Friday, June 29, 2007

Post Secreto

Until its formal announcement on Thursday, the Wednesday briefing on the motu proprio was called and held "sub secreto" -- i.e. under the pontifical secret.

However, in the first public comments of any participant at the gathering, the Bloggin' Eminence speaks... and confirms details aired here over recent days:
From Cleveland I flew to Rome at the request of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to participate in a meeting discussing the Holy Father’s Moto Proprio about the use of the older form of the Latin Mass. There were about 25 bishops there, including the president of Ecclesia Dei Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, the prefect of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments Cardinal Francis Arinze, several heads of bishops’ conferences as well as some cardinals and other residential bishops.

They shared with us the Moto Proprio and the Holy Father’s letter explaining it. We also had an opportunity to read the Latin document. We each commented on that, and then the Holy Father came in and shared some of his thoughts with us. The Holy Father is obviously most concerned about trying to bring about reconciliation in the Church. There are about 600,000 Catholics who are participating in the liturgies of the Society of St. Pius X, along with about 400 priest[s]....

The Holy Father was very clear that the ordinary form of celebrating the Mass will be the new rite, the Norvus Ordo. But by making the Latin Mass more available, the Holy Father is hoping to convince those disaffected Catholics that it is time for them to return to full union with the Catholic Church.

So the Holy Father’s motivation for this decision is pastoral. He does not want this to be seen as establishing two different Roman Rites, but rather one Roman Rite celebrated with different forms. The Moto Propio is his latest attempt at reconciliation.

In my comments at the meeting I told my brother bishops that in the United States the number of people who participate in the Latin Mass even with permission is very low. Additionally, according to the research that I did, there are only 18 priories of the Society of St. Pius X in the entire country. Therefore this document will not result in a great deal of change for the Catholics in the U.S. Indeed, interest in the Latin Mass is particularly low here in New England.

In our archdiocese, the permission to celebrate the Latin Mass has been in place for several years, and I granted permission when I was in Fall River for a Mass down on the Cape. The archdiocesan Mass is now at Immaculate Mary of Lourdes Parish in Newton. It is well attended, and if the need arises for an extension of that we would, of course, address it.

This issue of the Latin Mass is not urgent for our country, however I think they wanted us to be part of the conversation so that we would be able to understand what the situation is in countries where the numbers are very significant. For example, in Brazil there is an entire diocese of 30,000 people that has already been reconciled to the Church.
In a photo of the participants posted by the Boston prelate (who wore his Capuchin habit to the session), you'll note who's standing directly at Benedict's side.


Canada Day in Rome

As previously mentioned, a record five archbishops from Canada received their pallia this morning. Shown above following the Mass are (from left) Archbishops Terence Prendergast SJ of Ottawa, Brendan O'Brien of Kingston, Thomas Collins of Toronto, Gerard Pettipas C.SS.R of Grouard-McLennan and Richard Smith of Edmonton.

Prendergast departed for Rome hours following his Tuesday installation in the capital's Notre Dame Basilica, and O'Brien doesn't take the reins of Anglophone Canada's founding fold for another month. For three of the recipients, as CNS noted the other day, it's something of the deja vu kind -- Prendergast, Collins and O'Brien are each receiving the insignia for a second time, having headed other archdioceses prior to their transfers. Considering that there are only 17 Latin-rite provinces up north, that 30% of them have changed hands within six months is a rather unusual stat. And that's not counting the appointment of the Vatican's #2 man on Catholic Education, Archbishop Michael Miller, as coadjutor of Vancouver on the first of this month.

Then again, Luigi Ventura is no ordinary nuncio.

It's worthy of note, too, that the rapid cycle of transfers only began after Pope Benedict vetted the individual bishops following the Canadian hierarchy's yearlong set of ad limina visits (coming for the US all through 2009).

The States, meanwhile, had but one recipient this morning -- Archbishop-elect Joseph Kurtz, who doesn't take the reins in Louisville until 15 August.

Just before flying out for Rome earlier this week, Kurtz called into the home office to offer some reflections on the days ahead. Appointed to succeed Archbishop Thomas Kelly only 17 days ago, he's had quite the month, with the last-minute trip necessitating his absence from Wednesday's launch in Denver of the first stage of the US bishops' nationwide initiative geared toward strengthening and encouraging marriage. (More on that in a bit; Kurtz is chair of the USCCB's Committee for Marriage and the Family.)

Traveling with a delegation of just five, the incoming head of Louisville's 200,000 Catholics, shown here during his big moment earlier today, said he had never been to a Pallium Mass, let alone concelebrated one, let alone on such short notice.

Having met Benedict XVI in his time as prefect of the CDF, the archbishop waxed filial of his "great admiration" for the Pope; "I love his writings, his pastoral leadership," he said.

"I just think we're really blessed with this Holy Father."

As the incoming metropolitan over the province he's been a suffragan bishop of for the last seven years, the archbishop-elect said the in-house move had a deeper meaning to it as opposed to entering a province as a newcomer. He praised Kelly, who he singled out among the nation's 34 archbishops for having "really worked hard on bring together the bishops of our province for prayer, for support -- for unity, really."

Noting his happiness that "there are no strangers" among the bishops of Kentucky and Tennessee, Kurtz pledged to maintain the close ties. Continuing Kelly's work "is a great blessing," he said.

Saying he's spent the last few weeks boning up on the history of the pallium, the 60 year-old pilgrim prelate said he was expecting a "very moving" morning. He "didn't expect" to be making the trip this year, he said, noting that it was the nuncio to Washington, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who "urged" him not to delay his reception of the lambswool band until 2008.

Even so, Kurtz looked on the bright side, musing that "having such a small group might make me focus on the more spiritual aspects of this great event." Two Knoxvilleans with him in the Eternal City, and the outgoing head of its burgeoning local church said he "didn't think it'd be as emotional" to leave as it's proven itself to be.

"I've really felt a great bond with the people here," he said. Even though Louisville offers a wealth of opportunities for new bonds, he mused that missing the "great warmth" and "great unity" of Tennessee and his team there "would be the hard part.

"We have a wonderful diocese here," he said, "it's such a vibrant church.

"People really desire to live the faith and to be true to it.... Being bishop here is kind of like being pastor of a larger [parish] church."

While Kurtz's delegation includes two Tennesseans and two representatives from Louisville, it should come as no surprise that -- as with every ecclesiastical party worth its salt -- the group includes a Philadelphian: Kurtz's longtime friend and seminary classmate Msgr Herbert Bevard, who celebrates a new ministry of his own this weekend as he's installed as regional vicar of the city's northern half.

For those curious about the pins he'll need to keep his new garb weighed down, they're staying within the family -- Kurtz said his set of the traditional three gemmed spikes will be, at his precessor's insistence, a gift of Archbishop Kelly.

Elsewhere in the Basilica seats, the famous Frodo might've had to stay back in Guelph, but Toronto's archbishop got to bring both his sisters and a dozen friends to see him return for his pallium part deux.

It's something of an upgrade from 1999 -- when, receiving the band of wool as the new archbishop of Edmonton, TC recalled that his first pallium delegation numbered "zero, moi, just me."

For all your Petrine and Pauline needs -- and just in case anyone hasn't yet heard Vatican Radio call Collins a Peruvian -- Salt + Light is running this morning's Pallium Mass on a webstream.

And to all our readers up in the Great White North, all good wishes for a relaxing and enjoyable Canada Day this Sunday.

Fr Owen Keenan/Archdiocese of Toronto
PHOTO 2: Alessia Giuliani/CNS/CPP


Draft Five, Brief One

Word's been creeping out over The Document... so, as promised, here's a review of (credible) things as they stand.

For starters, the presence (first reported here) of Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley OFM Cap. and Archbishop Raymond Burke of St Louis as the sole US prelates in attendance at Wednesday's briefing on the finalized motu proprio text was subsequently reaffirmed by Catholic News Service.

Also among the 15 (as opposed to the previously-cited 30) other prelates present at the session, presided over by the Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB, was Cardinal Francis Arinze, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. A convinced opponent of the wider permission for the celebration of the 1962 Missal of Bl. John XXIII -- as the Tridentine rite is now being referred to by the Holy See -- Arinze is thought to be the only person at the Roman dicastery overseeing liturgy who has seen the concession's final text.

