Thursday, November 30, 2006

Not Yet, Eminence, Not Yet

Cardinal Maida got a wee bit carried away yesterday afternoon....
The cardinal himself mixed up his words at the end of the mass, turning to Flores and declaring: "Welcome to the College of Cardinals!"
OK, we know Szoka's been quite good at making his successor's dreams reality, but not that good.... At least, not in this pontificate.
Embarrassed at the flub, the cardinal slapped his forehead, but his next words were swallowed up in surprised laughter that quickly turned into sustained applause.

And one last beautiful shot of the day:

Brandy Baker/Detroit News


Fratres in Unum

This morning in Istanbul, Pope Benedict attended the Divine Liturgy of St Andrew's Day celebrated by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. As the highlight of their encounter, the two issued a Joint Declaration (fulltext).
This fraternal encounter which brings us together, Pope Benedict XVI of Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, is God’s work, and in a certain sense his gift. We give thanks to the Author of all that is good, who allows us once again, in prayer and in dialogue, to express the joy we feel as brothers and to renew our commitment to move towards full communion. This commitment comes from the Lord’s will and from our responsibility as Pastors in the Church of Christ. May our meeting be a sign and an encouragement to us to share the same sentiments and the same attitudes of fraternity, cooperation and communion in charity and truth. The Holy Spirit will help us to prepare the great day of the re-establishment of full unity, whenever and however God wills it. Then we shall truly be able to rejoice and be glad....
As far as relations between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople are concerned, we cannot fail to recall the solemn ecclesial act effacing the memory of the ancient anathemas which for centuries had a negative effect on our Churches. We have not yet drawn from this act all the positive consequences which can flow from it in our progress towards full unity, to which the mixed Commission is called to make an important contribution. We exhort our faithful to take an active part in this process, through prayer and through significant gestures....

At present, in the face of the great threats to the natural environment, we want to express our concern at the negative consequences for humanity and for the whole of creation which can result from economic and technological progress that does not know its limits. As religious leaders, we consider it one of our duties to encourage and to support all efforts made to protect God’s creation, and to bequeath to future generations a world in which they will be able to live.
Finally, our thoughts turn towards all of you, the faithful of our two Churches throughout the world, Bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, lay men and women engaged in ecclesial service, and all the baptized. In Christ we greet other Christians, assuring them of our prayers and our openness to dialogue and cooperation. In the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles, we greet all of you: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 1:2).
From the Pope's homily (fulltext):
[M]y presence here today is meant to renew our commitment to advancing along the road towards the re-establishment – by God’s grace – of full communion between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople. I can assure you that the Catholic Church is willing to do everything possible to overcome obstacles and to seek, together with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, ever more effective means of pastoral cooperation to this end.

The two brothers, Simon, called Peter, and Andrew, were fishermen whom Jesus called to become fishers of men. The Risen Lord, before his Ascension, sent them out together with the other Apostles with the mission of making all nations his disciples, baptizing them and proclaiming his teachings (cf. Mt 28:19ff.; Lk 24:47; Acts 1:8).
This charge left us by the holy brothers Peter and Andrew is far from finished. On the contrary, today it is even more urgent and necessary. For it looks not only to those cultures which have been touched only marginally by the Gospel message, but also to long-established European cultures deeply grounded in the Christian tradition. The process of secularization has weakened the hold of that tradition; indeed, it is being called into question, and even rejected. In the face of this reality, we are called, together with all other Christian communities, to renew Europe’s awareness of its Christian roots, traditions and values, giving them new vitality....

Simon Peter and Andrew were called together to become fishers of men. This same task, however, took on a different form for each of the brothers. Simon, notwithstanding his human weakness, was called “Peter”, the “rock” on which the Church was to be built; to him in a particular way were entrusted the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Mt 16:18). His journey would take him from Jerusalem to Antioch, and from Antioch to Rome, so that in that City he might exercise a universal responsibility. The issue of the universal service of Peter and his Successors has unfortunately given rise to our differences of opinion, which we hope to overcome, thanks also to the theological dialogue which has been recently resumed.

My venerable predecessor, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, spoke of the mercy that characterizes Peter’s service of unity, a mercy which Peter himself was the first to experience (Encyclical Ut Unum Sint, 91). It is on this basis that Pope John Paul extended an invitation to enter into a fraternal dialogue aimed at identifying ways in which the Petrine ministry might be exercised today, while respecting its nature and essence, so as to “accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned” (ibid., 95). It is my desire today to recall and renew this invitation.
And from the Patriarch's homily (fulltext):
This overwhelming continuity with heaven as well as with history means that the Orthodox liturgy is the mystical experience and profound conviction that "Christ is and ever shall be in our midst!" For in Christ, there is a deep connection between past, present, and future. In this way, the liturgy is more than merely the recollection of Christ's words and acts. It is the realization of the very presence of Christ Himself, who has promised to be wherever two or three are gathered in His name.

At the same time, we recognize that the rule of prayer is the rule of faith (lex orandi lex credendi), that the doctrines of the Person of Christ and of the Holy Trinity have left an indelible mark on the liturgy, which comprises one of the undefined doctrines, "revealed to us in mystery," of which St. Basil the Great so eloquently spoke. This is why, in liturgy, we are reminded of the need to reach unity in faith as well as in prayer. Therefore, we kneel in humility and repentance before the living God and our Lord Jesus Christ, whose precious Name we bear and yet at the same time whose seamless garment we have divided. We confess in sorrow that we are not yet able to celebrate the holy sacraments in unity. And we pray that the day may come when this sacramental unity will be realized in its fullness.

And yet, Your Holiness and beloved brother in Christ, this con-celebration of heaven and earth, of history and time, brings us closer to each other today through the blessing of the presence, together with all the saints, of the predecessors of our Modesty, namely St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom. We are honored to venerate the relics of these two spiritual giants after the solemn restoration of their sacred relics in this holy church two years ago when they were graciously returned to us by the venerable Pope John Paul II. Just as, at that time, during our Thronal Feast, we welcomed and placed their saintly relics on the Patriarchal Throne, chanting "Behold your throne!", so today we gather in their living presence and eternal memory as we celebrate the Liturgy named in honor of St. John Chrysostom.
Thus our worship coincides with the same joyous worship in heaven and throughout history. Indeed, as St. John Chrysostom himself affirms: "Those in heaven and those on earth form a single festival, a shared thanksgiving, one choir" (PG 56.97). Heaven and earth offer one prayer, one feast, one doxology. The Divine Liturgy is at once the heavenly kingdom and our home, "a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev. 21.1), the ground and center where all things find their true meaning. The Liturgy teaches us to broaden our horizon and vision, to speak the language of love and communion, but also to learn that we must be with one another in spite of our differences and even divisions. In its spacious embrace, it includes the whole world, the communion of saints, and all of God's creation. The entire universe becomes "a cosmic liturgy", to recall the teaching of St. Maximus the Confessor. This kind of Liturgy can never grow old or outdated.

N. Manginas/Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Fluffiest

Che gioia, indeed.

Reuters/Murad Sezer


"I Am Anxious To Begin...."

The ordination completed, the News posts some shots, and video... Word is more clergy were present from Texas than Detroit -- or, at least, that's what it seemed.....

In other developments, Flores to preside at Detroit Guadalupe festival on 12 December; will celebrate his first Confirmation Saturday night.... More audio, from an in-house TV program to be aired starting next week.

Cardinal Maida's homily included pronunciation phonetics (Oh PURR kar-EE-tah'), and the ordinand's concluding remarks from the Mass are up.

God the Father of Lights has given us the gift of his Eternal Son made flesh, and by the power of the Holy Spirit has engendered in us new life. All gifts I have received in life, including the gift of this day, are contained in the primordial gift of Christ to the world....

