the banks of the Tiber.

Then again, that's Miami for you... especially as, in a way, this week sees its coming-out party on the global church's center stage.

His sold-out delegation numbering over 300 -- a larger group than last year's "spiritual conga line" that accompanied the archbishop of New York -- Archbishop Tom Wenski and his flock converged on St Peter's Square at noontime for the Pope's Angelus.

Along the way, some Polish pilgrims in the Piazza spotted the head of the 1.3 million-member South Florida church... and as the Poles just so happened to have a band at the ready, a jamboree quickly ensued:

Following an afternoon Mass at St Mary Major, the Wenskini were scheduled to attend a reception thrown by one of their own: the US ambassador to the Holy See Miguel Diaz, raised the son of a waiter in Miami's Little Havana, later to become a professor and dean at its archdiocesan seminary, St Vincent de Paul at Boynton Beach.

Back home, meanwhile, the native-son's been keeping form and burning up the ground (sometimes on his Harley, sometimes not). Among other aspects of the "He's Back" tour, a new rector of St John Vianney College Seminary has already been named and will take office on Thursday, and a shake-up of the Miami chancery is expected not long after the archbishop's return from Rome.

For those who like planning early, the Pallium Mass will air at 3.30 am Eastern (0730GMT) Tuesday, with the usual suspects running the livestreams (check schedules for repeats), and CatholicTV airing the liturgy on a delay at noon Eastern, then posting the video on-demand.


"Surpising and Deplorable": B16 Slams Belgian Raids

Following Thursday's daylong police raids on the headquarters of the Belgian church, the Brussels chancery, the office handling its hierarchy's response to clergy sex-abuse allegations and the residence of retired Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the Holy See's response hasn't just become ever more incandescent, but increasingly high-profile with each passing day.

In comments to reporters yesterday, the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB said that the church hadn't experienced anything of the kind "even under Communist regimes"... a Vatican statement Friday expressed "indignation... that the tombs of Cardinals Jozef-Ernest Van Roey and Léon-Joseph Suenens, deceased archbishops of Malines-Brussels, were violated" as, reportedly acting on a tip, the authorities drilled small holes in the stones, inserting cameras to check for documents... and now, this morning the Holy See Press Office released a letter of solidarity from the Pope to the freshly-installed Belgian primate, Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels, translated into English here below:
In this sad moment, I wish to express my particular closeness and solidarity to you, dear brother in the episcopate, and to all the bishops of the church in Belgium, for the surprising and deplorable means with which the searches were conducted in the Cathedral of Mechelen and at the venue where the Belgian episcopate was meeting in a plenary session that, among other things, sought to address aspects linked to the abuse of minors on the part of members of the clergy. Many times I myself have underscored that these grave facts must be treated by the civil authorities and canonical ones, each with respect of their reciprocal specificity and autonomy. In that sense, I hope that justice might run its course, guaranteeing the fundamental rights of persons and institutions, respecting the victims, recognizing without prejudice those who are pledged to collaborate with it and in its refusal of everything that might obscure the noble tasks assigned to it.

In the assurance that I accompany with daily prayer the path of this Church, I willingly send my affectionate Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 27 June 2010.

Lost in the intense coverage of the searches -- which saw the properties in question sealed for some 10 hours and Belgium's ambassador to the Vatican summoned to the Apostolic Palace to receive a protest -- was Friday's appointment of a new head of the diocese of Bruges, where Bishop Roger Vangheluwe resigned in April after admitting that he sexually abused his nephew both prior to and after his 1984 elevation to the episcopacy.

The disgraced prelate will be succeeded by the lone auxiliary of Brussels, Bishop Jozef De Kesel.

Amid the torrent of abuse and cover-up revelations which've rocked the European church through this spring, the 73 year-old Vangheluwe is the lone bishop to have been accused of direct misconduct with a child.

While some three-quarters of Belgians identify as Catholic, as in the rest of Europe, participation rates among the faithful hover in the single digits.



Saturday, June 26, 2010

Diplo-Notes, Year-End Edition

As the Vatican year winds down, the Holy See's diplomatic apparatus is closing out for the summer on an impressive high note... or a few.

For starters, building on the recent inroads made by the Cuban church with the island's Communist government, earlier this week Rome's "foreign minister" Archbishop Dominique Mamberti visited Havana, where he met with President Raul Castro (above) -- an occasion for which, press reports noted, the usually fatigue-clad brother of Fidel conspicuously "suited up."