While the document's first two drafts -- heavily influenced by the president of the indult-responsible Ecclesia Dei Commission Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos -- numbered close to 30 pages, the final product is widely reported to be much slimmer, with the Pope's cover letter to the bishops (tipped at four pages) said to be longer than the three-page motu proprio, itself. The language, too, has reportedly been shifted away from the ecclesiology employed in earlier versions, which sought to portray the pre-Concilar liturgy not merely as a Mass "inter pares" ("among equals"), but restoring its status as the first among them.

That, of course, raised no small amount of hackles as the draft passed through several congregations, and the final product will apparently agree with the qualms, including the reiteration that the 1970 Mass of Paul VI -- or, rather, the 2000 editio typica of John Paul II -- remains the "ordinary rite" for the faithful of the Roman church.

Lastly, it was reported here in early May that the norms "might" be implemented solely for an ad experimentum period of five years before becoming subject to Roman review. Today, the highly-respected Gerry O'Connell reported that the review provision will kick in not after five years, but three.

O'Connell also said that, echoing the Pope's impending cover letter, Bertone mentioned three "key reasons" for the document's release:
The first and main one is to ease the full communion and reconciliation of the St. Pius X Society with the pope. Suppression of the Tridentine Mass was a major reason for Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers to break with the pope.

The "Lefebvrites" also disagreed with much of what the Second Vatican Council taught about ecumenism and interfaith dialogue. The meeting's participants were given updated statistics on the Saint Pius X Society.

A second reason for the Motu Proprio is to enable "wider use" of the Tridentine Mass. Unlike the "ordinary form" approved by Paul VI in 1969, in the Motu Proprio, the Tridentine Mass is considered an "extraordinary" expression of the Latin Rite.

John Paul II authorized bishops to approve requests of people for the Tridentine Mass, but many bishops have refused to do so. Benedict, lobbied by traditionalists and basically sympathetic to them, devised the "extraordinary" form as a way to unblock the situation and accommodate those people.

The third reason for the Motu Proprio is to preserve "the treasures" of the Church's older culture, including Latin in the liturgy, and to integrate them into the contemporary culture.

Pope Benedict suggested in his nearly one-hour meeting with participants that if five or six Sunday Masses are offered in a diocesan cathedral, the bishop could designate one of them for celebration according to the John XXIII missal, if a sizable number of people ask for it.

All participants expressed their views at the meeting. Some saw the Motu Proprio as an expression of "pastoral charity," or a strong affirmation of "diversity in unity." By the end of the meeting, most indicated their basic acceptance of the text, but a few, like the French, still had reservations.
More as it happens....


China On the Way

It may be a solemnity and the Vatican offices closed, but that hasn't stopped the Holy See from formally announcing (confirming earlier reports) that the long-awaited letter of Benedict XVI "to the Bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful of the Catholic church in the People's Republic of China" will be published tomorrow at noon.

In a related development, the bishops of the state-sponsored Patriotic Association have been summoned to Beijing for consultations in advance of the release.


Scenes from a Conferral

Every year on this day, the famous statue of St Peter in the basilica that bears his name -- you know, the one with the worn-down toe -- gets even more decked out the occasion than than the Pope himself, tiara and all.

Actually, while the sculpture-scale triregno was conspicuous by its absence these last couple of years, it's returned for this morning.

Make of it what you will, but just as the day's patron is looking, crowned head to worn foot, like a Prince of the Apostles again, latest word on the next consistory -- which, until about six weeks ago, was slated to be happening right this minute -- tips it for Christ the King (25 November).

Mark your calendars. With a pencil.

In keeping with the reigning (non-bronzed) pontiff's penchant for prompt scheduling and the record number of metropolitans receiving their pallia at today's rite, the queue's being pushed through with a speed more resemblant to the bag-check line under the Colonnade than the world's new archbishops approaching their moment in the papal sun.

What's more, the seniority bit went out the window. This (predictably) spurred Mass confusion in the commentary of Vatican Radio, whose Anglophone hand proceeded to inform the faithful that Archbishop Bagnasco of Genoa (merely the head of the Italian episcopal conference) was the lone representative from Papua New Guinea... seconds before mistaking a European for Ozy Gracias (of Bombay), and the dear archbishop of Toronto for (get this) a Peruvian.

As the Holy See's official broadcaster took the old concept of the "episcopacy as one" to new levels, the only thing missing was a panicked query of why Archbishop Csaba Ternyak was getting a pallium.

Fortunately, given the circumstances, the former secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, now back in his native Hungary, wasn't mentioned.

While most of the rest got hustled through -- and just after Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw basked in the applause of his phalanx of pilgrims -- the Pope looked quite intent to hang onto Richard Smith for a word. As if naming the 48 year-old to Edmonton wasn't sufficient proof of the Canadian wunderkind's favor on high, Benedict's laserlike gaze on Smith served to reiterate that the mustachioed one, a native Halifaxer, made quite the impression on last fall's ad limina when, as bishop of Pembroke and president of the Ontario bishops, he addressed the Boss on behalf of the group.

To his credit, the VR commentator didn't confuse Smith with, say, a Chinese archbishop -- he just changed his name to "William" (which, in fairness, is his middle name... but still).

Finally, sounding a bit besieged, the poor fellow threw in the towel. "No, perhaps I was wrong," the voice offered, before reading the list of the absentees.

Sure, you'd hope the head of the Radio would ensure that his on-air folks had their chops together. Then again, he's already got his hands more than full -- as the papal spokesman.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

From the CFO's Desk

Well, gang, all appearances are that it won't be long before the motu proprio on the Tridentine Mass is transmitted to the bishops of the world -- and, if precedent holds, likely before its public release.

Even beyond the gamut of this Wide World of Catholicism, none should be surprised that interest is running high, as evidenced by a further spike in traffic here, amped-up coverage in the mainstream press... and the consequent uptick in requests for comment. (Given the latter, it was a relaxing change-up to be called upon for some more waxing spiritual on the iPhone in today's San Francisco Chronicle.... And, no, I don't expect to see one in my short-term future... barring the Manna from Cupertino dropping out of the sky.)

As for the story of the hour -- or, depending on who you talk to, the last four decades -- the coverage of the days to come requires nothing but the utmost sensitivity, precision and balance. It's not just an issue of getting the story right at its core, but ensuring the most comprehensive, coherent presentation of a historic concession which, despite fierce tensions extending even to the closest layers of his inner circle, can be viewed as nothing less than Benedict XVI's determined intent for the fullest possible realization of the liturgical reform and, by extension, the life of the church.

(Clearly, the comprehensive bit's down... the coherent, not so much.)

To that end, acting on a well-placed indicator, the first extensive briefings on The Text, its context and, most crucially of all, what lies between its lines sono previsti [per me] entro alcune ore. And while the immersion experience of the pre-release comes with the territory of this gig, it doesn't (e.g. this month's mobile bill: $350) come cheap. And that's where you lot come in.

It's no secret -- at least, it shouldn't be -- that these pages exist solely by means of the generosity of their readership. Over recent months, given the editorial shift from a reliance on linkage to more in-depth, original (read: exclusive) reportage, just as the latter figure has continued to grow at a consistent clip, so, too have the demands.

While I pray it's still an easy read, what you see here day in and day out has become ever more costly to produce, regardless of whether the bottom line is measured in terms of time, energy or resources. What's more, while I love my job and wouldn't want to picture myself doing anything else, the operating conditions have gotten to the point where, to be honest, I've had to start picturing myself doing anything else...

...and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Any way you cut it, the last two and a half years have been a tremendous run, and there's much to be said for going out on top, on multiple fronts. The trust and kindnesses of so many, not to mention the mountain of feedback, prayers and encouragement (which have kept things rolling more than any other gift) have never ceased to blow me away, only increasing the sense of responsibility -- and sensus ecclesiae -- a project like this requires to be done well and done right. All of it, especially the many graces of the last year, has been completely unexpected... and, candidly, just as unsought.