In a certain way, the presence of so many family and friends here is a personal reminder that Catholicity begins with professing one faith, and bears fruit in a real communion of life and love. Catholicity involves a communion of faith, and life, of family and friends in the joy and grace of Christ. God has granted to me during my life a real experience of that gift. I have many friends here whom I have known over the years, but who have not known each other, and it is a great joy to see them together in one place. I look over the many faces and I rejoice in the way God has manifested generous mystery of the Church in the very personal gift of family and friends....
I am humbled by the presence of so many friends who have been so important in my life. I particularly take the presence of so many seminarians as a sign of their continued prayerful support, something I have relied upon for many years. To the seminarians in particular, I say, love Christ, serve his people, and in the gift of yourself you will encounter the Lord....
I find I have said many things, but really I have not said what I most profoundly wish to say. The human word can never completely express the human soul. This is a mysterious limitation I experience acutely today.

There was a play written by Jose Maria Peman about the life of Saint Francis Xavier. It was called El Divino Impaciente. In it there is a scene wherein Francis Xavier expresses his affection for his friend Saint Ignatius of Loyola. The poet puts some quiet words on the lips of Francis. I would like to take the liberty of adapting the phrases in order to say something of what I experience in trying to express my gratitude to all who are here today.
Forgive me, dear friends,
I cannot say not what I feel,
You who understand my soul,
And can hear its silent peal.
Blood and life have taught me,
Love in quiet best speaks its part,
“Be shorter is the saying,
When affection lies deeper in the heart.”

PHOTOS: Brandy Baker/Detroit News


Sectarian Hooliganism

On the eve of the nation's patronal feast, reports are that violence against Scottish Catholics has spiked:
Anti-Catholic sectarian crime in Scotland has risen 50 percent, according to official figures released by the Scottish Executive.

According to the statistics 440 Scots were convicted of religiously motivated assaults between January 2004 and June 2005.

“Sadly this document shows that Catholics in Scotland are still many times more likely to be subject of a sectarian attack than any other group,” said Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

“During the period of this study Catholics were five times more likely to be the victims.

“This is of great concern to me,” he added.

The report also showed that of the 726 cases investigated 31 percent of the incidents had been directed against Scottish Protestants.

Family Reunion

Word from Gotham is that, at 1 o'clock, Cardinal Edward Egan was to meet with the pastors of the archdiocese of New York at the traditional confab-site of St Joseph's Seminary in Dunwoodie.

Should you be curious: no, the agenda had nothing to do with, um, that. At least, it wasn't supposed to; the gathering was previously scheduled to discuss financial and safe environment protocols, then delayed in light of the cardinal's September knee replacement. It is, however, Egan's first sit-down with his pastors since before the operation.

Four months from his 75th birthday, the cardinal's said to have taken a ramped-up outreach in recent weeks, celebrating Thanksgiving with his retired priests and presiding at the funeral liturgy of a local serviceman killed in Iraq.

The public presence will continue on Sunday morning as, at long last, "The Catholic Channel" launches on Sirius 159 and Egan celebrates its first Mass -- the weekly 10.15 from St Patrick's Cathedral.

Here's hoping he doesn't have to save my Christmas again, but as the first anniversary of that approaches, I remain ever grateful for the assist.


The Bishop Is Sent, Breathing Forth Hope

Later today, Bishop-elect Daniel Flores will get to witness an episcopal ordination for the first time. It just happens to be his own -- and from the run-up, it'll mark one of the most enthusiastically-received elevations anyone's seen in quite some time.

The youngest member of the US hierarchy, Flores will be ordained an auxiliary bishop of Detroit in a Mass at the Motor City's Blessed Sacrament Cathedral. The texts and music will evenly switch off betwen Latin, Spanish and English.

All of 45 and, until his appointment last month, a priest of Corpus Christi, the new bishop will be the first Latino prelate to minister to the archdiocese's 130,000 Hispanic Catholics. In addition, Cardinal Adam Maida's making the most of his new aide's gift of multitasking, entrusting "Bishop Danny" with responsibility for drumming up vocations; a Thomistic scholar, he served along the way as vice-rector of Houston's St Mary's Seminary for four years, as well as episcopal vicar for vocations in his native diocese.

As one lay leader described it in today's Detroit News, the new bishop's arrival "has been like the second coming." To an extraordinary degree, you'll find that the new bishop is revered and beloved by practically everyone -- from colleagues, parishioners, former and current students, to the bishops of Texas (who're already praying for his return to the Lone Star State), and even the Detroit press which, not usually known for its enthusiasm for things Catholic, has jumped onto the welcome wagon with both feet.

Saying that "he's movie-star handsome," possessed of "a deep, resonant voice to match," yesterday's Free-Press anointed the baby bishop "poised to become a hugely popular ambassador for his church." (Another worthwhile interview -- with audio -- is on the site of the archdiocesan paper, The Michigan Catholic.)

In light of his doctorate's concentration, Flores has taken his motto from the first part of St Thomas' Summa: "Verbum Mittitur Spirans Amorem" -- "The Word is Sent Breathing Forth Love." Co-consecrators at today's Mass are the current bishop of Corpus Christi Edmond Carmody and Flores' mentor, Bishop-emeritus Rene Gracida.

A gift of the latter, the ring to be conferred at the ordination has quite a history to it: it was given Gracida by his mentor, Coleman Carroll, the founding bishop and archbishop of Miami. Carroll in turn received the ring from his principal consecrator, Amleto Cicognani, who served for a quarter-century as apostolic delegate to the US.

Archdiocese of Detroit


Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Unwittingly, Saturday's post on John XXIII's Turkish period happened to coincide with the now-Blessed Pope's 125th birthday.

With another eye to Papa Roncalli and history, one UK blog has put together an extensive, piece-by-piece look at John's coronation shortly after his 1958 election, working from archived RAI footage. (You'll have to scroll down a bit; the package comprises 30 posts.)

The six-hour liturgy was the last to include all the ritual elements of the old papal inaugural -- the last crowning, that of Paul VI in 1963, was trimmed of some parts. As you can see above, they carried the poor man down the Scala Regia in the sedia gestatoria, and ostensibly without a seatbelt.... Oh, my.

Especially for those of us who've never seen -- and likely will never see -- one of these, it's definitely worth a look.


Turquoise in Turkey

This morning, the Pope celebrated what John Allen called the "smallest crowd in recent memory for a papal Mass," swinging through Ephesus on pilgrimage to the original "Mary's House":
In a fitting pastoral touch, Benedict XVI spoke the opening collect of the Mass in Turkish, drawing appreciative nods from the assembly.

Predictably, the pope’s message centered on Mary. The Sanctuary of Meryem Ana Evì (the “House of Mary”) was founded by the Lazarist Fathers in the 19th century, based on the visions of the German mystic Anna Katherine Emmerick, who identified this spot as the place where Mary died.

Though even the official Vatican Radio trip book notes that there’s no archaeological evidence to support the claim, the sanctuary nevertheless boasts a unique distinction, in that it’s perhaps the only Marian shrine on earth which draws as many Muslim pilgrims as Christians. Inside are votive reliefs with quotations from seven passages of the Qu’ran praising Mary.

Invoking the reverence which Muslims have for Mary, Benedict implored the small crowd to “lift up a prayer to the Lord, a special prayer for peace between peoples.” He referred to the Anatolian peninsula as “a natural bridge between continents.”

The homily's been posted in full.

The only other public moment of today's schedule is Benedict XVI's brief visit to St George's at the Phanar, the church contained within the compound of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, following which he'll meet privately with Patriarch Bartholomew I.

Tomorrow morning, Benedict will join Bartholomew for a divine liturgy in St George's as the patriarchate marks St Andrew's Day, its patronal feast.

Reuters/Stefano Rellandini


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"Peace at Home, Peace in the World"

The Pope has arrived in Ankara.... Check Vatican Radio's first report. And shortly after they're uttered, the speeches'll be available here.

Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach


Midnight Edition

As 90 minutes of sleep, a mountain-sized in-tray, a holiday-delayed fortnightly column and the Pope's impending departure for what one of his top aides has called the "minefield" of Turkey don't make for the best of combos, bear with me. And to everyone who was away for the long weekend, hope the festivities were fun and the traffic light. Welcome home.

