Sunday, October 31, 2010

At Evening Mass, "Bloodbath" in Baghdad

Earlier tonight, during evening Mass at a parish in central Baghdad, armed vigilantes seeking the release of jailed Al-Qaeda members stormed the church and held the congregation of 100-plus hostage.

According to reports, as explosions could be heard from inside the church -- dedicated to Our Lady of Salvation -- on their entrance, the gunmen immediately killed the priest-celebrant. (The church is shown above, under guard during Christmas Mass in 2005.)

Shortly thereafter, as security forces raided the building, clashes ensued... and as the smoke clears, the wires have sent word of a "bloodbath," with the assailants said to have detonated "suicide vests," and according to most early briefs, at least a quarter of the Massgoers (at least one child among them) reported to have been killed, with scores of others wounded.

Lord, have mercy on us... and just in case any of this crowd needed the reminder, let us never take what we have for granted, lest we forget the suffering of the many who could only dream of it.

SVILUPPO: As reports continue to emerge, by late morning Baghdad time the toll climbed to at least 39 hostages killed, with 56 more injured.

Seven security forces personnel were likewise slain, with 15 others injured.

The church at which the attack took place is the cathedral of Baghdad's nearly 9,000-member Syriac-Catholic community.

SVILUPPO 2: At his noontime Angelus for All Saints Day, the Pope addressed the tragedy, renewing his appeal for an end to a violence he described in turns as "absurd," "savage," and "ferocious."

SVILUPPO 3: Monday night update; death toll rises to 58 as survivors of the ordeal begin to speak.

PHOTO: Reuters(1); Getty(2)


At "Reformation" Vigil, "Shame" Meets "Solidarity"

The Pope's message at today's noontime Angelus might've been that "God excludes no one" and "has come to seek out and save those who were lost."

Hours later, though, Italian police blocked the largest Roman gathering to date of survivors of clergy sex-abuse from entering St Peter's Square.

That said, while organizers of the "Reformation Day" vigil took pains in its run-up to stress that the effort was not intended as a protest, anger was visible among some members of the group -- before a heavy media contingent, signs were held aloft accusing Benedict XVI of "protect[ing] pedophile priests" and calling for the pontiff to be put on trial, and when the "Vatican spokesman," Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, walked from his office to meet the organizers and deliver a message, repeated cries of "Shame!" by a lone Italian protestor cut short his visit, according to wire reports.

Lombardi subsequently met with a delegation of the survivors in his office at Vatican Radio, and two members of the group were escorted into the Square, where they placed lit candles and several rocks to which each victim had signed their name.

Far fewer than the planners had expected, Italian reports estimated a turnout of 60 survivors, while the Associated Press numbered the crowd at about 100. Having come from a dozen countries, the Italian group was dominated by the deaf victims who came forward earlier this year, alleging abuse by some two-dozen clerics and lay brothers at a school in Verona.

During his abbreviated stop at the event as the group gathered at Castel Sant'Angelo, Lombardi (above right, in jacket) delivered a letter to its Boston-based organizers. The papal portavoce likewise released his message to the National Catholic Reporter, his original text relayed in full below:
On the occasion of “Reformation Day”, organised by “Survivor’s Voice”
By Fr. Lombardi

The windows of my office at Vatican Radio are just a few metres away, and therefore it seems fitting to me to listen, and to make a tangible sign of our attention, to your meeting.

This intervention of mine is not an official one, but because of my deep insertion and identification with the Catholic Church and the Holy See, I believe I can express the feelings shared by many regarding the object of your manifestation.

In this, I feel encouraged by the attitude of the Pope, made manifest many times, that is, to listen to the victims, and show the will to do everything necessary, so that the horrible crimes of sexual abuse may never happen again.

I must say that, even though I do not share all of your declarations and positions, I find in many of these the elements on which one can develop a pledge, that will bring solidarity and consensus between us.

It is true that the Church must be very attentive so that the children and the young, who are entrusted to her educational activities, may grow in a completely secure environment.

Yesterday morning, a hundred thousand young people were present in these places for a great celebration of their faith and of their youthfulness, and they are but a small part of the youths who take part with trust and enthusiasm in the life of the Church community. We must absolutely ensure that their growth be healthy and serene, finding all the protection which is rightfully theirs. We all have a great responsibility with regards to the future of the youth of the world.