My insufficiencies only prove all the more that the response to Whispers isn't due to the highly-lacking narration of the daily doings, but the effort to satisfy a need and hope that is clearly out there: in the church, the press and -- so it seems -- everywhere in between. While it's always been a struggle to pull my weight and rise to the level a readership of this kind should expect, especially given the truism of the business that you're only as good as your last piece, the task has only become tougher still of late, and I realize more powerfully with each passing minute that the best quality of its content is only possible to the extent its audience (i.e. ye daily 10,000+) supports it.

Long story short: the occasional Fund Drive is on, and the future of these pages hinges on the result.

Along the right sidebar lies the famous "guitar case," whose contents (when present) spare my bill collectors from being asked if they accept spiritual bouquets. So to the extent that you'll all allow me a reprieve from having to engage in that invariably furtive exercise, a world of thanks. (As my stack of "things I need to write thank-you notes for" already out-measures the sum total of consultations from the episcopal conferences on the wider permission for the Old Missal, all apologies for not being able to express these thanks on a more personal basis.)

Our friends in Officialdom have reiterated the Pope's expressed wish that the most significant text of his pontificate be "serenely received." But even so, we're in for quite the week, so buckle your seatbelts and enjoy the ride.

Just inside the front door of the first house I called home, there's a little plaque that, so it seems, has been there forever. Its message might be simple, yet fulfilling it can sometimes be anything but: "In everything, give thanks."

There might be one name on the by-line here, but I rest grateful and then some in the knowledge that the record of 25 months, 3,100 posts, 3.1 million visitors, etc. owes its accomplishments to a team effort of the highest order: a cadre of sources, friends, donors and fans who -- often from the most unexpected and eminent of places -- have shared their unique gifts in every way conceivable, but most of all through their priceless contributions of presence, example, prayers and aid, especially in reminding me always that I am not alone.

Gerald Manley Hopkins once wrote that "Christ plays in 10,000 places... to the Father through the features of men's faces."

I have no small number of things to give thanks for from this journey. But over and above 'em all, the first is that, in every e.mail, every gift, in every kind word and every face, in all of them -- in each of you -- I know I've seen the Lord... and I can only hope I find myself closer to Him now than the day when, 16 years ago this week, the pilgrimage began, because that's what it's all about.

God knows I couldn't have planned any of this, and I know even less of what's next. Whatever it may bring, thanks for keeping me company along the way.


"A Bond of Love, an Incentive to Courage"

Earlier tonight, in keeping with custom, the 51 pallia were brought to their traditional resting place in the confessio of St Peter, where they'll remain until after B16's homily at tomorrow morning's liturgy commemorating the founders of the church of Rome.

After the names of the 46 new metropolitans in attendance are read aloud in Latin by the senior cardinal-deacon, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the group will make a communal Profession of Faith, after which the Pope says the following:
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 province.

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.

In order of seniority, the archbishops will then approach the pontiff, who slips onto the shoulders of each the band of lambswool signifying their new role.

This evening, the Pope presided at the traditional First Vespers of Peter and Paul not at their traditional venue of the Vatican, but in the Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls, where he proclaimed the beginning of the "Pauline Year" to begin on this night in 2008.

According to Peter's successor, the observance of the 2,000th anniversary of Paul's birth will have "an important ecumenical dimension":
Inspired by the example of the Apostle to the Nations, the Pauline Year will show “that the action of Church is credible and effective only to the extent that its members are willing to personally pay for their fidelity to Christ in every situation.”

In the Roman basilica dedicated to the Apostle to the Nations, the Pope stressed this afternoon the witness, which united Paul and Peter up to their martyrdom, during the first vespers for the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul.

Planned as part of the celebrations of Saint Paul’s birthday (which historians place between 7 and 10 AD), the Pauline Year—from June 28,2008 till June 29, 2009— will be in the Pope’s words “a series of liturgical, cultural and ecumenical events as well as pastoral and social initiatives inspired by St Paul’s spirituality.”

“There will be conferences and special studies on St Paul’s writings which will improve our understanding of the wealth of learning they contain—a real legacy for humanity redeemed by Christ. Around the world in local dioceses, shrines and places of worship, religious, educational and welfare institutions bearing St Paul’s name or inspired by him and his teachings will be able to organise similar initiatives.”

“Last but not least,” the Pope said, “a special aspect that will need much care at the different stages of the Pauline bimillenary is its ecumenical dimension. Especially involved in bringing the Good News to all the peoples, the Apostle to the Nations did all he could for the unity and harmony of all Christians. May he lead and protect us in this bimillenary celebration, helping us progress in a humble and sincere search for the complete unity of all the parts of the mystical Body of Christ.”...

"This basilica, which has seen many ecumenically charged events,” Benedict XVI noted, “reminds us of how important it is to pray together to plead for the gift of unity, something for which Saint Peter and Saint Paul devoted their entire existence till the ultimate sacrifice of their blood.”

AP/Plinio Lepri


The Bill Fails

Latest attempt at immigration reform shot down in Senate; issue not likely to reappear until '09:
The bill's supporters fell 14 votes short of the 60 needed to limit debate and clear the way for final passage of the legislation, which critics assailed as offering amnesty to illegal immigrants. The vote was 46 to 53 in favor of limiting the debate.

Senators in both parties said the issue is so volatile that Congress is highly unlikely to revisit it this fall or next year, when the presidential election will increasingly dominate American politics.

A similar effort collapsed in the Congress last year, and the House has not bothered with an immigration bill this year, awaiting Senate action.

The vote was a stinging setback for Bush, who advocated the bill as an imperfect but necessary fix of current immigration practices in which many illegal immigrants use forged documents or lapsed visas to live and work in the United States.

It was a victory for Republican conservatives who strongly criticized the bill's provisions that would have established pathways to lawful status for many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. They were aided by talk radio and TV hosts who repeatedly attacked the bill and urged listeners to flood Congress with calls, faxes and e-mails.

Voting to allow the bill to proceed by ending debate were 33 Democrats, 12 Republicans and independent Joe Lieberman, Conn. Voting to block the bill by not limiting debate were 37 Republicans, 15 Democrats and independent Bernard Sanders, Vt. Tim Johnson, D-S.C., did not vote.

The bill would have toughened border security and instituted a new system for weeding out illegal immigrants from workplaces. It would have created a new guest worker program and allowed millions of illegal immigrants to obtain legal status if they briefly returned home.

Bush, making a last-ditch bid to salvage the bill, called senators early Thursday morning to urge their support. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez approached senators as they entered and left the chamber shortly before the vote....

[C]onservatives from Bush's own party led the opposition. They repeatedly said the government must secure the borders before allowing millions of illegal aliens a path to legal status.

"Americans feel that they are losing their country ... to a government that has seemed to not have the competence or the ability to carry out the things that it says it will do," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

Sen. Elizabeth H. Dole, R-N.C., said many Americans "don't have confidence" that borders, especially with Mexico, will be significantly tightened. "It's not just promises but proof that the American people want," Dole said.

But the bill's backers said border security and accommodations to illegal immigrants must go hand in hand.

"Year after year, we've had the broken borders," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. "Year after year, we've seen the exploitation of workers."

After the vote, he said: "It is now clear that we are not going to complete our work on immigration reform. That is enormously disappointing for Congress and for the country."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told colleagues that if the bill faltered, the political climate almost surely would not allow a serious reconsideration until 2009 or later. It would be highly unlikely, she said, "in the next few years to fix the existing system ... . We are so close."

From the beginning, the bill's most forceful opponents were southern Republicans. GOP Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana, Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Jeff Sessions of Alabama led the charge, often backed by Texan John Cornyn.

Two southern Republicans—Lindsey Graham, S.C., and Mel Martinez, Fla., who was born in Cuba—supported it.

Also crucial to the bill's demise was opposition from three Democrats recently elected from GOP-leaning states. They were Jon Tester of Montana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jim Webb of Virginia.

Mormons to Cardinal: "This Stand is Your Stand"

As all systems rev up for his November coronation as maestro of the US hierarchy, the archbishop of Chicago conducted some joyful soundings of ecumenical goodwill last night:
Cardinal Francis George took the baton as the guest conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and its orchestra at Ravinia Wednesday night, shocking attendees.