Here's your ecclesiastical potpourri:
  • Pope Benedict departs for Ankara this morning at 9am Rome time, 3am Eastern. As the final details were being worked out, reports from the region indicated that the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, would be involved in the unprecedented security operation for the three-day trip. The Popemobile will be shelved in favor of an armored car, with several others employed as decoys. One late, unconfirmed report said that Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Holy See's top ecumenist, "might also have been" viewed as a soft "target" for an alleged attack plot. Picking up a report from the Italian weekly Gente, a Turkish publication says that Papa Ratzi's "elevated blood pressure" is the underlying cause of his "recent gaffes." Benedict "has undergone a small operation in preparation for an eventual bypass operation," goes the brief. As for the rest, stay tuned.
  • There's a bit of a storm brewing in the diocese of Wilmington, just south of here. Ten days ago, after a retired priest of the diocese was arrested on abuse charges in his current residence of upstate New York, Bishop Michael Saltarelli released the names of the 20 secular priests who against whom "admitted, corroborated or otherwise substantiated" accusations of sexual abuse had been filed, including some deceased clerics. While the move won plaudits for its swiftness and made Saltarelli the first US bishop to be dropped from the national lawsuit demanding the names of all credibly accused priests, the focus of public fury has now shifted to the religious communities which operate high schools in the diocese: namely, the Oblates of St Francis de Sales and the Norbertines. As it's a matter beyond his purview -- the goverance of the communities being proper to their superiors -- the bishop has "recommended" that the orders cough up the approximately ten names of their members who've been accused. To date, the religious have refused. Under the slogan "No Names, No Money," parents at the schools have started moving to withhold tuition payments, as some among them assert that Saltarelli enjoys the prerogative to "de-invite" the orders from the diocese (in a nutshell, he doesn't... not unilaterally, at least). Delaware's top paper accused the religious of "pompous arrogance" in a Sunday editorial, and yesterday afternoon the state's radio dial was filled with questions of what can and can't be done to force the revelations, canonically speaking.... Five years on and, clearly, still a ways to go......
  • Appointments, anyone? As always, the speculation keeps up. If things weren't interesting enough before, a long-mused angle has returned with a new verve: talk of the potential merging or suppression of some American dioceses. Over a year ago, word was that the possibility had been eyed in Rome as far back as the mid-80s. Given the mammoth docket of vacancies both real and impending, the average appointment process almost tripling in length since '02, don't be surprised if a study of the question resurfaced, this time with an added emphasis. While buzz going around Pittsburgh of a merger with the diocese of Greensburg (separated from the Steel City in 1951) wouldn't seem to hold water at first glance, one consolidation scenario long-advocated in some quarters lies just across the western line: Youngstown-Steubenville. But fret not, Ohioans -- all indications are that the former, open for 20 months, will have a new bishop of its own... eventually.
  • And lastly, as many of you know, I don't terribly mind eating crow. It comes with the territory of responsible and accountable reporting. In light of that, one correction's come to light that I'm particularly pleased to make. On Saturday morning, the Bollettino of the Holy See Press Office released a revised list of appointments to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Simultaneously, a slate published earlier in the month disappeared without a trace. At the time, the discrepancy was noted that the updated list failed to re-include the name of the eminent US church commentator Russell Shaw and, consequently, I mused if, as public record of his reappointment had vanished, something had gone awry. Gratefully, however, all's well -- Shaw checks in with confirmation that, as only appointments of new consultors are typically published, his reappointment stands; the letter effecting it was signed 7 October by the Secretary of State, all things to the contrary notwithstanding. Still, coming on the heels of the ad limina address that wasn't and other recent bungles of translation and message-bearing, the confusion caused by the dance of the dueling releases is but further proof that the Vatican's communications apparatus (charitably described as "dysfunctional") isn't enjoying its finest hour. With my profuse apologies for unwittingly abetting the chaos, it's a blessing to eat my crow knowing that the Holy See will continue to count on the wisdom and expertise of Shaw's counsel, which he's also extended to me, and for which I'm immeasurably grateful.
Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Benedicto. Dominus conservet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.

Happy Tuesday to all.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Archbishop Departs

Within the hour, the archbishop of Canterbury concluded his six-day Roman visit with a "Festival Eucharist" of Christ the King celebrated at the high altar of the Dominican Basilica of S. Sabina.

(Our traditionalist friends will be happy to know that the chalice was consecrated "for you and for the many." And, according to an op in attendance, "Santa Sabina's never had music as good" as it was today.)

Held at the traditional site of papal Ash Wednesday, Rowan Williams' Sunday liturgy was the only public event of his swing through the Eternal City not attended by Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican's ecumenism czar. Representing the Holy See was Kasper's #2, Bishop Brian Farrell, LC, vested in choir dress. Canadian Fr Donald Bolen, an official at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity with responsibility for the Reformed churches, proclaimed the Gospel at the Mass after having received the archbishop's blessing.

The liturgy caps a successful six-day swing for the Anglican primate, who marked his first visit to Pope Benedict on Thursday. As he flies back to London, Williams will return to a statement of support from his predecessor, issued in response to recent backgrounded assertions to the contrary,

Writing in today's Telegraph, Lord Carey of Clifton, archbishop of Canterbury from 1990 to 2002, says that it is "completely untrue to claim that I am undermining or working against my successor.

Williams "has my support and my prayers during a very difficult period in the life of the Anglican Church," Carey said, chalking up media speculation to an incomprehension of how "just as Anglican leadership is different from that of the Roman Catholic Church, all Christian ministry is distinct from political leadership."

On-the-ground at the Dominican mothership earlier today but not taking part in the liturgy was the order's master-general, Fr Carlos Azpiroz Costa. Tipped in recent weeks as a front-runner for the vacant top post of the influential Union of Superiors-General -- the umbrella group of men's orders -- the USG instead signaled its deference to the Vatican trend.

Bypassing marquee names such as Azpiroz and the Benedictine abbot-primate Nokter Wolf, the superiors chose the rector major of the Salesians of Don Bosco, Fr Pascual Chavez Villanueva, as their new frontman at the election earlier this week. Detroit native Fr Joseph Tobin, superior-general of the Redemptorists, was elected to his second term as USG vice president.

Elected head of his community in April 2002, the ascent of Chavez to the USG's helm fulfills yet another prophecy of Robert Mickens. Predicting the Mexican-born cleric's election in the "Letter from Rome" of this week's edition of The Tablet, Mickens observed in advance of the balloting that the letters "SDB" have become something of a magic word in the new pontificate, as two of Benedict XVI's most trusted lieutenants -- new Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and CDF #2 Archbishop Angelo Amato -- bear the Salesian initials.

Among the confreres, however, the USG head remains eclipsed in clout and prominence by the the successor of Ignatius of Loyola, the father-general of the Society of Jesus. With just over 13 months until the opening of the 35th General Congregation and the provincial councils underway, all approaching the first seamless transition of governance in the Jesuits' long and vaunted history, things on the Black Popewatch are beginning to heat up.

Daniele Colarieti/Catholic Press Photo


"With Trust, I Place Myself...."

It's the liturgical equivalent of New Years' Eve -- Happy Christ the King Sunday.

(Question: Does any other parish aside from mine have a "crowning" ceremony as the boys' answer to the May Crowning? If not, think it over....)

Here's a translation of this morning's Angelus:

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On this last Sunday of the liturgical year, we celebrate the solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe. Today's Gospel reiterates to us one part of the dramatic interrogation to which Pontius Pilate submitted Jesus, confronting him with the accusation of having usurped the title of "king of the Jews." To the questions of the Roman governor, Jesus responds affirming that, yes, he is a king, but not of this world (cf. Jn 18:36). He did not come to have dominion over peoples and territories, but to liberate men from the slavery of sin and reconcile them with God. And he adds: "For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice" (Jn 18:37).