It is true that the procedures of investigation and of intervention must be ever swifter and more effective, whether from the Church or from the civil authorities, and that there must be a good collaboration between these two, in conformity to the laws and situations of the countries concerned.

I know, you think that the Church should do more, and in a quicker way. From my point of view – even though one may and should always do more – I am convinced that the Church has done, and is doing a lot. Not only the Pope, with his words and example, but many Church communities in various parts of the world have done and are doing a lot, by way of listening to the victims as well as in the matter of prevention and formation.

Personally, I am in contact with many persons who work in this field in many countries, and I am convinced that they are doing a lot. Of course, we must continue to do more. And your cry today is an encouragement to do more. But a large part of the Church is already on the good path. The major part of the crimes belongs to times bygone. Today’s reality and that of tomorrow are more beckoning. Let us help one another to journey together in the right direction.

But the more important thing that I wanted to say to you is the following, and I feel encouraged to say it, because it seems to me that you also are aware of it.

The scourge of sexual abuses, especially against minors, but also in a general way, is one of the great scourges of today’s world. It involves and touches the Catholic Church, but we know very well that what has happened in the Church is but a small part of what has happened, and continues to happen in the world at large. The Church must first free herself of this evil, and give a good example in the fight against the abuses within her midst, but afterwards, we must all fight against this scourge, knowing that it is an immense one in today’s world, a scourge which increases the more easily when it remains hidden; and many are indeed very happy that all the attention is focussed on the Church, and not on them, for this allows them to carry on undisturbed.

This fight must be fought by us together, uniting our forces against the spread of this scourge, which uses new means and ways to reach out today, helped in this by internet and the new forms of communication, by the crisis hitting families, by sexual tourism and traffic which exploit the poverty of the people in various continents.

What the Church has learnt in these years – prompted also by you and by other groups – and the initiatives that she can take to purify herself and be a model of security for the young, must be of use to all. For this, I invite you to look at the Church ever more as a possible ally, or – according to me – as an ally already active today in the pursuit of the most noble goals of your endeavours.
Conspicuous by its absence from the Roman event was the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP), whose omnipresent, oft-confrontational response to the church's handling of the scandals has made it the most high-profile Stateside victims' group over the last decade.

That's not to say SNAP went completely silent this Halloween, however... the group just focused its sights on a new target: Michael Jackson.

For the record, the late King of Pop was raised a Jehovah's Witness, and no evidence of his ordination to anything exists.

PHOTOS: AP(1,2); Reuters(3)


Friday, October 29, 2010

A Decade of More

As we enter this final weekend of the campaign hustings, a particularly relevant confluence is worth noting....

After petitions from public officials and others across the globe, Sunday sees the tenth anniversary of John Paul II's motu proprio letter declaring St Thomas More as patron of statesmen and politicians.

Tried for treason in Westminster Hall -- the site of B16's climactic address of his UK trip -- with the martyred Lord Chancellor of England under Henry VIII cited even more widely as a de facto patron of Faithful Citizenship, the bishops of Pennsylvania have issued a commemorative statement on the document's milestone.

And here below, lest anyone finds it useful, a re-run of a house favorite -- the Litany to More composed in 2004 by one of the greats: the late, lamented "Mickey" Saltarelli -- eighth bishop of Wilmington, beloved pastor and "people's priest"... and 'round these parts, a faithful, cherished, much-missed friend.

* * *
V. Lord, have mercy
R. Lord have mercy
V. Christ, have mercy
R. Christ have mercy
V. Lord, have mercy
R. Lord have mercy
V. Christ hear us
R. Christ, graciously hear us

V. St. Thomas More, Saint and Martyr,
R. Pray for us (Repeat after each invocation)
St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers
St. Thomas More, Patron of Justices, Judges and Magistrates
St. Thomas More, Model of Integrity and Virtue in Public and Private Life
St. Thomas More, Servant of the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Christ
St. Thomas More, Model of Holiness in the Sacrament of Marriage
St. Thomas More, Teacher of his Children in the Catholic Faith
St. Thomas More, Defender of the Weak and the Poor
St. Thomas More, Promoter of Human Life and Dignity

V. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R. Spare us O Lord
V. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R. Graciously hear us O Lord
V. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R. Have mercy on us

Let us pray:

O Glorious St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, your life of prayer and penance and your zeal for justice, integrity and firm principle in public and family life led you to the path of martyrdom and sainthood.

Intercede for our Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, that they may be courageous and effective in their defense and promotion of the sanctity of human life - the foundation of all other human rights.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

The Making of the President: And the Nominees Are....