The gesture was an outgrowth of the [2004] expression of regret passed by the Legislature at the request of state Reps. Dan Burke and Jack Franks over the death of Mormon leader Joseph Smith outside Nauvoo in the 19th century, and the forced expulsion of his followers, known as the Latter-day Saints.

Even Ald. Ed Burke, who attended Ravinia with his wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, was unaware of the cardinal's decision.
One of the Windy City's top power couples, while the alderman had drafted the original regret resolution, his jurist-spouse is better known in church circles as the former chair of the bishops' National Review Board on sex-abuse.

According to an attendee, George guided the ensemble through the paces of "This Land is Your Land."


Appointments: Not Just for Tuesdays

Keeping with a distinct trend of this pontificate, another US cleric with an extensive background in priestly formation has been elevated to the episcopate.

This morning, the Pope named Fr Peter Christensen of the archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis as bishop of Superior, succeeding Bishop Raphael Fliss, whose resignation was accepted for reasons of age.

Having led Northwest Wisconsin's 83,000 Catholics since 1985, Fliss turned 75 in October, 2005 (i.e. twenty months ago).

Until now pastor of Nativity parish in St Paul, the California-born bishop-elect, 54, worked as a graphic designer between two years of college and entering seminary formation. After ordination for the Twin Cities in 1985, he spent a decade as spiritual director and rector of the archdiocese's minor seminary, St John Vianney.

Christensen was named pastor of Nativity in 1999, where he's continued the parish practice of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. Per the provisions of canon law, he must be ordained and installed within four months of this morning's appointment.

In related news, the Twin Cities formally welcome their shepherd-to-be tomorrow, as Coadjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt formally takes up his duties as successor-in-waiting to Archbishop Harry Flynn. A general invitation has been issued for the afternoon Mass in the Cathedral of St Paul, and a "comfortable maximum" crowd of 2,800 is expected.

And as the US' extensively-backlogged appointment docket brings another succession process to its completion, another diocese goes on the pile within a week's time as Bishop James Murray of Kalamazoo reaches the retirement age on 5 July.

Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo... and, yes, we really will need an appointment every three and a half weeks for the next 18 years to keep the backlog from overloading any further.


Laying the Groundwork

Even before Roman noon, a statement was released by the Holy See.

Yesterday, a meeting took place in the Vatican, presided over by the Cardinal Secretary of State, in which the content and spirit of the announced "Motu proprio" of the Holy Father on the use of the Missal promulgated by John XXIII in 1962 was illustrated for representatives of the various episcopal conferences. The Holy Father came to greet those present and entered into an extended conversation with them for about an hour. The publication of the document -- which will be accompanied by a lengthy personal letter of the Holy Father to the individual Bishops -- is foreseen within some days, when the document will be sent to all the Bishops with directions for its eventual coming into force.
Also, with an eye to the impending release of Pope Benedict's letter to Chinese Catholics, Cardinal Joseph Zen SDB of Hong Kong recently conducted an interview on his recent North American swing with Toronto's Salt + Light TV. The video's up and streaming.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Motu Eve?

According to a well-placed intercept following today's presentation of the motu proprio on the Tridentine Mass to a group of 30 bishops (see below), no mention was made of a publication date extensively delayed into the future.

Apparently, the understanding among the attendees was that, as with yesterday's document on the reinstatement of the invariable 2/3 supermajority in papal elections, the text will be made public in the Bollettino of the Holy See Press Office as early as Roman noon tomorrow.

As of this writing, the name of the decree has not yet materialized.... More as it comes in.


Prima dell'Esodo: The Wednesday Mash-Up

As you've seen, the majority of this week's news has been of the Roman flavor... and with good reason.

Even though the heat's already well-surged past the 100 degree mark, Friday's solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul marks the customary beginning of Roman summer and, with it, the exodus of Vatican officials to their summer holidays. A record 51 archbishops will receive the pallium on Friday, 45 of whom will concelebrate Mass with Pope Benedict on the pontiff's 56th anniversary of priestly ordination. Of the group, there are five new metropolitans each from Canada, Mexico, India and Brazil.

As for the rest -- the news, not the archbishops -- here goes:

  • Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley flew to Rome on Monday, where he was reportedly "summoned" for a final review of the impending motu proprio permitting a wider celebration of the Tridentine Mass. Aside from quoting O'Malley's most recent blog post -- in which the prelate wrote of spending this week "attend[ing] some meetings at the Holy See" -- Boston archdiocesan spokesman Terry Donilon declined further comment on his boss's activities. Alongside Archbishop Raymond Burke of St Louis, the Capuchin cardinal, elevated by Benedict last year, is believed to have been among a group of some 30 visiting bishops given advance copies of the signed final version of the highly-awaited text earlier this afternoon by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB. At long last, "Tridentine Independence Day" is at hand. This Saturday, meanwhile, several reports are that the also long-awaited papal letter to Chinese Catholics will see the light of day. The Pope's own vacation, which won't see him back in Rome until late September, begins on 9 July.
  • Archbishop John Foley's appointment this morning as Pro-Grand Master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre is but the tip of the iceberg in the goings-on of the vertici Vaticani -- the "Vatican's heights." Marco Tossati of Turin's La Stampa, who earlier this week echoed these pages' original report of Foley's impending appointment, had the first scoop in late April on the transfer of Archbishop Michael Miller to Vancouver from the #2 job at the Congregation for Catholic Education, which wasn't formally announced until nearly six weeks later. More provocatively, the April report was headlined by murmurs of a bombshell: the potential transfer of Cardinal William Levada from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith back to the States as archbishop of New York. While CDF staffers and others said in its wake that the ink was merely scurrilous scuttlebutt (courtesy of Levada's enemies), the panning-out of the Miller appointment increased the distinct potential of its occurrence, a set of odds abetted by other recent developments. In his pages yesterday, saying that the Grand Inquisitor's trans-Atlantic return was "desired" by both Benedict and his Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Tossati returned to the story, even mentioning a slate of possible successors to lead the former Holy Office: either its current secretary Archbishop Angelo Amato (a Salesian confrere of Bertone, his predecessor in the post), and Cardinals Angelo Scola of Venice or Antonio Cañizares Llovera of Toledo, the latter of whom is, like Levada, a onetime staffer under the now-Pope... but the only one known in the circles as the "Ratzingerino" -- the "Little Ratzinger." Others tipped to be in contention for Curial posts include Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, with sources rumoring the Canadian primate for the presidency of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Said to be a member of Benedict's "kitchen cabinet," Ouellet led last week's triennial retreat for the US bishops in Albuquerque. As of this minute, the chit-chat also has Amato going to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints -- the final destination of an earlier CDF secretary, Cardinal Alberto Bovone. While that would seem less likely, these days, everything (and anything) is possible. As my Tablet colleague Robert Mickens quoted from an unnamed official's assessment of the state of the buzzmill and its batting average, "I'll believe it when I see it printed in the Bollettino."
  • Last weekend, the British press made much grist over the Holy See's statement that the Pope and now-former Prime Minister Tony Blair had a "franco confronto" on some issues in their private meeting. The loaded term -- which can be rendered as either "frank exchange" or "frank confrontation" -- appeared at first glance to be underscored by a public moment when, as Blair asked about the progress of John Henry Newman's cause for canonization, B16 replied that it seemed "difficult to make miracles in England." (In yet another sign of the times, the quote -- reportedly a papal rehash of a line from Westminster's Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor -- was captured on video and promptly YouTubed by the BBC.) In reaction to the coverage, the Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi SJ took the extraordinary step of penning a letter to the editor, published in today's Times (of London). Saying that the "certain articles" painted "a negative picture of the atmosphere of the meetings that took place," Lombardi wrote that said image "does not reflect what really happened." Accusing the press of "mistranslation of the Italian words 'franco confronto' used in the press release issued by the Vatican press office," the director of the aforementioned Press Office sought to emphasize that, "in reality, the intention was simply to state that it had been an 'open and sincere discussion,' without any acrimonious or hostile overtones." It's been noted that, unlike the Vatican visit of President Bush to Pope Benedict earlier this month, the Holy See issued its formal Blair-Benedict statement only in Italian. Lombardi -- whose year in the job has already encountered its share of rough moments -- might have noted that UK-Vatican relations remain "both healthy and positive," but this latest incident is but further proof that the old adage "an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure" is as true in the world of media as it is in the realm of medicine.
  • And, lastly for now, look for the States to reap yet another share of appointment goodness in the morning..... So they're sayin'. always, stay tuned.