But what is the "truth" that Christ has come to witness to in the world? His whole existence reveals that God is love: it is therefore the truth to which he offered full testimony with the sacrifice of his own life on Calvary. The Cross is the "throne" from which he manifested the sublime kingship of God Love: offering himself in expiation for the sins of the world, he defeated the dominion of the "ruler of this world" (Jn 12:31) and has established definitively the Reign of God. A Kingdom which will manifest itself in its fullness at the end of time, after all enemies, and finally the death, are finally made subject (cf. 1 Cor 15:25-26). Then the Son will hand over the Kingdom to the Father and finally God will be "all in all" (1 Cor 15:28). The way to join this path is long and does not permit shortcuts: it happens when each person freely welcomes the truth of the love of God. He is Love and Truth, a love whose truth never impose themselves: they knock on the door of the heart and of the mind and, where they can enter, they bring peace and joy. This is the way of God's reigning; this, his project of salvation, a "mystery" in the biblical sense of the term: a design that reveals itself little by little over the course of history.

To the kingship of Christ, the Virgin Mary is associated in a singular way. To her, humble girl of Nazareth, God asks to become the Mother of the Messiah, and Mary corresponds to this call with her whole self, uniting her unconditional "yes" to that of her Son Jesus and making herself with obedient with Him to the point of sacrifice. For this God has exalted her above all creatures and Christ has crowned her Queen of Heaven and earth. To her intercession we entrust the Church and the whole of humanity, that the love of God may reign in all hearts and so complete his plan of justice and of peace.

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae....


In his postcatechetical remarks, the Pope said the following about his visit to Turkey, which begins with his departure on Tuesday:

Dear brothers and sisters, as you know, in the days to come I will be traveling to Turkey. At this time I wish to send a heartfelt greeting to the dear Turkish people, rich in history and culture; to this People and to their representatives I express sentiments of esteem and sincere friendship. With great emotion I look forward to meeting the small Catholic Community, always present in my heart, and to unite myself fraternally to the Orthodox Church on the occasion of the feast of the apostle Saint Andrew. With trust I place myself in the footsteps of my venerable predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II; and I invoke the heavenly protection of Blessed John XXIII, who was for ten years Apostolic Delegate in Turkey and nurtured for that Nation affection and esteem. To all of you I ask your accompaniment with prayer, that this pilgrimage may bring all the fruits that God desires.

Another event of the week was also noted: "This coming December 1 marks World AIDS Day. I wish greatly that this occasion promotes an increased responsibility for the care of this illness, together with the pledge of avoiding each instance of discrimination toward the many stricken with it. Calling the comfort of the Lord upon the sick and their families, I encourage the many initiatives that the Church maintains in this area."

Benedict also observed the Italian day dedicated to cancer research, with a prayer of "encouragement" to the organizations involved in the research, and to the researchers.


As the three-day Turkish visit approaches, a crowd estimated at "more than 20,000" protested the Pope's arrival today in Istanbul as it was announced that the pontiff will visit the city's famed Blue Mosque.

A Chicago Tribune columnist writes today on Orthodoxy's "uncertain" future after a visit with one of Benedict's hosts, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

Reuters/Chris Helgren


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Amico dei Turchi

A story's running today saying that, as he prepares to embark for his Turkish sojourn on Tuesday, the shadows of his predecessors will "haunt" Benedict XVI.

The word-use might be a bit far-fetched, but at the same time, it highlights the contributions to Turkey made by two of the Pope's recent predecessors -- both of whom, it should be noted, hailed from the diplomatic apparatus of the Secretariat of State.

On the last day of his pilgrimage, the pontiff will bless a two statues in Istanbul: one of Pope Benedict XV, erected after World War I "to honour his humanitarian work caring for Turkish troops wounded" in the conflict, and a new tribute to Bl John XXIII, who served in Turkey as apostolic delegate and head of the country's small Catholic community from 1935-44.

Forty-four years after his death, the man who became Papa Roncalli remains beloved the world over, but especially in Turkey, so much so that the postulator of the "Good Pope's" cause for canonization, Franciscan Fr Luca DeRosa, was given an extensive space in Wednesday's L'Osservatore Romano to speak to it.

"I love these Turks, in Jesus Christ," then-Archbishop Roncalli was quoted as saying in a letter to his ordinary, the bishop of Bergamo. "I love them because I believe them to be called to redemption."

(Psst -- don't tell anybody, but if you're looking for a theme for B16's trip, look no further than the latter line.)

According to DeRosa, Roncalli won the church credibility in the secular Muslim state by maintaining a positive, affectionate approach, one emphasized by the inscription he placed over the door of his nunciature "Pater et Pastor": "Father and Shepherd." (In an emblematic commentary on the state of ecumenism at the time, the prior greeting in the entry was "qui ex Patre Filoque procedit" -- a not-so-subtle jab at the Ecumenical Patriarchate.) Even before the reforms of the council he called, the then-Delegate offered Mass in Turkish; his first secretary in Istanbul, Msgr Angelo Dell'Acqua, later served as Pope John's Sostituto and was made a cardinal by Paul VI in 1967. In one of his letters on their time at the Delegation, Dell'Acqua said of his boss that, in temperament and balance, he was both "a father and a mother" to those who worked with him and the many who sought him out.

Following his 2000 beatification, a street near Roncalli's Istanbul residence was christened in the late pope's honor as "Amico dei Turchi" -- "Friend of the Turks." Such was the Vatican's standing in the eyes of the then-new republic that it was forbidden to set up its diplomatic outpost in the new capital of Ankara, but was exiled to Istanbul. With that situation since rectified, Benedict will be staying at the Ankara nunciature on the trip's first overnight.

For the liturgical triptik of the journey, the "presentation of the missal" given by papal MC Archbishop Piero Marini has been translated into English.


Saturday at the Vatican: Press Savvy... or Lack Thereof

Recent rumors of the impending demise of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications are greatly exaggerated.


If they weren't, then the Pope wouldn't have named three new members and 19 new consultors this morning to the service of the dicastery. Among the new prelates on-board are Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco, the incoming chair of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for Communication. Niederauer joins his classmate, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, and Bishop Joseph Galante of Camden on the US delegation to the council, which is headed by Archbishop John P. Foley, a native of Philadelphia.

Further along, the consultors' list features notable names such as Fr Federico Lombardi, SJ, director of the Holy See Press Office; Msgr Owen Campion, a priest of Nashville and editor of Our Sunday Visitor; Carl Anderson, supremo of the Knights of Columbus; Anthony Spence, editor of Catholic News Service and, in tribute to the Pauline institutes' continued apostolate in the field of media, Fr Silvio Sassi, superior-general of the Society of St Paul and Sr Maria Antonietta Bruscato, the superior-general of the Daughters of St Paul.

Despite the new infusion, PCCS still awaits the appointment of a new secretary after a vacancy of almost two years since the transfer of the post's last holder. Following Bishop Renato Boccardo's departure for the administrative offices of the Vatican City-State in February 2005, Foley's acting #2 has been the council's undersecretary, Dr Angelo Scelzo, the highest-ranking layman in recent Vatican history.

Notably, today's list appears to be a re-do of one that was released some weeks back, with most of the same persons on that slate reappearing. One name conspicuously absent, however, is that of Russell Shaw, the eminent commentator on church affairs, who served for as head of communications for the US bishops from 1967-89 and had previously been tapped for two five-year terms on the council. While Shaw was on the first list of consultors published earlier in the month, it seems his name has disappeared from today's announcement -- and the prior release has been wiped from the archives of the Holy See Press Office.


Shaw wrote a widely-noted piece earlier this month in Crisis magazine, offering a firm critique of the nation's hierarchy and its recent move toward restructuring in advance of the Baltimore meeting. Expressing his finding that the American bishops suffer a collective "lack of vision," Shaw said that while episcopal conferences were a mandatory part of ecclesial life, "no law says they have to get as bloated and self-important as the American conference became over the years, when it sometimes seemed to consider itself a kind of super-diocese giving orders to dioceses and acting as a counterweight to the Vatican."

And today, so it appears, he's off the list.

Everyone together: Hmm.

(SVILUPPO: Clarification/correction here.)

Coincidentally, elsewhere on the Vatican's communications beat, the Pope received the editors of Italy's diocesan papers, telling them that while "the rapid evolution of means of social communication and the advent of numerous and advanced technologies in the field of the media" can often leave small niche outlets behind, the diocesan paper remains "a precious vehicle of information and a means of evangelical penetration."