Then, earlier today, a years-long path to full diplomatic relations reached its close at simultaneous ceremonies at the Home Office and the Kremlin as the freshly-elevated Russian Ambassador Nicolai Sadchikov and Apostolic Nuncio to Moscow Archbishop Antonio Mennini respectively presented their credentials.

And now, in another signal breakthrough, after a bilateral commission of top officials representing the Vatican and Vietnam met this week, the two sides agreed to the appointment of a "nonresident Representative of the Holy See" to Hanoi.

In its announcement this morning, the joint working-group noted the progress accomplished by "the address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI during the last Ad Limina visit of the Vietnamese Bishops and the Holy Father’s Message to the Catholic Church in Vietnam" last November, as the country's 5.6 million Catholics (roughly seven percent of Vietnam's population) observed a Jubilee Year commemorating the 350th anniversary of the church's first general oversight there.

As the commission noted that "these teachings" of Benedict's "would serve as an orientation for the Catholic Church in Vietnam in the years ahead," it's especially significant that both papal texts spoke of the importance of a "healthy collaboration" between the church and a government viewed with suspicion among many Vietnamese Catholics amid instances of persecution that've emerged over recent years.

While the reports include the arrest and assault of ecclesial critics of the regime and the fining of Catholic families who've exceeded the government's mandatory two-child policy in observance of the church's teaching on artificial contraception, the signal moment of the recent church-state clashes came in 2008 as the faithful held demonstrations calling for the restoration of church property in the capital, Hanoi, which had been seized by the state.

The regime's push to quash the prayer rallies saw the children of demonstrators threatened with grade penalties or expulsion from school, the Hanoi bureau chief for the Associated Press beaten up after he went to cover a demonstration, and a concerted campaign to discredit the city's archbishop, Ngo Quang Kiet, who indicated his willingness to be jailed in defense of his flock's right to prayerfully protest.

Having been kept for a time under house arrest "with the unconcealed objective of forcing his resignation or removal," late last year the 57 year-old archbishop -- named to the capital in 2005 -- announced that "deteriorating health" necessitated his resignation.

As the rationale quickly became viewed as a diplomatic veil to seek a successor more amenable to the government, in April Rome named a 72 year-old prelate, Bishop Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon, as Ngo's coadjutor. The archbishop's resignation was accepted three weeks later, and his successor will be among the 38 archbishops receiving the pallium from the Pope at Tuesday's celebrations of Saints Peter and Paul.

In his ad limina speech to the Vietnamese bench -- delivered a year ago tomorrow -- Benedict told the prelates, "You know, as well as I do, that healthy collaboration between the church and the political community is possible.

"In this regard," the pontiff explained, "the church invites all her members to be loyally committed to building a just, supportive and fair society. Her intention is certainly not to replace government leaders; she wishes only to be able to play a just role in the nation's life, at the service of the whole people, in a spirit of dialogue and respectful collaboration."

While the diplomatic status the Vatican representative to Hanoi will enjoy was not clarified in this morning's announcement, today's completion of ambassador-level relations with Russia now gives the Holy See full representation in 179 countries, plus its state-level observer status at the UN and its "special relations" missions at the European Community and with the Palestinian Authority.



Thursday, June 24, 2010

Quote of the Day

The governance of the bishop will be pastorally fruitful only if 'it is sustained by a good moral credibility, one which derives from the sanctity of his life. This credibility predisposes minds to welcome the Gospel he announces in the church and even the norms he establishes for the good of the people of God.' Therefore, formed internally by the Holy Spirit, may each one of you be 'all things to all,' proposing the truth of the faith, celebrating the sacraments of our sanctification, and witnessing to the Lord's love. Welcome with an open heart the many who knock at your door: guide them, comfort them along God's path, seek to lead everyone toward that unity in faith and love of which, through the will of God, you must be the cornerstone and visible foundation in your dioceses.
--Pope Benedict XVI
Ad Limina Address
to the Bishops of Brazil (East Region II)
19 June 2010

PHOTO: L'Osservatore Romano


In Belgium, the Church Raided

Long held as one of Belgium's most-esteemed figures and a leading icon of the global church's progressive wing, earlier today the home and office of the recently-retired Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels were raided by Belgian police:
The raids followed recent statements to police "that are related to the sexual abuse of children within the church," said Jean-Marc Meilleur, a spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor's office.

Police took documents but did not question Danneels at his home in the city of Mechlin, just north of Brussels, said Hans Geybels, the spokesman for the former archbishop.

"They did take away his computer," he said.

Geybels added Danneels was fully cooperating.