Seeing Red. Finally.

"Our day will come... and we'll have everything."

The locals have been singing that for a long time... and, well, here it is.

He may not be its ordinary but, for not a few in the town he loves more than Rome, John Patrick Foley is Philadelphia's archbishop.

And this morning, as first reported here ten days back and in the current edition of The Tablet, the church's own Phillie Phanatic was named Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. As the "Pro" part owes itself to the tradition that the Grand Master (senza il "Pro") enjoys membership in the College of Cardinals, the years of anticipation for a consistory pilgrimage en masse to see Foley receive the red hat are, at long last, within striking distance of their fruition.

All of a sudden, the impending milestone of the Phils' 10,000th defeat -- which, Philly being Philly, has become cause for local pride -- doesn't feel so bad.

Head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications since 1984, the 71 year-old alumnus of St Charles Borromeo Seminary and Columbia University's School of Journalism, where he earned his master's, was the longest-serving head of a Roman dicastery until this morning's appointment. As also reported here last week, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, secretary of the Administration for the Patrimony of the Apostolic See and one of the Holy See's top experts on China, was named to succeed Foley at the Curial organ whose brief includes the church's engagement with (and commentary on) the world of mass media.

The Roman Curia's longest-standing vacancy -- that of the PCCS' secretary, open since February 2005 -- was not filled in this morning's changes.

Affectionately described as a "goober" for his folksy manner, Foley -- a teetotaler who recently outed himself as a "chocoholic" in a speech to executives of Nestlé -- will be the first non-European to head the order of chivalry first recognized by the Holy See in 1113. Born in the suburbs of Delaware county just over the city line, he was ordained for the archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1962, served for many years as a seminary professor, editor of the Catholic Standard & Times, and was the chief media liaison for Pope John Paul II's first US trip in 1979 before heading to Rome.

In leapfrogging Foley to the front of the line for the cardinalate, Benedict XVI -- who was elevated to the College thirty years ago today -- rights another perceived elision of his predecessor's pontificate. Toward the end of his reign, John Paul II was pressed by several senior hierarchs to give the American archbishop his due for his long and diligent service. Though the late pontiff promised to do so, he never carried it out.

"Remember," Foley's mentor told the young priest on sending him to Columbia J, "you're a priest who just happens to be a journalist -- not a journalist who just happens to say Mass."

And somewhere up there, in that extra-deluxe section of the Heavenly Kingdom reserved for the Pharaohs of Philadelphia, John Krol is smiling... forty years and a day after receiving his own red hat at the hands of Pope Paul VI.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

He Could've Stayed All Day....

His own collection reportedly numbers over 20,000 volumes, but that didn't keep the book-loving B16 -- who's compared sitting in his own library to being "surrounded by friends" -- from soaking up his trip to the Vatican Library and Archives yesterday.

Sure, Benedict spoke of his thwarted desire to retire at 70 and "dedicate [him]self" to being a "passionate scholar" of the texts and manuscripts contained in the Vatican's vaults... but a shot like this goes a long way toward reinforcing that the Pope's confession to the staff was much more than just words on a page.



Motu Proprio Released

This morning's Bollettino of the Holy See Press Office contains the text of the motu proprio of Benedict XVI restoring the traditional form of...

...papal elections.

As it wasn't what they were looking for, many will likely stop reading at that. But for the still-intrigued, B16 has legislated a return to the traditional practice that the required supermajority for the election of a new Pope be always and everywhere two-thirds.

Backstory: in Universi Dominici Gregis -- his 1996 document on norms for a conclave -- John Paul II decreed that, should no winner arise after 30 ballots (or 32, if the electors decide to enter the conclave on the morning of its opening day), the cardinal-electors may exercise the prerogative of choosing the Roman pontiff by an absolute majority.

Citing many appeals to John Paul asking for the provision's reversal, in this morning's text, signed 11 June, Benedict abrogated it, restoring the mandatory two-thirds margin in all cases, but with a caveat: after the aforementioned 30 (or 32) ballots, the two highest vote-getters on the preceding canvass face only each other in a runoff. 

The deadlock-breaking strategy -- which John Paul permitted as an option in his 1996 norms, but made mandatory today should the moment arise -- creates the scenario of a final scrutiny in which the candidates themselves are deprived of "active voice" and, ergo, may not vote; in prior conclave norms, the required count was two-thirds plus one, so a Pope-elect's theoretical choice (i.e. of himself) wouldn't count toward getting him over the top.

As anything even tangentially related to papal death gets tongues wagging and wags buzzing, here goes a day of frenzy.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Tauran Around the City

Word of it arrived last week, but in light of the morning's news, now it can be told.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (third in line in this photo, taken earlier today) spent last weekend in the Big Apple to attend and guest-preach the golden priestly jubilee of an old friend: the Anglican cleric Fr John Andrew, rector-emeritus of Fifth Avenue's church of St Thomas.

For veteran watchers of Lambeth-Vatican relations, Andrew is best known from his service as chaplain to the archbishop of Canterbury at the time of Michael Ramsey's historic 1966 visit to Pope Paul VI.

At the close of the visit, following a joint prayer service by the two leaders in St Paul's Outside-the-Walls, Paul told Ramsey to remove his ring, which the pontiff replaced on the primate's finger with his own band as a sign of ecumenical cooperation and fraternal goodwill.

Ramsey wept, and Andrew -- who was in on the surprise -- was later given the ring box, which he kept. The esteemed jubilarian, a member of the Order of the British Empire, has been described as a practitioner of "somewhat of a papal unionist form of Anglicanism." He retired from the rectorship of St Thomas in 1996.

Accompanied on his stops by the Holy See Observer to the UN Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the cardinal's Gotham calendar also included a clerical dinner at the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center's GE Building.

To weightier matters, now president-designate of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Tauran's prior statements on Islam and the situation in the Middle East are worth reviewing.

In late 2003, the cardinal -- who had recently been transferred to the Archives -- spoke heavily in favor of reciprocity, Benedict XVI's favored policy toward the Muslim world, telling the French daily La Croix that "there are too many majority Muslim countries where non-Muslims are second-class citizens." He specifically cited "the extreme case" of Saudi Arabia, where he said "freedom of religion is violated absolutely -- no Christian churches and a ban on celebrating Mass, even in a private home.

"Just like Muslims can build their houses of prayer anywhere in the world," Tauran said, "the faithful of other religions should be able to do so as well," adding that Christians and Muslims faced the "enormous task" of learning to coexist.

Asked by the Italian bishops' daily L'Avvenire in 2002 -- while still serving as the Vatican's "foreign minister -- to articulate the Holy See's position on the then-potential conflict in Iraq, the then-archbishop replied as follows:
To always privilege dialogue; to never isolate a country or a government, so that one can better call back to their duties those who have violated the rules of international law. Obviously one cannot combat an evil with another evil, adding evil to evil. If the international community, drawing its inspiration from international law and in particular the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, were to judge that a recourse to force is opportune and proportionate, it should happen within the framework of the United Nations, after having weighed the consequences for the civilian population of Iraq, not to mention the repercussions that it could have for the countries of the region and world stability; if not, it would simply be the law of the strongest that is imposed. One can legitimately ask if the type of operation that is being considered is an adequate means for bringing true peace to maturity.
Finally, several reports from wire services today continue to remark that, in appointing Tauran to head a dicastery whose outgoing head did double-duty for the last 15 months, the Pope has "restored" the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue or, alternatively, that the council was "abolished" in early 2006 on the transfer of Michael Fitzgerald to Cairo.

The use of both terms is a glaring inaccuracy.