"Your weeklies are justly called 'newspapers of the people,'" the Pope said, "because they remain geared toward the doings and the life of the people of the area and as they hand down the popular traditions and rich cultural and religious patrimony of your towns and cities." Benedict XVI exhorted local Catholic papers to "Continue to be 'journals of the people and among the people,' arenas of exchange and loyal battle among diverse opinions, so to advance and authentic dialogue, indispensable for the growth of the civil and ecclesial communities."

Speaking to the topic of the journalists' gathering -- the church in political life -- the Pope said that while "the legitimate pluralism of political choices has nothing to do with a cultural diaspora of Catholics," he hoped that the diocesan weeklies may "represent significant 'places' of encounter and attentive discernment for the lay faithful engaged in the social and political fields, to the end of dialogue and finding convergences and objectives of shared action to the service of the Gospel and the common good."

This morning, the Holy See also announced an extensive reorganization of the church in Mexico with the creation of four new provinces, their metropolitan sees in Tijuana, León, Tulancingo and Tuxtla Gutierrez. The new configuration has slimmed down the groupings of ten of the country's 14 existing provinces.

In a related reminder: the Guadalupe Novena begins but nine days from today.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Turkey, Stuffing and Canterbury

Belatedly, to everyone here in the States, hope you've been having a blessed and joyous Thanksgiving. As always, I give great thanks for the gift of each of you; know that all of you, your loved ones and all your intentions remain in my grateful prayers. God love and reward you all forever!

And now, to the day's top story: While the Vatican's Turkey Day doesn't fall until next week, when Pope Benedict leaves Rome for his three-day pilgrimage to Istanbul and Ankara, American Thanksgiving was a full one in Rome as Pope Benedict received the archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, in private audience. The pontiff and the Anglican primate also led Midday Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours for the Vatican and Lambeth delegations in the Apostolic Palace's Redemptoris Mater chapel.

In part of his address to the archbishop and his entourage, Benedict said the following:
In the present context... and especially in the secularized Western world, there are many negative influences and pressures which affect Christians and Christian communities. Over the last three years you have spoken openly about the strains and difficulties besetting the Anglican Communion and consequently about the uncertainty of the future of the Communion itself. Recent developments, especially concerning the ordained ministry and certain moral teachings, have affected not only internal relations within the Anglican Communion but also relations between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church. We believe that these matters, which are presently under discussion within the Anglican Communion, are of vital importance to the preaching of the Gospel in its integrity, and that your current discussions will shape the future of our relations. It is to be hoped that the work of the theological dialogue, which had registered no small degree of agreement on these and other important theological matters, will continue be taken seriously in your discernment. In these deliberations we accompany you with heartfelt prayer. It is our fervent hope that the Anglican Communion will remain grounded in the Gospels and the Apostolic Tradition which form our common patrimony and are the basis of our common aspiration to work for full visible unity.

The world needs our witness and the strength which comes from an undivided proclamation of the Gospel. The immense sufferings of the human family and the forms of injustice that adversely affect the lives of so many people constitute an urgent call for our shared witness and service. Precisely for this reason, and even amidst present difficulties, it is important that we continue our theological dialogue. I hope that your visit will assist in finding constructive ways forward in the current circumstances.
(Rowan's greeting here.)

At the close of their encounter -- 25 minutes of which were spent one-on-one -- a "common declaration" was issued by the two leaders. A snip:
True ecumenism goes beyond theological dialogue; it touches our spiritual lives and our common witness. As our dialogue has developed, many Catholics and Anglicans have found in each other a love for Christ which invites us into practical co-operation and service. This fellowship in the service of Christ, experienced by many of our communities around the world, adds a further impetus to our relationship. The International Anglican - Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) has been engaged in an exploration of the appropriate ways in which our shared mission to proclaim new life in Christ to the world can be advanced and nurtured. Their report, which sets out both a summary of the central conclusions of ARCIC and makes proposals for growing together in mission and witness, has recently been completed and submitted for review to the Anglican Communion Office and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and we express our gratitude for their work.
In this fraternal visit, we celebrate the good which has come from these four decades of dialogue. We are grateful to God for the gifts of grace which have accompanied them. At the same time, our long journey together makes it necessary to acknowledge publicly the challenge represented by new developments which, besides being divisive for Anglicans, present serious obstacles to our ecumenical progress. It is a matter of urgency, therefore, that in renewing our commitment to pursue the path towards full visible communion in the truth and love of Christ, we also commit ourselves in our continuing dialogue to address the important issues involved in the emerging ecclesiological and ethical factors making that journey more difficult and arduous.
From the UK press, The Times reports one positive result from the first in-depth meeting between the two: "A source said that the two men, both highly intellectual academic theologians, had forged a strong bond." But the Telegraph, while praising Benedict XVI's ability to "emerge as a beaming pastor with possibly the finest theological mind in the Church," heads its lead comment piece with an ominous sentence: "The archbishop's days are numbered."

The report gives new airing to the rampant speculation in Anglican circles that, after a tenure of just over five years, Williams will leave office following the colliding planes of the communion enter into "formal schism" at the 2008 Lambeth Conference -- the decennial convocation of the bishops of global Anglicanism -- to be succeeded by the archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

Tomorrow afternoon, the archbishop will preside at evening prayer in S. Maria sopra Minerva alongside the basilica's titular, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster. The vespers will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Rome's Anglican Centre. On Sunday, the visit will end with a flourish as the Canterbury prelate offers an Anglican "Festival Eucharist" in S. Sabina, the traditional home of the papal liturgy of Ash Wednesday.

Notably, word is that the Dominican mother-church was not always the envisioned venue: the service's initially proposed site was said to be the Patriarchal Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls.

PHOTO 2: AP/Alessandro Bianchi


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Roman Rowan

On the ground in the Eternal City, the archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams kicked off his six-day Roman visit with a lecture earlier tonight, hosted by the Benedictines of Sant'Anselmo.

Shown here before the lecture with Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican's top ecumenist, the Anglican supremo's talk was said to be a "great hit." Clearly not asked to doff his pectoral cross at the ateneo door, Archbishop Williams milled about afterwards, conversing with the natives.

In the morning: the meeting we've all been waiting for.

Reuters/Max Rossi


Not-So-Musical Cathedras

"What's up with this?" a cleric-pal asked the other day. "Is it true that Lake Charles and Birmingham are still open because no one wants to go there?"

On further review, it's a pretty widespread theory.

A couple weeks back, the hair-triggers did go off in Southwestern Louisiana, asking, hoping, begging, praying for confirmation that something was imminent after buzz on the ground that an appointment to the former -- vacant since Bishop Edward Braxton's transfer to Belleville in March 2005 -- had been completed, with an announcement in the offing.

Several bishops were likewise under this impression. And then... bupkus. At least for now.

Seemingly, the deluxe episcopal lodging in Lake Charles -- thank Braxton for that -- has shown itself an insufficient deal-closer; as has been buzzed about in recent months, the fullness of the priesthood is being declined these days at numbers unseen since the 1830s here in the States.

The Birmingham appointment is, of course, unique, and uniquely complicated, given the presence of EWTN on top of a sizable local church burgeoning with transplants and converts. On this account, it could be said that the vacancy there -- the state of affairs since Bishop David Foley's retirement in May '05 -- is a microcosm of the episcopacy in general: if you're keen for the job, it's not you they seek.

Unless, of course, you just happen to get a phone call.

And if you do, regardless of disposition or destination, be wise to recall the words of Benedict Flaget, the pioneer bishop of Bardstown. As he handed the papal mandate to a trembling, 33 year-old priest plucked from the Kentucky frontier to quell a revolt in the Northeast, Flaget uttered a sentence that speaks across the ensuing centuries to the chosen ones of our own day: "Receive the certificate of the cross you are about to bear."

The recipient of the document, and the quote, was Francis Patrick Kenrick, one of my historical favorites. In the city where his journey ended, his name returned to the papers last week.

Further proof that old bishops don't die -- their letters live forever.


Last Man Sitting

Today marks the end of an era, as Cardinal William Wakefield Baum celebrates his 80th birthday.