"The cardinal believes justice must run its normal course. He has nothing against that," he said....

[After his January retirement, Danneels] returned to the limelight when, on April 26, Belgium's longest-serving bishop, Roger Vangheluwe, resigned after admitting to having sexually abused a young boy during the time when Danneels was archbishop.

On Thursday, police also searched the office of a committee that, with the help of the Catholic church, is investigating sexual abuse claims by Roman Catholic priests.

Vatican officials said that for the time being there would be no comment.
SVILUPPO: While the first reports of today's police activity focused on the sudden seizure of documents and a computer from Danneels' office and residence, further developments indicate that the net of raids proved to be extensive:
Belgian officers today sealed off and searched the headquarters of the church at Mechelen, north of Brussels, where the Belgian bishops' conference was in session, with the papal nuncio taking part....

In nearby Leuven, east of Brussels, police also searched the premises of the independent church commission investigating hundreds of cases of alleged molestation by clergymen. They took all 475 files belonging to the commission, prompting bewilderment and panic among investigators and victims of sexual abuse....

The raids centred on the palace of Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, head of the Catholic church in Belgium, on the ancient town's St Rombout's cathedral, and on the residence of the former head of the church in Belgium, Cardinal Danneels....

The commission of inquiry is well-respected and is led by Peter Adriaenssens, one of Belgium's top child abuse experts, whose office has received hundreds of complaints this year and who has threatened to resign should his work be impeded by the church hierarchy. He emerged as a national figure following the notorious Marc Dutroux paedophilia and murder case in 1996 and runs one of the country's most respected child abuse centres.

He voiced outrage and shock at the police actions, saying he had been given no warning, and would now struggle to deliver a report on clerical sexual abuse he was preparing for October. Adriaenssens was in Amsterdam in the Netherlands on Wednesday when his offices were raided. He said that all files in his investigation, concerning 475 cases, had been taken away by the police.

"All day we've been getting mails and calls from victims in panic," he said. "They agreed that we do a report, but they did not want others to see the material … No one asked us a single question. We have no idea why this happened now."

Adriaenssens suggested that a wave of "paranoia" had developed around the flood of allegations coming to light in recent months in Belgium. "There were rumours that the commission was having secret talks with the bishops. Perhaps the investigating magistrate let himself be led by this paranoia."

He added that the raids had thrown into question whether his commission would be able to continue its work. It was set up years ago but had vegetated until this year when the sexual abuse allegations and revelations spread rapidly across the world. The commission's previous head had complained of a lack of co-operation from the church authorities.

Police sources told the Flemish newspaper De Standaard that the raids were carried out because of suspicions that church leaders were failing to hand over all the necessary materials to the commission of inquiry. That was not confirmed by Adriaenssens.

Last month the Belgian bishops' conference issued a pastoral letter pleading for forgiveness both for the sexual abuse by many clergy and for the cover-ups and "silence" that then followed.

"Through the silence priority was given to the reputation of the church institution or the clergyman over the dignity of the child as victim," said the letter.


Airport Out, Oratory In

And as expected, so much for Coventry Airport.

Following this week's dry-run by the Vatican advance team to coordinate plans for B16's 16-19 September UK trip, the Catholic Herald's Anna Arco reports that the 200,000-capacity site touted as recently as last week as the venue for the beatification of John Henry Newman has been ditched in favor of Birmingham's Cofton Park, which early estimates say can fit 80,000 for the PopeTrip's climactic Sunday Eucharist.

Additionally, at the pontiff's own insistence, a private stop at Newman's rooms in the Birmingham Oratory has been worked into the plans.

While word across the Pond spoke of a degree of reticence over a papal trip to the Oratory given recent reports of discord in the community there, just further proof that whatever Benedict wants, he gets.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Of Wool Bands... and Red Hats

On a quick calendar-note (or a couple), the "Vatican year" is ramping toward its end: Tuesday's solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul will see the traditional conferral of the pallium, this time on the 38 metropolitan archbishops appointed during the last year around the globe.

Among the group will be four North Americans -- Archbishops Albert LaGatt of Saint-Boniface, Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee, Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati and Thomas Wenski of Miami. Other notables in this year's crop include the UK's Archbishops Bernard Longley of Birmingham and Peter Smith of Southwark, the freshly-named Czech primate Dominik Duka OP of Prague, his Belgian counterpart Andre-Joseph Leonard of Brussels, and the new archbishops of Sevilla, Cape Town, Douala and Panama City.