When Cardinal Paul Poupard was tapped to head PCID in addition to his duties at the Pontifical Council for Culture, neither office was suppressed, nor downgraded, nor were the two councils ever merged. With the exception of their presidency, the staffs and officials of both dicasteries remained completely separate of each other, their respective competencies untouched. A similar arrangement at the council level was likewise employed in several instances during the pontificate of John Paul II.



Interreligious's Diplomatic Hand

The gradual reshuffle of B16's Roman Curia has taken a new turn.

In the latest round of Curial chair-shifting, announced this morning, the Pope named the French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran as president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Prior to the move, Tauran, 64, had served since 2003 as Archivist and Librarian of the Holy Roman Church, overseeing the Vatican's priceless collection of historical manuscripts and the other printed treasures of its extensive patrimony.

The post overseeing the Vatican's interreligious brief, however, passes from one Frenchman to another. But not until September 1, the Vatican announcement said, will the Bordeaux-born Tauran succeed Cardinal Paul Poupard as head of PCID. Alongside his duties as president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Poupard, 77 in August, has served as the Holy See's chief liaison to the interfaith community since early 2006, when Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald was named papal nuncio in Cairo. His successor at Culture is likewise expected shortly.

For the 12 years prior to his appointment to the Vatican archives, Tauran was the Holy See's "foreign minister" as undersecretary for Relations with States in the Secretariat of State. Contrary to prior speculation which had tipped the papal confidant Archbishop Angelo Amato SDB, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's outspoken second-in-command, for the PCID post, Benedict has instead entrusted the interreligious portfolio to the gentler hand of one of Rome's most skilled diplomatic operatives.

As the church's relations with Islam will, arguably, overshadow the council's work -- a reality whose impact shook the Holy See following the controversy over the papal address at Regensburg last September -- it doesn't hurt that among the new president's assignments over
his days on the nunciature circuit included four years in Lebanon and a special mission to Syria.

Behind the scenes, the appointment stands as a clear signal of the Pope's goodwill toward the former Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who kept the Frenchman at his side for the lion's share of his time overseeing the Vatican's geopolitical apparatus. A year after his retirement was announced and his successor named, Sodano's influence is said to still be keenly felt in the offices of the first dicastery, where he chose Tauran to take the post he vacated on his 1990 promotion to its top office. The French prelate was also a special favorite of John Paul II, who broke the customarily strict protocol of consistories by tapping Tauran as the first designee of his last class of cardinals, giving him precedence over several higher-ranking officials on the biglietto of 2003.

To succeed Tauran at the archives' helm, Benedict promoted the cardinal's #2, Bishop Raffaele Farina, who now becomes an archbishop. Like Amato and the Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Farina is a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco. As the church's librarian is an ex officio member of the College of Cardinals, Farina assures the Salesians of at least one additional red hat at the next consistory. Elevated to the episcopacy only last November, the new librarian and archivist turns 74 in September.

Visiting the Vatican Archives this morning to announce the appointments, the Pope addressed its staff, allowing himself a bittersweet confession in the process.

On his 70th birthday, Benedict said he "so desired that the beloved John Paul II would have allowed me to dedicate myself to the study and research of the interesting documents and reports" contained there, calling them "true masterpieces that help us to retrace the history of humanity and Christianity.

"In his providential design," he went on, "the Lord set out other plans for me, and here I am today, with you, not as the passionate scholar of ancient texts, but as the pastor called to encourage all the faithful to work together for the salvation of the world, each fulfilling the will of God in the places where he puts us to work."

Next month, the library and archives will close for a three-year renovation project.... The Curial Reshuffle Desk, however, won't be quieting down for long.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

"Et tu, Puer, propheta Altissimi vocaberis...."

Those words of Zechariah are a staple of the daily Office, but today's feast of his son's birth brings them into a more central focus.

Closer to the ground, a day after the Holy See said that B16's farewell audience with Tony Blair was marked by a "frank confrontation" on Iraq, the EU and -- reportedly -- stem-cells of the embryonic kind, the Pope employed Jesus' forerunner to reiterate the importance of speaking truth, even to power, at his weekly Angelus earlier today.

The confluence is but a further reminder of how, with Joseph Ratzinger, nothing is mere coincidence.

And with Jesus of Nazareth at #17 on the latest best-seller list, Benedict also took the opportunity to re-plug his tome on the historical Christ.

Here's the full translation of the Pope's catechesis:
Dear brothers and sisters!

Today, 24 June, the liturgy invites us to celebrate the solemnity of the Birth of St John the Baptist, whose life was wholly oriented toward Christ, like that of his mother, Mary. John the Baptist was the precursor, the “voice” sent to announce the incarnate Word. In reality, then, to commemorate his birth means to celebrate Christ, the fulfillment of the promises of all the prophets, among whom the Baptist was the greatest, called to “prepare the way” leading to the Messiah (cf Mt 11:9-10).

All the Evangelists begin the narrative of Jesus’ public life with the story of his baptism in the Jordan at the hand of John. St Luke places the Baptist’s entrance onto the scene within a solemn historical frame. My book Jesus of Nazareth also treats the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan as an event that would have enormous resonance for his times. From Jerusalem and from every part of Judea the people came to listen to John the Baptist and were baptized by him in the river as they confessed their sins (cf Mk 1:5). The repute of the prophet-baptizer would grow to the point that many asked themselves if it was he who was the Messiah. But – as the evangelist underscores – this he quickly denied: “I am not the Christ” (Jn 1:20). He remains, however, the first “witness” of Jesus, having received the indication of heaven: “The man on whom you will see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who will baptize in the Holy Spirit” (Jn 1:33). This happens precisely when Jesus, having received his baptism, rose from the water: John sees descending upon him the Spirit as a dove. It was then that he “understood” the full reality of Jesus of Nazareth and began to make him “known to Israel” (Jn 1:31), pointing to him as Son of God and redeemer of man: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29).

By authentic prophecy, John remained a witness to the truth without compromise. He denounced the transgression of the commandments of God, even when the powerful were its protagonists. And so, when Herod and Herodiade [Salome] accused him of adultery, he paid with his life, signing with martyrdom his service to Christ, who is the Truth personified. Let us invoke his intercession, together with that of Mary Most Holy, that in our own times, too, the church may know to keep itself faithful to Christ and to witness with courage his truth and his love for all.

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae....
Even closer to the ground, the pontiff's weekly appearances at his studio window may be attracting ever-larger crowds, but one enthused, statue-toting pilgrim was seemingly left to her own devices.


PHOTOS: Chris Helgren/Reuters


Friday, June 22, 2007

Whole Lotta Deacons

Unless you're thinking mid-1940s East Coast priestly ordination, your eyes aren't deceiving you with that shot above.

Then again, said conjure wouldn't have taken place on a football field: it's a scene from the aforementioned liturgy last weekend at which 60 permanent deacons were ordained for the Santa Barbara region of the archdiocese of Los Angeles, with Cardinal Roger Mahony as ordaining prelate.

Glad Tidings in the archdiocesan weekly:
The ordination of 60 men to the Permanent Diaconate at Santa Barbara City College's La Playa Stadium represented the largest single group of deacons ordained at one time in the history of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and possibly in the country. Held a week following the ordination of seven deacons in Los Angeles, the celebration also represented the successful efforts led by pastors of the Santa Barbara Region (Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties) to draw forth more men to ordained ministry in their local parish communities.

"This is one of the most glorious days of my 40 years of priesthood," declared Santa Barbara Region Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry, who oversaw the formation process that began in 2002, and who delivered the homily at the ordination Mass. "Your presence is testimony to the good work of God that is present in all of you."

Referring to the day's second reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Peter's speech to the disciples), Bishop Curry reminded the deacons and the assembly of the Synod's first pastoral initiative, which "speaks to our call to evangelize, to testify to the power and goodness of the risen Lord. As deacons, believe that God has called you to continue the renewal of the Church by testifying to the faith and power of God manifested in you."

The celebration began with the 60 deacon candidates --- the 56 married men accompanied by their wives --- processing into La Playa Stadium to the sounds of "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee," in front of more than 3,000 cheering family, friends and parishioners from around the region. Several wiped tears from their eyes as they made their way down the middle of the football field and to their places.