With 17 Days to go until the Fall Classic -- that is, the USCCB November Meeting in Baltimore -- in keeping with custom, hot off the press is the list of contenders for the plenary's marquee agenda-item: the election of the bench's presidency, to serve a term of three years.

In the body's invariable practice since its constitution in 1966, a vice-president who won't reach the retirement age of 75 during the next three years is elevated to the presidency, so barring the unforeseen, all expectations point to the ascent of the incumbent VP, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, to the top post.

Once the presidential election is completed, the #2 is then chosen from the remaining nine candidates.

In alphabetical order, the nominees are....
Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans, 60
Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, 68
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap, of Denver, 66
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, 60
Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, 69
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, 64
Bishop George Murry, SJ, of Youngstown, 62
Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien of Baltimore, 71
Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, 61
Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, 58
If the body's tradition of the last decade holds, keep in mind that the cycle renders this a "conservative year" for the VP slot.

For more, an extended analysis on the state of leadership in the conference ran here some weeks back. And lest anyone's interested in comparisons, here's the 2007 Slate -- five nominees have returned this time, four are making their first appearance among the Big Ten, and being absent last time as he hadn't been in a decade, Chaput returns to the list.

The vote takes place early on the plenary's final public day, Tuesday the 16th. With November quickly upon us, more preview to come -- as always, stay tuned.


Survivors' "Reformation"... Vatican's Retrenchment?

Every Halloween, history recalls the ghost that haunted a long, painful ecclesial age. This year, though, Sunday's anniversary of Martin Luther's nailing of the 95 Theses to the doors of the parish at Wittenberg in 1517 will be met with a Roman reminder of our time's most prominent ad intra hot-button....

Yet, so it seems, the Vatican has barred the door.

While B16 has met with victim-survivors of clergy sex-abuse five times since 2008 in sessions invariably proving intense, emotional and powerful, the church's response on the issue has hit no shortage of snags over the last decade. On the global stage, the latest of these came in July, when the Holy See served to undermine many of the church's inroads made in the court of public perception with the release of long-awaited CDF norms that, despite emboldening the procedures on pedophilia cases in place since 2001, became predominantly interpreted as equating the gravity of the attempted ordination of a woman with the abuse of a minor.

Even for the enhanced stringency of what has amounted to a decade-long global "zero-tolerance" policy enforced at Headquarters, what was widely viewed as the Vatican's "epic" message-failure ended up winning the bulk of attention and providing fresh ammunition to those seeking to advance that the church still didn't grasp the magnitude of the problem. Three months later, the confusion and "outrage" remaining fresh in some quarters, a repeat of the debacle now risks itself in the response to a weekend demonstration led by two Boston-area survivors, one of whom met the Pope at Benedict's first-ever encounter with victims in Washington on his 2008 visit to these shores.

Both victims of the late Joseph Birmingham -- the Boston cleric claimed to have abused at least 50 boys over three decades in ministry before his 1989 death -- the leaders of the "Reformation Day" effort have presented the event as a moment to express solidarity with and among survivors, and to keep up awareness of the plague of abuse in society at large.

Originally announced in April with an eye on St Peter's Square -- where they had sought to hold a candlelight vigil and place baskets of letters at the doors seeking support from Vatican officials -- in recent days the group's plans have been made to change: organizers say they've been denied permits to gather in the Piazza, and according to a Tuesday release from the group, a senior official of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications has told inquiring media "that they will not be allowed to cover the Reformation Day event or film from the grounds of the Vatican."

The traditionally-deferential Italian press keeping mum, the "alarm" in the Vatican over the event was first reported by The Tablet's Rome correspondent, Robert Mickens, who held out hope that the group would be acknowledged by the pontiff at Sunday's Angelus, but quoted an unnamed campaigner for survivors who couldn't help but "imagine the possibilities if Pope Benedict actually welcomed them," while seeing the response to date as saying, in effect, "Get lost, we’ve already apologized."

In the meanwhile, the planners have reported that survivors from at least 12 countries are expected to attend -- a first meeting will be held at Piazza di Spagna tomorrow night, with the Sunday vigil (during which a "Year of the Survivor" will be declared) now to take place by Castel Sant'Angelo, roughly a quarter-mile from Bernini's Colonnade. Likewise, at the beginning of TV's all-important November sweeps month (when advertising rates are set... and pieces tend to run particularly "hot" to drive ratings as a result), at least one outlet from Boston has already launched its coverage and is sending a crew to Rome to follow the gathering.