(On a curious side-thread, it's worth noting that, next year's US pallium class is already shaping up to be larger than this year's: Coadjutor-Archbishop José Gomez will have succeeded to the archbishopric of Los Angeles by then, and even with no other metropolitan movements beyond his successor in San Antonio and the forthcoming appointees to Seattle and Oklahoma City, the result will yield a Stateside delegation of four.)

Its roots as sacred garb dating to the third century, for most of its history the woolen "yoke" marked with six crosses was conferred on newly-installed archbishops in their cathedral churches. In 1984, however, John Paul II instituted the custom of calling the metropolitans to Rome to receive it as a further underscore of the vestment's symbolism -- namely, the archbishops' particular link to Peter's chair.

* * *
Come the first days of July, B16 will literally head for the hills, remaining in residence at the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo until late September. And on his return, one key decision the pontiff will face is the creation of new cardinals and the date of a consistory to elevate new members of the college which advises him in life and, upon his death, will elect his successor.

As of today, the voting complement of the "Pope's Senate" numbers 108 -- twelve short of its maximum 120; the figure's next drop will come on 7 July as Washington's Cardinal Theodore McCarrick reaches the ineligibility age of 80, with at least another six seats falling open by mid-November.

Given the scenario, a mini-frenzy was had in early March as prominent reports in the Italian press circulated that a consistory to fill the 19 foreseen slots would be held over Christ the King weekend, 20-21 November. However, recent chatter in Rome has cast some doubt over the late fall date, with some indications reporting that -- in an economical move -- the pontiff might just hold off for another six months or so, until mid-2011, by which point another half-dozen electors will have aged out of a hypothetical conclave.

Either way, between the present and the end of 2012, another whole quarter of the voting College -- some 30 cardinals -- will superannuate; add in the dozen who've turned 80 since the 2007 consistory, and the figure exceeds a third of the eventual papal electorate.

Along these lines, it's been noted here before but, given the significance, bears repeating: among the recent or upcoming retirees are a full half of the 12 American electors -- a figure without precedent in such a short time-frame.

As history goes, the period ahead offers Benedict an unparalleled free hand at reshaping the Stateside church's topmost rank... and with this pontificate's picks averaging in their early 60s on receiving the red hat, smart money can easily foresee the coming crop of cardinals holding the helm for a generation, or even more.

As if things weren't interesting enough already, eh?

As always, stay tuned.



Blessed Newman: The Prayers

Three months from this week, years in the making, the highly-anticipated papal visit to the UK will see its climax with the beatification of John Henry Newman, the venerable convert, academic, apologist and cleric, who was elevated to the College of Cardinals a decade before his death in 1890 at age 89.

His prolific works still a source of inspiration to no shortage of seekers out there, such is Newman's global cult that, in a first for the current pontificate, B16 will break from his custom of entrusting beatification rites to local prelates (a return to the traditional practice) to lead the Mass himself.

That said, the venue for the historic event (among other things) remains unconfirmed -- while early versions of the four-day itinerary held that the ceremony would take place at Coventry Airport outside Birmingham for a crowd of some 200,000, recent weeks have seen reports of a PopeTrip planning operation descended into chaos amid the confluence of "soaring costs," the unforeseen felling of the papal nuncio with a stroke and, given the pilgrimage's status as a state visit, last month's change of government from Labour to the Conservatives.

To get things back on rail, the Tory strongman Lord Patten -- the last British governor of Hong Kong -- was recently tapped as Whitehall's "Visit Czar," reporting directly to new Prime Minister David Cameron. Meanwhile, at a press conference unveiling the official PopeTrip booklet last week, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster said that while "the plans we have on the table involve Coventry Airport," final "clarity" on the matter wouldn't come until the end of this week, following a visit from the traditional Vatican advance team.

(In a separate intervention, the archbishop told the Daily Telegraph of his anxiety that the PopeTrip would be "marred by vuvuzelas"; an avid soccer fan, Nichols said he had "had enough of" the now-ubiquitous airhorns, which have come to global prominence during the ongoing World Cup in South Africa.)

* * *
Either way, the update is just prelude to something that'd likely be of interest to the Newman fans among us -- the release of the liturgical texts for the cardinal's feast-day, which unconfirmed reports have tipped for 9 October, the anniversary of his 1845 reception into the church; the date of Newman's death, 11 August, is already taken by the feast of the patroness of television, St Clare of Assisi.

(At least in theory, it's important to recall that commemorations of blesseds are restricted to the beatus' area of origin or mission -- at least, in theory. On the other hand, while beatification has its roots in the affirmation of a localized cult, with universal remembrance reserved for the canonized, to say the line's been blurred in a globalized church is an understatement.)