"This is an important and historic occasion," noted Cardinal Roger Mahony in his opening remarks. "We gather with great joy as you receive the sacred order of deacon. And we are so proud of you in this region, for the initiatives you have taken to bring forth the laity into this service."

The formation process took place at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Santa Barbara, and was led by Jesuit Fathers Luis Quihuis and Thomas McCormick, pastor and associate. According to Father Quihuis, the process was launched at the behest of pastors in the region who saw a shortage in Spanish-speaking priests and deacons in their area, where the 38 parishes are between 40 and 200 miles from downtown Los Angeles....

Pastors were invited to identify and recommend deacon candidates, "all of whom were actively involved in their parishes," said Father Quihuis. The candidates were divided into groups of English- and Spanish-speaking, who met respectively on alternate Saturdays (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) or on alternate Saturdays (2-6 p.m.) and Thursdays (7-9:30 p.m.).

In addition to the ongoing service component, the first two years of the formation process were heavily Scripture-based, "to provide a solid foundation to build on," said Father Quihuis. Christology, systematic theology, church history and homiletics were also included in the process, with married candidates' wives --- also involved in service to the church --- encouraged to participate.

All of the 60, Bishop Curry told them in his homily, "are a light shining in the darkness, evidence of the grace of God, the vitality of God, the goodness of God in his people."

Mike Nelson/The Tidings


The TB Conversion Countdown?

Tomorrow morning, as noted some weeks ago, the outgoing British PM Tony Blair will have a farewell audience with Pope Benedict.

While prior British media reports that Blair -- who leaves Downing Street on Wednesday after a decade in No. 10 -- was considering entering formation for the permanent diaconate have been downplayed in recent days, the UK papers are running with an even-firmer confidence that the soon-to-be ex-premier will swim the Tiber "soon," joining his wife Cherie Booth and their four children as a Catholic.
Mr Blair, an Anglican, may even inform the Pontiff of his intentions and seek his approval at the audience, which he is due to attend with his wife Cherie, a devout Catholic, and their daughter Kathryn.

Downing Street would not confirm the intended conversion last night.

However, The Daily Telegraph understands that it is the Prime Minister's firm intention to begin formal preparations as soon as possible after the hand-over of power to Gordon Brown next Wednesday.

A source said: "It is clear to many people that this is now going to happen."...

His reluctance to convert while Prime Minister may also have been accentuated by delicate negotiations with both sides in the Northern Ireland peace process, his party's tolerance of abortion and support for gay rights as well as his personal enthusiasm for [embryonic] stem cell research, which the Catholic Church opposes.

It is likely that he will begin a private course of instruction with a spiritual director and he will be expected to be formally received into the Catholic Church at a service.

His audience with the Pope - which could be in jeopardy if the European summit overuns - will be his third visit to the Vatican in four years and reflects his growing fascination with Catholicism.

Sources said that he may revive a long-standing invitation to Pope Benedict to visit the UK. Mr Blair is also expected to discuss the Middle East situation and his growing interest in promoting understanding between faiths, which friends say will be a key part of a new foundation he plans to establish.

Church sources have been saying for some time that Mr Blair, whose four children have been brought up as Catholics, was already a Catholic in all but name as he rarely attended Anglican services except on state occasions. In the past he has attended Mass at Westminster Cathedral in London with his family and, for security reasons, in Downing Street.

He has also attended Mass regularly at Chequers and is said to attend services on his own when he is abroad....

In 1996, Cardinal Basil Hume, the late Archbishop of Westminster, wrote to him demanding that he should cease taking Communion at his wife's church in Islington.

Mr Blair made clear that he did not agree, asking in a letter to Cardinal Hume: "I wonder what Jesus would have made of it."
In a 2005 lecture on faith and human rights, Cherie Blair rapped the 16th century English state -- which, she said, executed "some 105 people... for their Catholic faith" -- as one which "claimed the right to bind the consciences of individuals in religious matters and to impose a degree of uniformity in religious practice and allegiance... which denied individuals’ fundamental rights – namely the right to life, and the right to freedom of conscience, to religious liberty and toleration."

Speaking on the role of women in the church, Booth said that, in her experience, "there is still a sense in which some in the church see women as the 'praying church' and the 'working church' but not the 'thinking church'; they are embraced as handmaidens but not as thinkers or leaders.

"Women," she added, "are still seen as progressing the ideas of the masculine other in the church rather than being acknowledged for what the 'feminine genius' can contribute in its own right to the church.

"On my recent visit to the Vatican for example," Booth noted, "I thought that there could be greater scope for active female participation in the Curia."

...and it's Benedict -- who sought Cherie out for a motu proprio private audience during her last Rome trip -- who's making exactly those inroads.

More to follow.



Niente (Foto) di Più

Word's been going around about it for awhile, but it became official at May's end: Arturo Mari, the chief Vatican photographer with all access to the Popes since before the birth of Jesus, has retired.

Officially credentialed as photographer to L'Osservatore Romano, the Holy See's daily paper, the body of Mari's work (which actually spans 51 years; he started snapping Pius XII when he was 16) stands alone in its scope, and its influence.

Arguably, the world has seen the Popes through his eyes more than those of any other -- and it could well be said that if he didn't capture it, it didn't happen: everything from liturgies for the millions to lone moments of prayer, coronations to canonizations, state visits to private suppers were brought to the masses by means of his lens. (He's shown at right with his final subject, in a rare moment on the other side of the camera.)

It doesn't take a world-class shutterbug's eye to see that the apex of this was what the former Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls termed the "pontificate of images": the made-for-film reign of John Paul II.

John Allen once noted that, when John Paul received the then-Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, as the head of Poland's Communist resistance knelt to kiss the papal ring, then rose, the Polish Pope observed that Mari was changing rolls of film.

So the world might see, Wojtyla told Walesa to do it again.

Usually distinguishable at Vatican ceremonies by the three cameras invariably hanging from his neck (plus a back-up in his pocket), Mari took a rare day off last month as his son, Juan Carlos, was ordained a priest by Benedict XVI. The younger Mari is a member of the Legionaries of Christ.

Earlier this month, the chronicler-emeritus spoke to L'Avvenire on a career well-spent, recalling among other things the day when, at one of John Paul's Wednesday audiences, a group of pilgrims called out the photog's name as he rode in his usual Popemobile seat behind the man in white.

"Papa Wojtyla turned toward me," he recalled, "and said, 'So it's Arturo's audience today?'"

As with all his intimates, the ribbing was the hallmark of the late pontiff's great affection; "he really was a father to me in the truest sense of the word," Mari said of his most longstanding subject. "When you're with a person from six in the morning through to the evenings, it can't be different.

"I became one of the family," he said of capturing the daily ins and outs of life in John Paul's never-a-dull-moment household.

"There was never a closed door."

On the late Great's first visit to Argentina, the photographer said he brought 600 rolls of film along -- "but, while we were there, the nuncio had to buy another 200." Total shots for the trip: over 30,000.

When asked which photo he wished he never had to capture, the answer was quick and clear: "the [assassination] attempt of 1981."

Nevertheless, while snapping Pius XII amidst the lush panoply of the papacy's pre-Conciliar splendor was "so emotional," and Paul VI's 1964 journey to Jerusalem was transformative, the man brought an insider's vantage to John XXIII's train-hopping and John Paul I's contagious smile said he found it impossible to pick a favorite shot, or even a list, noting simply that "There are so many moments!"

The sacrifices, too, have been "many" -- Mari thanked his wife for all her support without complaint. But even so, the photographer noted that he never once missed a day of work.

"I've had the honor," he said, "of serving six Popes. And I thank them all for the trust they've always given me."

Given the vantage of his job and his longevity in it, the Pope's photographer has arguably seen more, and heard more, than any member of the Vatican's permanent service in the modern age.

All that, however, goes with him into retirement... and beyond.

With an eye to preserving Mari's work and building a visual record of its modern history, the Holy See recently unveiled an extensive digital archive of its collection of shots, both candid and public, culled from the storeroom of L'Osservatore Romano.