Born on this date in 1926 and ordained a priest of Kansas City, the senior American prelate -- shown above at Wojtyla's farewell -- was elevated to the episcopacy in 1970, when he was named bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. Promoted to the archdiocese of Washington in 1973, he was named a cardinal in advance of his 50th birthday in 1976, then brought to Rome four years later, when Pope John Paul II tapped him to serve as prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education.

In 1990, Cardinal Baum was transferred to the helm of the Apostolic Penitentiary, where he dispensed indulgences and guarded the integrity of the internal forum until his 2001 retirement. (The office is currently held by another American, Baltimore native Cardinal James Francis Stafford, a former archbishop of Denver.)

His eyesight long failing, the last US cardinal created by Paul VI was but one of two electors in the conclave of 2005 who had participated in a prior papal election, having helped choose both John Pauls in the twin conclaves of 1978.

Of course, the other veteran elector was Joseph Ratzinger, for whom the third time was the charm, as you know.

Despite the prestige of his main posts, it could effectively be argued that Baum's greatest force was wielded in the other dicasteries where he enjoyed membership, particularly over his more than two decades on the Congregation for Bishops, where he was subsequently joined by his Missouri successor, who became Cardinal Law of Boston.

Together with the late Cardinal John O'Connor -- a close friend with whom Baum was present at the moment of his death -- the Americans, led by Baum, formed an unprecedented gang of three weighing in on Stateside appointments. They were later joined by Cardinal Edmund Szoka, the former archbishop of Detroit recruited into the direct service of the Holy See. After O'Connor's transitus, in 2001 Stafford was named to Bishops and, last year, Cardinal William Levada joined, for an all-time high of five US cardinals on the panel that recommends episcopal nominees to the pontiff.

In accord with the norms of law and the constitution of Paul VI Ingravescentem aetatem, Baum's remaining curial memberships cease today, as does his prerogative of participating in another conclave. A frequent traveler between Rome and DC, he's likely celebrating the day at his primo Roman apartment overlooking St Peter's Square, his longtime, ubiquitous aide Msgr Jim Gillen ever dutifully behind-the-scenes.

Baum's superannuation leaves the number of voting cardinals at 115. Given Benedict XVI's keenness to keep the number at the Pauline limit of 120, and to keep the full complement regularly topped off, look for a consistory sometime in the late spring or early summer, by which time the number of cardinal-electors will fall to 107, just on account of more princes of the church hitting the big 8-0.


Monday, November 20, 2006

On Divine Worship

Goodbye, BCL, hello, BCDW.

As part of the reconfiguration approved at last week's Baltimore meeting, the USCCB gave its formal blessing to tthe evolution of its Committee on the Liturgy into the Committee for Divine Worship. Once the realignment is completed, the new BCDW will be tasked with an expanded purview, including added oversight for such entities as shrines and the Charismatic movement which, until the consolidation takes effect, will have been handled by committees of their own, now suppressed.

Still running under the BCL moniker, the new edition of the office's Newsletter has been circulating, with a wrap on the November meeting and some other goodies.

As first reported here Friday night, launching a feeding frenzy in its wake, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has communicated at the "direction" of Benedict XVI that the rendering of the Latin "pro vobis et pro multis" in the liturgical consecration of the cup is to be rendered as "for you and for many" in future translations of the Missale Romanum.

An October 17 letter to the presidents of the episcopal conferences from the dicastery's prefect, Cardinal Francis Arinze, said that while, "indeed, the formula 'for all' would undoubtedly correspond to a correct interpretation of the Lord's intention expressed in the text," the national groupings of bishops were "requested" to lay the groundwork "for the introduction of a precise vernacular translation of the formula pro multis (e.g., 'for many,' 'per molti,' etc.)" in the next translation that they submit for approval to the Holy See.

Observant readers will remember that, when the new rendering of the Order of Mass was approved last June, proposed amendments from two US bishops advocating "for the many" as the revised rendering were held up by the BCL, citing the Holy See's "expressed intention" to address the pro multis question on its own in due course. Rome's recognitio of the Order of Mass is expected as early as next March, but the bulk of the project remains to receive final review and approval from the English-speaking conferences; namely, the Propers of Seasons and the Saints. Longtimers will also remember hearing that it's likely not the last change Rome will introduce to the amended text that's been sent their way.

While, in its entirety, the new Missal is eyed for a 2009 rollout at the parish level, several of the translation battle's marquee players are keen to see the first Mass using the new rendering -- "for many" included -- celebrated by the Pope himself when Benedict travels to Sydney to celebrate World Youth Day 2008. In the meantime, however, the bishops also remind that "Absolutely no changes" to the institution narrative or any other normative text as currently laid out "may be made until the new translation of the Roman Missal has been approved by the Bishops and confirmed by the Holy See" in full.

A recent consultation was reported on in Leeds between the top officials responsible for liturgy from the US, England and Wales and Australia as they begun planning an extensive joint catechetical outreach to prepare the faithful in those countries for the implementation of the new Missal. And, elsewhere, the committee clarifies the place of the Kiss of Peace at Mass, apparently having received "received numerous questions concerning [its] omission" by priest-celebrants in the US.

"The Order of Mass makes clear that the invitation to exchange a sign of peace is given 'if the occasion so suggests' (ex opportunitate)," the response says. "The Priest may, for example, omit the sign of peace when an exchange of a sign of peace would be difficult in the light of the physical condition or arrangement of those present, or if it would present a health danger."

At the same time, the clarification emphasizes that "the sign of peace should never be omitted due to the personal preferences of the Priest," citing the General Instruction of the Roman Missal's exhortation that "in planning the celebration of Mass, [the celebrant] should have in mind the common spiritual good of the people of God, rather than his own inclinations."

In said context, no comment was made, however, on those celebrants whose inclination is to offer three fingers to the faithful at the sign of peace, keeping the "consecrated digits" of thumb and forefinger to themselves.

(Yes, this happens. In the Pauline Rite. More often than you'd think. And you couldn't make it up if you wanted to.)

While it passed with the support of 88% of the Latin bishops in attendance in Baltimore, the newsletter reiterated that the Directory on Music and the Liturgy for the United States will not take the form of a repertory of texts or "white list," as "the practicality of such a task in the United States of America is questionable in the light of the number of published hymns and new compositions regularly commissioned." The new Directory, therefore, is geared toward "providing more global descriptions of principles and criteria" and will shortly be submitted to the Holy See for the necessary recognitio.


The Bishop Gets Counseling

Closing a months-long investigation, no criminal action will be taken against Bishop Daniel Walsh of Santa Rosa for delaying report of abusive priest; California prelate to attend four-month "counseling diversion" program, prosecutor's decision panned by victims:
Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua said Monday the decision to offer diversion in lieu of filing charges was in no way letting Walsh off the hook for failing to immediately report the actions of Francisco Xavier Ochoa, a Sonoma priest wanted on 10 felony counts of sexual molestation.

Violation of the state’s mandatory reporting law of suspected child abuse, a misdemeanor crime, carries a potential penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. But Passalacqua said that since Walsh has no prior criminal record, he is entitled to the diversion program.

“We certainly hope that our decision involving Bishop Walsh will send a clear message to all mandated reporters of the importance of immediately reporting to law enforcement any child abuse or elderly abuse any injury of an assault,” said Passalacqua.

Walsh said Monday afternoon that diocese attorney Dan Galvin received a form, faxed from the District Attorney’s Office, that details the diversion program. Galvin then informed Walsh of Passalacqua’s decision.

“I’m just pleased that finally a decision was made,” said Walsh. “I said from the very beginning I acknowledged my mistake. And I said I would abide by whatever the decision the district attorney rendered after his investigation.”

Walsh has 21 days to formally agree to the diversion program, but he said Monday that he would complete the program.

Ochoa, who worked as a priest at St. Francis Solano Church in Sonoma, remains a fugitive, believed to have fled the country May 6, about a week after admitting to Walsh and other church officials of sexual improprieties with several children.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Speaking of Episcopal Plenaries....