In an interview with Boston-based NECN, lead "Reformation" organizer Gary Bergeron said that he had written all of the "sitting" US bishops asking them to encourage a 60-second moment of silence for survivors at Masses over the weekend. In response, he claimed to have heard from just two prelates, characterizing the replies as "one said he's not willing to support it; the other said they're doing enough."

As the scandals began bearing down on the Boston church in 2002, Bergeron and the event's other top planner, Bernie McDaid, earned sufficient trust to be turned to for input by both Cardinal Bernard Law prior to his resignation and, following his much-acclaimed 2003 arrival, then-Archbishop Sean O'Malley OFM Cap. Earlier that year, on their first trip to Rome, the men met with then-Msgr James Green, then the top English-language official at the Secretariat of State (now papal nuncio in South Africa). And five years later, on the recommendation of O'Malley -- since made a cardinal -- McDaid was among the group of five survivors who met the Pope at the historic encounter at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, during which McDaid placed his hand on Benedict's heart, telling the Pope that a "cancer" existed in the church which he "need[ed] to do something about."

At the time, McDaid came away so satisfied with the pontiff's response that he successfully had a message conveyed to the pontiff before his departure from New York -- "Thank you from my heart and soul." Now, according to the website of the group organizing the Rome demonstration, he's concluded that his call "apparently fell on deaf ears."

The unprecedented papal move "meant they had to do something to follow up," McDaid said in an April TV interview.

"So our hope was that they going to do something more, and it never materialized."

Come Sunday, "we are not protesting or marching," he underscored in another interview.

"Our numbers will speak words... at the Vatican we’re going to wear all white -- white shirts, white pants."

* * *
Notably, the weekend's events come precisely at the fourth anniversary of Benedict's first public comments as Pope on the crisis.

In his ad limina speech to the bishops of Ireland on 28 October 2006, the pontiff first outlined what's become his frequently-repeated four-point plan for addressing revelations of abuse.

"In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem," he told the prelates, "it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes.

"In this way," the Pope added, "the church in Ireland will grow stronger and be ever more capable of giving witness to the redemptive power of the Cross of Christ."

In his latest intervention on the issue, at his September Mass in London's Westminster Cathedral, the Pope again voiced his "deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes," asking "all" the church "to show your concern for the victims and solidarity with your priests." Hours later, Benedict met with a group of British survivors.

This weekend coincides with the annual observance of World Priest Day, organized by the Worldwide Marriage Encounter.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Scarlet Countdown: This Time, All "In"

The church's biggest dance-card is now officially set.

Earlier today, the Office for Papal Liturgical Celebrations gave formal notice of the rites to elevate the 24 cardinals-designate whose names were disclosed last week by B16.

In comparison with its recent predecessors, though, the 20-21 November event will make for cramped space and rough sight-lines for the throng of pilgrims expected to converge around the world -- for the first time in decades, both Saturday's Public Consistory giving the new cardinals the red hat and Sunday's Mass of the Rings are being planned for St Peter's Basilica itself, as opposed to the Square outside or the "Nervi" Hall.

To be clear, while the 2007 Consistory and Ring Mass ended up being held in the world's biggest church, they were scheduled to take place outside -- at least, until Rome's November rain season intervened. Amid a downpour on the morning of the elevations, the decision was made to move the ceremony into Bernini's masterpiece, whose limited capacity forced a sizable chunk of the pilgrims to watch the rite on the large screens set up in the Piazza.

Prior to that, amid growing numbers of revelers for the week of festivities, the intakes of 1998, 2001, 2003 and 2005 took place in the Square; until then, the first six consistories of John Paul II were conducted in the audience hall. Over the preceding centuries, the Sistine Chapel served as the predominant site of the elevations -- a pointed reminder of each cardinal's most consequential function of all: namely, the conclave held in the same room.

In keeping with custom, the Consistory will take place at 10.30am Rome time on 20 November, with the concelebrated Ring Mass at 9.30 the following morning, the feast of Christ the King.

That said, lest one Red Dawn wasn't enough for anybody, quickly on the heels of last week's announcement word began to circulate in the Italian press that -- given the relative dearth of electoral vacancies in the College since 2007's intake -- another consistory of elevation could be held by the end of 2011 to "finish the job."