The propers having been confirmed by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments last week, here's the prayer approved for use at the feast-day Mass and Office:

O God, who bestowed on the Priest Blessed John Henry Newman
the grace to follow your kindly light and find peace in your Church;
graciously grant that, through his intercession and example,
we may be led out of shadows and images
into the fullness of your truth.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
(Via NLM.)

For the record, the Collect includes two allusion to Newman's canon of writings: his famous poem "Lead, Kindly Light" (later to become a much-cherished hymn), and "out of shadows and images into the truth" was the cardinal's chosen inscription for his memorial stone.

The propers likewise include the beginning of the fifth chapter of Newman's Apologia pro Vita Sua for the feast's Office of Readings. In the text, the blessed-to-be speaks of his conversion to Catholicism.

"I have been in perfect peace and contentment," Newman wrote, "I never have had one doubt... it was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption."


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

He Shoots, He Scores... He Sings: In Springfield, the "Holy Goalie's" Season-Opener

This feast of the saintly patron of lawyers been an unsually good one for bishop-barristers: for the first time in a native, Pharaohtown can boast of one... and at this hour, the bench’s top hand on legal matters has formally taken up his new net.

Of course, he’s become well known as the “Holy Goalie,” but Bishop Tom Paprocki’s exploits on the ice (commemorated in the lower-right quadrant of his arms) can easily mask a sharpness of mind, creativity of spirit and eagerness to engage that promise to make the Chicago native’s assignment as head of the church in Illinois’ capital one to watch far beyond the Land of Lincoln.

Before an overflow crowd of 1,100 in Springfield’s freshly-restored Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception led by family, clergy, civic officials and, indeed, a delegation from his beloved Blackhawks (but, alas, sans the Cup), Papo’s being installed this afternoon as the west-state diocese’s ninth ordinary.

While video of it will soon emerge, the homily’s end featured a flash of the 57 year-old prelate's unique pastoral style.... In the meanwhile, though, here's the text in full:

For all the rest -- texts, worship-aids and (as they emerge) videos from last night's Vespers and today's Mass -- the Springfield church has a portal up and running.

SVILUPPO: And here, the preach's memorable sung close....


"Bishop McFadden, Welcome to Harrisburg"

More to come, but for now, here's an early shot from the Harrisburg presser... and with it, the end of an era back home.

Just shy of a half-century since John Krol's appointment as the sixth archbishop, with Bishop Joe McFadden's transfer to the capital, the last vestige of the Golden Age has left the Philadelphia Chancery.

And if that ain't a ground-changer for this town, folks, then nothing is.

Here below, the statement gone viral....

And the Q&A's likewise up, albeit in multiple parts.

PHOTO: Paul Kuehnel/York Daily Record


In River City, Two for Tuesday

Good Tuesday mornin’, gang -- it might be “Holy Goalie” installation day in parts afield... here at home, though, habemus double-shot.

This Roman Noon, Benedict XVI has named:
  • Bishop Joseph McFadden, 63, auxiliary of Philadelphia since 2004, as tenth bishop of Harrisburg, succeeding Bishop Kevin Rhoades, named to head Indiana’s diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend (read: Notre Dame) last November;
  • and Monsignor Michael Fitzgerald, 62, the River City's judicial vicar since 2007, to succeed McFadden as auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia. (Yes, all of two weeks after the last one...)
And so, behold his mighty hand... again.

* * *
As the local scene goes, the mood of the day is certain to be one of mixed emotions: immense sadness at the departure of “the people’s bishop” -- a beloved "neighborhood guy" auxiliary with the heart of a pastor whose whole life and happiness have been firmly rooted in this place... but at the same time, the joy and gift of his replacement with one of Philly’s finest -- a truly remarkable priest and master of the law whose outsize brilliance of mind is trumped only by his exceptional spiritual strengths: a profound humility and quiet generosity of heart... and above all, a palpably genuine spirit of holiness.

The son of a working-class family raised at the city’s western tip, McFadden didn’t enter the seminary until after spending several years as a high-school social studies teacher -- and, more importantly, basketball coach and athletic director.

When it comes to summing up the new head of the 230,000-member capital church, the latter bit says it best. On his first day at Overbrook, the story goes that the new arrival met at least some of his classmates by asking where the house court was... and many years later, the headquarters of this town’s dominant religious institution -- i.e. the Eagles front-office -- named McFadden to its list of the “75 Greatest Living Philadelphians.”