The treasure-trove can be found at

Alessia Giuliani/Catholic Press Photo
PHOTOS 2-7: Arturo Mari/L'Osservatore Romano


Archbishop's Day in Rome

A week from today, Benedict XVI will mark the 56th anniversary of his priestly ordination by conferring the pallium on the metropolitan archbishops of the world named within the past year.

The jurisdictional garment proper to their office symbolizing the light yoke of Christ, the narrow band of wool has roots dating from the 4th century AD. Woven from the sheared coat of lambs blessed annually on the feast of St Agnes (21 January), the pallium was imposed on an incoming archbishop in his cathedral by a papal delegation until 1984, when Pope John Paul II began the tradition of personally investing new metropolitans with it on the solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul.

Every year, the new crop of the bands -- two inches wide in its contemporary form, adorned with six black crosses and concealing three slots for metal pins to keep it from flying off -- are blessed by the Pope at First Vespers of Rome's patronal feast. To underscore the gift's symbolism of an archbishop's bond with Peter and his successors, straight from the blessing, they're placed in the gilt coffin above St Peter's tomb, where they rest until the following morning.

Joined by groups from their respective archdioceses who pack the Vatican Basilica for one of the biggest days of its pilgrimage year, each year's class of recipients provides a rich glimpse into the universality of the church of Rome, and next week's is no exception. Upwards of 25 new metropolitans will concelebrate with Benedict, among them recently-named archbishops from places including Uganda, Papua New Guinea, Togo, Cuba, Guatemala, France, with two from Mexico, four from Brazil, and a record five from Canada.

While the pallium blitz offers a wider opportunity for local churches to have a hometown excuse to get to Rome, some among the group will likely be back in time to receive the red hat of a cardinal, among them Archbishops Odilio Scherer of São Paulo, Oswald Gracias of Bombay, Stanislaw Nycz of Warsaw, Thomas Collins of Toronto and, at the head of the queue, Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, the president of the Italian episcopate whose recent experience of death threats will seemingly commandeer a larger-than-usual turnout of support from Liguria.

Permitted for use solely in the ecclesiastical province which he heads, the pallium is a non-transferable object; when an archbishop is transferred from one metropolitan post to another, he must petition the band anew from his local Vatican representative, the prior one never to be worn again.

And while most of the recipients have long been hard at work in their new charges, others have yet to see their installation day. An archbishop-elect may be invested with the symbol of his soon-to-be office, as is the case for Brendan O'Brien of Kingston a month in advance of his formal arrival there and the US' lone representative, Louisville's Joseph Kurtz, who'll be installed on 15 August, but with the lambswool already on his shoulders.

However, while that can happen, it doesn't have to. Named archbishop of Milwaukee five days before he could've received his pallium in 2002, Timothy Dolan asked for his reception to be delayed a year.

Reason behind the request: Dolan being Dolan, he wanted to bring Milwaukee to the party.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Visit's Hopes: Funds for the Filipinos, Zeal for the Americans

Just in case anyone hasn't realized it yet, American Catholicism's changing, folks -- and the ground is, literally, shifting right beneath our feet.

At least, that proved to be the case for me a few months back.

As winter bore down on the East, I slipped into a Sunday evening Mass at a neighborhood parish in Queens. The English liturgy began in its upper church at 5.30. At the same time, one in Tagalog was getting underway downstairs.

The Anglo Mass was what, unfortunately, passes as the norm these days: the sparse crowd, ho-hum, "get me outta here" kinda deal. But in the lower church, its counterpart for the local Filipino community began with no less than 20 minutes of singing, during which their roof (our ground) was actually... vibrating.

By the time the opening hymn was done downstairs, we were midway through the Creed. Maybe -- just maybe -- they were preparing for the Gospel as the English-speaking celebrant was out the door.

I desperately wanted to pop in, but had to catch a train... and would've felt terribly guilty for leaving.

Moral of the story: sure, US Catholicism's Anglo contingent remains its dominant ethnic group (at least, as of this writing). But just as with the Hispanic core which will soon overtake the old immigration in numbers, the energy, the future -- and, it must be said, the hope -- of the enterprise on these shores is taking its lead on a massive scale from the increasingly-emergent Asian communities, especially those of Vietnamese and Filipino heritage, marked by firm cohesion, joyful spirit, and a spirit of devotion and love for their faith as strong as summer's first day is long.

It's not just catholicity at work -- it's what's happening right in our midst. And we better start paying attention.

To offer but a handful of examples: though Asian-Americans comprise but 3% of the nation's 70 million Catholics, the community pulled nearly four times its weight in its number of the US' priestly ordinands this year; with 11% of the candidates of Asian-Pacific birth, the group was tied with Mexico at the second-largest provider of the country's priesthood class for the year. The Filipino custom of the Simbang Gabi -- the annual pre-Christmas novena traditionally held before the break of dawn for the nine days -- has come to equal "packed-to-the-rafters" congregations in the places where it's held (including, as of SG'06, 114 of the archdiocese of Los Angeles' 280-odd parishes); same goes for the numerable places that hold weekly devotions to the Niño de Cebu, the Black Nazarene, or the other patrons of the islands. And for all the ink and Klieg lights that focus on the 10,000 of all ethnicities who show up for the annual Roe Eve Mass for Life in Washington and the 40,000 gone to Disneyland for LA's Religious Education Congress, the States' largest Catholic gathering is actually "Marian Days," when no fewer than 70,000 -- repeat: 70,000 -- Vietnamese-American Catholics converge on Carthage, Missouri for three days in August. (The event celebrates its 30th anniversary this year from August 2-5.)

As much of the church's complacent, polarized (and, coincidentally, Anglo-dominated) chattering circles devote themselves to advancing a face of Catholicism more akin to the World Wrestling Federation than anything worthily resembling the universal Body of Christ, the faith's dynamism and most faithful integration into the lives of its own lies far (far) away from the journals and comboxes. It's a welcome reminder of the church's universality, the need to be mindful of -- and open to -- the many cultures in which it operates, and the lessons the rest of the whole can learn from each.

In that light, the US church has had no small number of opportunities to highlight its vanguard in recent months. Following quickly on the heels of the month-long North American swing of Cardinal Joseph Zen SDB of Hong Kong -- during which, it's emerged, the Vatican intermediary on things Chinese met with President Bush -- the Bay Area's Filipino community welcomed Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales of Manila this week, as the heir of Sin began a weeklong jaunt to the States.

After spending time with his family's California branch and three Masses in and around San Francisco, Rosales heads today to Washington, where he'll lead the tomorrow's Filipino pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception -- estimated attendance: 2,500 -- then stick around for more time with the capital's diaspora, from whose embrace he departs for Chicago.

As the bishops of Asia's most predominately Christian nation continue to burnish the national church's reputation as the nation's singular defender of the poor and most outspoken critic of political corruption, a key element of Rosales' American visit is slated to be his "Pondo Ng Pinoy" ("Funds for the Filipino") initiative -- which, he once reported, was Benedict XVI's catalyst to dwell on charity his first encyclical, Deus caritas est.

Starting with contributions of 25 centavos (barely 1¢US), the initiative has since raised 72 million pesos (US$1.5 million) toward new initiatives on education, health care, etc. that, according to the cardinal, "will directly help the poor live with [the] dignity that is their birth right as children of God."

A nation's development begins with the poorest of its poor, Rosales told his flock in launching the initiative three years ago this week. In carrying out the work, he said that "love will be the motivation we have (and) compassion is the only influence we will use.

"You and I will be surprised at what the love of God will do in us and among us."

It wasn't all that long ago when, in the aftermath of the Spanish-American war, the bishops of the Philippines were drawn from the victorious combatant, who brought their home church's penchants for organization and administration... along with the lyrics to "Long Live the Pope."

Irony of ironies, though, little more than a century later, the colonial arrangements long consigned to history, a native cardinal's reverse trip to these shores brings a reminder of the thing it needs most -- a gift of faith manifested not in buildings or dollars, but the contagious sound of that praise and joy which, in a day, yields more good fruit than two millennia of battle-drunk hair-splitting could ever find the courage to muster.