The US bishops may gather every year, but the plenary of the CELAM -- the mega-conference comprising the bishops of the 22 Latin American nations -- comes but once every decade... and then some.

While you weren't looking, preparations have been quickening toward the body's fifth plenary assembly in its history: next May's gathering at Brasil's Marian shrine at Aparecida. The meeting will also commemorate the 50th anniversary of CELAM's founding.

Keeping with the tradition begun when Paul VI traveled to Medellin for the 1968 general assembly, Pope Benedict is planning a visit to open the church's largest regional gathering of bishops. (John Paul II is shown above at the opening session of the 1979 plenary in Puebla, Mexico; the late pontiff also attended the last CELAM general, held at Santo Domingo in 1992. The Aparecida meeting will mark the first in Brazil since the conference's founding assembly, which took place in Rio de Janiero in 1955.)

The member-bishops' recommendations for agenda items at the monthlong convocation are due by month's end. While previous meetings have hewed toward questions of social activism -- namely, the church's outreach to the poor and the resulting push for, then exorcism of, liberation theology -- two issues would seem to stand at the forefront of this moment of the ecclesial situation in the region: the rise of the "sects," which have palpably diminished the church's influence and numbers in Latin America, and a perceived crisis of the family, which senior prelates have found under threat given recent trends toward same-sex marriage in Mexico and the Chilean government's campaign for increased condom use, among other instances.

At its reunion, CELAM will also be electing a new president to serve a four-year term in succession to Cardinal Javier Errazuriz Ossa, the archbishop of Santiago de Chile. Viewed as papabile for a nanosecond in the run-up to the 2005 conclave, Errazuriz -- a onetime superior of the Schoenstatt Fathers -- was secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life before being named to Chile's marquee diocese in 1998.

As the CELAM is closely watched in Rome, and given the key role in the interaction of the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, who also serves as president of the Pontifical Commission on Latin America, a change in the occupant of said post in advance of Aparecida would seem highly unlikely.

And while, as of this writing, a key post in the host country is vacant, to put a twist on an old saying, between now and then, Hummes providebit.



Tribunal #1 -- First In a Series?

This week in Erie, The Church v. Charlie Kavanagh -- the first ecclesiastical tribunal for a sex-abuse case in the US -- wrapped.

As scribbled about previously, Kavanagh was the high-powered vicar for development of the archdiocese of New York until accusations against him were raised by a onetime high school seminarian, Daniel Donohue (above, with his sister), in June 2002. As the case was beyond the civil statute, and given the suspended cleric's protestations of innocence -- including wearing his collar to his 60th birthday party in defiance of the Dallas charter -- Donohue had his day in court last week, but not technically.

Canonically, the parties to the tribunal were lawyers for the archdiocese of New York, seeking to prove the guilt of the accused, and for Kavanagh, seeking to clear their client. The alleged victim was merely the "star witness" for the archdiocese.

In case there was any doubt, David Clohessy isn't happy with the tribunal process:
[F]or victims, he said, a church trial promises little satisfaction.

"They've been hurt by a predatory priest and a series of cold-hearted church bureaucrats," Clohessy said. "Why would they voluntarily submit to a secretive process run by a series of cold-hearted church bureaucrats?"
For what it's worth, Donohue -- just the voluntary submitter who was actually, you know, in the room -- found what Clohessy would call his "series of three cold-hearted church bureaucrats" neither cold-hearted, nor bureaucratic.
Before he answered any questions Friday morning, he said, he asked each judge to describe when they became aware of how pervasive sexual abuse was in the church, and what they did about it. Their answers were satisfying enough that he agreed to tell his story.

"I can say they understood," he said. "At that moment, in that room, there was a clear understanding of what was at stake."
(i.e. the ecclesiastical tribunal isn't guilty of making SNAP judgements.)

For his part, however, Donohue would not assent to keeping his experience and testimony under the customarily-requisite pontifical secret. As Gary Stern reports:
Donohue, now 42 and a father of four, said he refused to sign an oath of secrecy and told the panel of three priests that he opposed the closed nature of the trial.

"I spoke of why I would not give up my voice, my truth," he said by phone. "I told them that this secrecy caused my abuse."

Donohue said that when one of his sisters testified this week and refused to promise confidentiality, she was told that she could be subject to papal discipline.

"They wouldn't tell her what it meant," he said.
As the fifth anniversary of the avalanche of revelations from Boston approaches, the Erie trial -- moved there from New York at the request of the archdiocese, keen to tamp down on media attention -- returns the issue of the handling of abuse cases to the forefront.

In an emblematic example of the timeline of contested abuse cases and the speed with which they work their way through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the Roman dicastery charged with processing them), while the accusations against Kavanagh were leveled in June '02, the trial was given the go-ahead only in January of this year, and the parties weren't notified of its place or time until about a fortnight ago. While the USCCB initially lent two of America's top canonists to aid the CDF's Discipline office in tackling its extensive backlog of abuse cases, but one currently remains: Msgr Bob Deeley of the archdiocese of Boston.

While significantly less prominent than the CDF's sex-abuse portfolio -- which even the new Grand Inquisitor, Cardinal William Levada, cited as a factor in his appointment to the post -- another Roman process which has experienced a significant uptick since the abuse eruption and subsequent episcopal response in the US is that of the "administrative" or "hierarchic recourse." In cases where a diocesan bishop deprives one of his priests of his lawful faculties, privileges or due compensation for reasons extant the "more grave delicts" (e.g. abuse of a minor, absolution of an accomplice, etc.) reserved to the onetime Holy Office, the sanctioned cleric has the right to appeal the decision to the Congregation for the Clergy.

Suffice it to say, more than ever have. The impending docket of these requests for review is massive; recourses filed 18 to 24 months ago still await replies, a significant number being overturned not on grounds of substance, but the procedures used (the latter said to be the Roman preference, wherever possible). It is important to note that once a recourse is filed, according to law the effects of the decision at issue are suspended until a finding is reached and communicated to the parties.

It's very possible that the role of Clero in the recourses played a part in the Pope's decision to name Cardinal Claudio Hummes as the dicastery's new prefect. Unlike his predecessor, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the outgoing archbishop of Sao Paolo is: 1. a religious and 2. not a canonist. Of course, this is balanced out by Hummes' 31 years dealing with secular clergy as a diocesan bishop, but his roots and choice of community cannot be discounted.

Given that background and the current situation, could it be said that Benedict XVI wants a more balanced, more pastoral, less technical approach to the bishop-priest relationship?

It's looking that way right now. However, as the proof's in the pudding and the backlog of recourses is long, let's revisit the question in two years.

Rich Forsgren/AP


Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Boss at 90

True story: When my maternal grandmother was two years old, she was almost left for dead.

An epidemic that had spread across Italy was thought to have claimed her. As she tells it, she was laid out in a coffin for the visitation when her father bent down to kiss the forehead of what he thought was his daughter's corpse... when his glasses fogged up.

To think what would've been if he didn't bend.

Thanksgiving always begins early for my mother's family -- which, from an orphan widowed when she was 39, now encompasses her seven children, 26 grandchildren, somewhere around 35 great-grandchildren, not to mention the assorted spouses, in-laws, and hangers-on who simply enjoy the parties. And the tradition continues again today as Gram, the Boss, marks her 90th birthday.

While her descendants are now so numerous that they've never all been in the same room simultaneously, almost everyone has returned to the matriarchal seat to celebrate and to make her happy in the way she loves best: by eating up, spending time and paying tribute with envelopes containing the big bills she grew up and grew a family without. (Her money quote: "Money makes the blind, see, and the lame, walk.") Keeping with this, I'll be making my donation, with thanks for graces received. But also, with eternal thanks, she'll be surprised with a special gift from the hand of our Holy Father.

As even she would tell you, my grandmother's story could fill several volumes. The overarching theme, however, would be the faith she's received, lived and taught. It is the guidepost of her life, her greatest source of consolation, fortitude and richness, and she maintains that the only way she could have ever joyfully traversed the difficulties of a life marked by poverty, loss, extreme hardship and the challenge of sailing to this country alone, knowing no English and possessing nothing but belief and the determination that comes from it, was with the help of God.