Like Auxiliary Bishop-elect John McIntyre -- named but two weeks ago today -- the young priest’s path would wind through the Cardinal’s Office: but a year after his 1981 ordination, McFadden was appointed secretary to John Cardinal Krol, remaining aside the iconic Pharaoh well into his retirement. After a decade serving the figure still known in some local quarters simply as “The Cardinal,” Krol finally released his protege, and McFadden returned to Catholic education -- this time as president of Cardinal O’Hara, the archdiocese’s second-largest high-school.

Having given the famed institution "the feel of a parish" over eight years at its helm, in 2001 the future bishop was named pastor of St Joseph’s in Downingtown, one of the booming communities of the empire’s western suburbs, where he was tasked with building fresh space to accommodate the parish's explosive growth over the prior decade. Three years later, dozing on the couch while watching golf on Memorial Day afternoon, the call to the high-hat came -- and when Appointment Day arrived, the press conference was delayed some minutes as the overwhelmed pick needed more time to collect himself before he could appear.

Entrusted with the vital portfolio of overseeing Catholic education alongside a quarter of the 1.5 million-member archdiocese, McFadden’s proven a skilled, conciliatory operator amid often rough tides: the now-annual ritual of painful school closings (and the arduous media and nerve-soothing duties that come with it) while seeking out new ways of keeping the survivors viable; stepping in as needed to help tend to the brothers; literally walking the streets... and the list goes on.

Believed to have been the presbyterate's choice in its consultations for an auxiliary, the new bishop scored “thunderous applause” at his ordination on telling the guys that “I am proud to be called a Philadelphia priest... for you I have become a bishop, but with you I am and always will be a Philadelphia priest.”

Between the lines, the words were a plea that he might remain here forever.

Clearly, Providence had other plans. And to say that’ll spark grief among a broad swath of the hometown crowd is no overstatement.

Alongside his duties as head of the 15-county church in Pennsylvania's largely rural south-center, McFadden will assume the lead role of the church’s engagement with state government -- the capital's bishop traditionally holds the presidency of the Keystone State’s Catholic Conference.

McFadden's installation in Harrisburg's St Patrick's Cathedral has been set for Wednesday, August 18th.

* * *
As for the new auxiliary, meanwhile, no worthy sketch of Mike Fitz can start anywhere but with how the bishop-elect begins his days -- in a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament.

His CV might read like that of a predestined star -- law school and clerking for a Federal judge, Gregorian JCD, in-house chancery counsel, vice-rector of Overbrook, officialis of the Philadelphia church. Truth be told, though, each assignment was far less something the nominee sought than recognition from above of his standout skill-set.

If Fitzgerald had his way, by now he would’ve been several years out of the office, happily immersed in the simple, rewarding life of a parish priest. Instead, the top-shelf canonist whose low profile belies his tireless work ethic and keenness of mind has usually ended up with the most demanding and unsung of tasks -- a list which, it could be said, merely continues with the burden of the episcopacy in this place at a particularly challenging moment in its history.

Again, the bio might tell one story. Yet what it conceals is even more telling -- the countless hours and amount of energy he’s devoted in the trenches, keeping fulfilled (and just as busy) outside the office in the heart of pastoral work.

Over most of the two decades since he returned from Rome and was tapped to establish the chancery's legal desk, the bishop-elect’s spent his nights and weekends serving in parishes at the core of the city’s committed, but ever-changing, ecclesial landscape. Even now, no shortage of Sundays will find Fitzgerald shuttling between three churches to celebrate Mass: an Italian liturgy on South Philly’s 9th Street, filling in at a former assignment, and his current home-base just off the city’s Rittenhouse Square, its makeup infused with a sizable influx of young adults over the last decade-plus.

Granted, if you're looking for someone to set the world on fire, Fitz might not be your top pick. Yet far more importantly, when it comes to the most shining qualities one could hope for in a priest and bishop -- fidelity and devotion, wisdom, kindness and compassion; gentleness, prayerfulness, selflessness... holiness -- the latest addition to the century-long line of hometown auxiliaries is one of the finest, most sterling examples this scribe has ever known, and to say the choice is a blessing to this place doesn't, by any means, begin to describe the gift of it.

Sure, a day of mixed feelings just dawned for much of the local crowd.... For the road ahead, though, you really couldn't ask for a better start -- and given the timing with today's feast of the patron of lawyers, a more providential one, to boot.

Fitzgerald will be ordained alongside McIntyre on Transfiguration Day, 6 August.