In sum, everything she's done and everything she is could best be summed up in the most powerful testament of the true Christian: she gave her life that others might have it more fully.

As veteran readers know, the last year has been a bit of a rough ride, as the Boss has endured various difficulties of age. Ever-stubborn, she remains in the saddle at the house where she's laid her head for the last 63 years. But in testimony to the values which she's lived and taught -- chief among them sacrifice -- at least one of her children has been with her around the clock since last December, rotating on 24-hour shifts. She can no longer make it up the steps to her bedroom, but we know that, for her, to leave her home and the place at the head of the table she's held for 50 years would be the one heartbreak she couldn't bear.

In her haler days, I once saw Gram walking through the woods behind my aunt's house in Virginia. As the terrain was steep, she was given one of the fallen tree limbs to keep her steady. All of 4'9", the limb was taller than she, and I couldn't help but keep the image in my mind of the Boss as our shepherd. Going further, given the word's roots in the offering of sacrifice, it could be said that in her example of selflessness, conviction, defense of her own and purity of heart, hers is the greatest priesthood we who have experienced it will ever know.

The long-standing charge of the church was to be especially solicitous of "widows and orphans," both of which she's been. Were it not for the Vincentian nuns who raised her in the orphanage and, after my grandfather's death, a weekly helping hand from the parish at whose altar four generations of us have marked our key moments of the journey, her life and ours would have been much different, much more difficult. It's a constant reminder that, for all its internal disputes, the church's place must remain with those who are without, those who struggle, those who believe while working themselves to the bone, those who look to us to serve as the uplifting and provident hand of God, whether emotionally, materially, or spiritually. Lose that, and we lose everything.

They say that I'm more like her eighth child than her 20th grandchild, as I spent my first days in her house and, seemingly in a direct line, have inherited what are distinctly her sensibilities, her values, her phrases, her intuition, affinities and distastes. She reads my mind well, and while the Scriptures say that grandchildren are the "crown of the aged," from her, this grandson has always received a mother's love. I am what I am -- or at least, I attempt to live as I do -- from the lessons I learned at her master-class of the virtues, given from a kitchen table by a professor with a formal education that ended at eighth-grade.

On a personal note, my favorite moment from this whole experience came over the summer, on taping the interview for NPR. I was asked if a member of my family could be interviewed for the piece.

Little did its religion correspondent imagine that she would find herself at the Boss' table.

Despite usually having a tough time with her short-term memory, the interviewee brought her "A-game," completely reveling in the experience of having a microphone in her face. And leaning against the kitchen counter, beaming, it took a lot to keep me from sobbing at the sight that, in her lifetime, she had gotten the validation of seeing -- her analogy -- a "branch" of her tree done good on the nourishment and endurance of its "trunk."

Her voice didn't make it on-air, but the experience of it remains the most meaningful gift, and that interview is one of the few recent things she's been able to recall. (The Boss often reads reader mail, especially when it's in Italian. She gets a real kick out of it.)

As her "branches" gather to celebrate the gift of Gram, I ask anyone who enjoys these pages enough to do so to please join me in a prayer of thanksgiving for the person whose faith, ethic, love of family and love of the church are my foundation. And please pray, too, that she may enjoy the blessing of health and the continued ability to share her wisdom. This student of hers has much, much left to learn, and I would be shattered if she left me an orphan just yet.


Friday, November 17, 2006

"Pro multis" = "For many" = "Done Deal."

Get ready.


Rowan and Benedict, Michael and Paul, Augustine and Peter

This coming Wednesday -- Thanksgiving Eve here in the States -- Pope Benedict will receive the archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, in private audience.

Williams attended the inaugural liturgy of Benedict's pontificate in April 2005 and was greeted briefly by the new pontiff at a semi-public audience for ecumenical representatives the following day. However fleeting and public, it was the first-ever meeting between the two theological heavyweights, and next week's meeting will mark the first one-on-one summit between the Catholic and Anglican leaders since Benedict's election.

However accustomed churchwatchers on both sides of the Vatican-Lambeth divide have become to visits between the primates of the two communities, it wasn't until 1960, when Bl John XXIII received Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher that the head of the Anglican Communion was welcomed back to the Vatican after a hiatus of 400 years, on account of the Reformation in England.

While the one-hour visit between the two marked a watershed, the relationship warmed even further six years later when Pope Paul VI gave Fisher's successor, Archbishop Michael Ramsey, a brother's welcome, leading prayer services with the head of the church of England.

A piece in last week's edition of The Tablet expresses the feeling of the time from a then-seminarian at Rome's Venerable English College. As a gear-up to Wednesday, it makes for a well-worthy read:
Archbishop Ramsey arrived in Rome in March 1966 and, together with his colleagues, stayed with us at the English College. He was received as a friend and fellow Christian - a welcome that blew to bits many of the preconceptions of my upbringing.

I received an invitation to the service in the Sistine Chapel at which the pope and the archbishop presided together. You have to imagine the scale of something like this, in which we witnessed the pope in the Sistine Chapel sharing the presiding role with a non-Catholic. And I had a splendid vantage point. As young clerics, some of us enjoyed playing games in the Vatican, such as weaselling our way into the private areas without getting stopped. The way to do this was to walk around as if you owned the place and knew exactly where you were going. On this occasion, I noticed two spare seats in the second row with all the ambassadors, made for them with confidence and sat down.

I recall the end of the service. The pope stepped up to give his blessing, and clearly this part of the ceremony had not been rehearsed. He then signalled to Archbishop Ramsey, who was next to him at the altar, to give the blessing with him. Archbishop Ramsey was a bit nonplussed, and there may have been a language problem in the pope's request. The pope then calmly took hold of Archbishop Ramsey's arm and moved it into a blessing. The message got through!...

On 24 March a public service was held at San Paolo fuori le Mura. Again the service was presided over jointly by the pope and the archbishop. But it was the scene outside the church after the service that has stayed in my memory and that of many others who were there at the time. The church was packed. Not only were there the many representatives of the English Catholic and Anglican Churches, but also many Italians, who were keen to see the pope and this unknown English figure with whom the pope was spending a lot of time. I can picture now the scene in the massive courtyard of St Paul's as the pope and the archbishop left the basilica. They found themselves surrounded by thousands of enthusiastic and curious people. As he was about to bid farewell to the archbishop, the pope took off the ring he was wearing and placed it on the archbishop's hand. The pope was then swiftly whisked off into his car to take him back to the Vatican, leaving the archbishop standing alone in the midst of the crowd.

This simple gesture from the pope moved him to tears. Still surrounded by countless local people, the archbishop gave his blessing amid the tears. Later, we all gathered in the English College courtyard to bid farewell to the archbishop and his colleagues. The Senior Student asked the archbishop to give us his blessing. We all knelt down to receive it. As you read this you are probably thinking this was no big deal. But this was 1966 and here were 90 Catholic seminarians in Rome, all in their cassocks, kneeling down to receive the blessing from the Archbishop of Canterbury. I have to tell you we all felt a bit mischievous. Indeed we very much hoped the press would pick up on this event. We wanted our own bishops to see it, since at the time they were not "up to speed" on ecumenism. Like the students of the 1960s we were rebellious, and this felt like our own rebellion. Unfortunately, all the journalists were already at Fiumicino Airport awaiting the archbishop's arrival, so our misdemeanours went unreported.

To the last Vatican-Lambeth summit in 2003, Rowan Williams wore the papal ring given Ramsey to his first, and last, meeting with John Paul II. He also donned a pectoral cross the late Pope sent to the then-new archbishop as a gift on his enthronement in St Augustine's chair earlier that year. In the spirit of fair exchange, Williams gave a pectoral cross to Benedict at their greeting the day after his investiture with the Petrine pallium.

And while it'll be interesting to how the new pontificate's approach to the gifting custom stacks up against those of its predecessors, even moreso will be if there's a repeat of the 2003 farewell between the successors of Peter and Augustine. Williams genuflected to kiss John Paul's ring and, confined to his chair, Wojtyla shocked the assembled by returning the reverence.

A day for close watching, to be sure. As always, stay tuned.