Once the limit of 120 cardinal-electors is replenished next month, at least ten more conclave seats will open in 2011. Another 13 cardinals reach the ineligibility age of 80 in 2012, with an additional 10 in 2013.

As a result, having already chosen 50 voting red-hats since his 2005 election, by his eighth year on Peter's chair, B16 could choose 70% of the Conclave that will elect his successor.


On Election Eve, Here Comes the Judge

As he prepares to don the scarlet of the papal "Senate," hours after B16's announcement of his name among 24 new princes of the church who'll be elevated next month, the Holy See's Wisconsin-born "chief justice," Cardinal-designate Raymond Burke, recorded the following amicus brief in light of Tuesday's midterm elections:

The comments have already been applauded in an editorial of the Washington Times... and if history holds, response from Wuerl coming in 5... 4... 3....

SVILUPPO: Indeed, there's more; the following segment -- featuring Burke on same-sex marriage -- is floating around...

...and Catholic Action for Faith and Family -- the group which conducted the interview with the cardinal-designate -- has posted fullvideo of the 25-minute session.

The complete interview will be shown three times over the pre-election weekend by EWTN; in a release on the airing, the network said the sit-down "may be the most important program Catholics will see prior to the Nov. 2 election."


A "Great Tree"... A Great Light

In 1950, the Catholic population of Florida comprised some 70,000 souls scattered sparsely across the Sunshine State.

Today, that figure's increased some 70 times over, now approaching 5 million.

Regardless of what the papers like to say, that just goes to prove that the dominant thread of this moment in the American Catholic story isn't so much one of decline, but epochal demographic shift -- a precipitous fall in its Northeastern cradle, sure... but with it, a staggering upswing of the church's presence in the South and West, a reality born as much from migration from within the country as immigration from outside.

Still, it didn't just happen. Much as the fruits of the "new" Stateside Catholicism have rapidly reached full flower over recent years, the groundwork that birthed what's become our time's ecclesial boast on these shores only came as it ever does: from the foresight, courage, sacrifice and work of the many nameless, unsung souls who, decades and more ago, ventured to an unknown place, that they might tend a fresh field and see it grow.

In Florida, as most of the Southeast, these builders were predominantly Irish -- religious, laity and clergy alike; "FBI" and from parts North both. Many never got to see their efforts come full circle in this life; many others who did still went to their reward in the same quiet with which they built, the work of their hands doing the talking, serving longer than even they could.

Now, though -- and fittingly -- one of these pioneers has come to receive the farewell merited by each... even if it's as much for how he died as how he lived.

Concelebrating morning Mass on Friday at the Gulfside parish where he kept on in retirement, after 86 years of life -- 62 of them in priesthood -- Msgr John Francis Scully collapsed and died at the liturgy's ultimate priestly moment: the "institution narrative" of the Eucharistic Prayer.

Born and ordained in Boston, five years after his ordination -- that is, in 1953 -- Scully headed South in response to a call for priests, founding eight parishes and multiple schools to serve the church's nascent Florida boom, alongside stints as vicar-general of St Petersburg and in a host of other diocesan posts.

Arduous enough as ministry at home can be, though, his vacations weren't spent resting, but on mission tours in Africa -- where, having learned two native languages, the monsignor (left, at a Chrism Mass) likewise founded at least one parish in Kenya and, as his ordinary noted at today's funeral, "has probably baptized, absolved, confirmed and married more Catholics in his life than most of [those present] combined."

"In hope, like the energizer bunny, he kept on ticking – hearing confessions, praying his office, begging for the opportunity to begin yet another parish even at the age of 78, desirous of knocking on doors of homes in search of converts," Bishop Bob Lynch said in a memorable, funny, poignant farewell (posted in full at the Mother of All Episcopal Blogs... where other tributes are also being paid).

"He knew that God’s favors were never exhausted and His mercies were never totally spent."

In his wake, Scully's been dubbed a "hero"... yet as many of us know, he is just one of many such figures in our midst.

In dioceses both growing and not 'round here, these days for priests are widely ones of falling numbers, bigger workloads, horrific scandals, low morale and high burnout. Yet amid it all, the good monsignor's homegoing providentially opened the door to one last act of love for the church... and, above all, the "long black line": a moment that's served to highlight what, almost always and at its best, priesthood is and priesthood does.

Sure, this is a reminder to a wider world that could use it after recent years. Just as much, though, in many quarters it's a needed prod for many of the guys themselves, that what they do -- what you do -- matters, quite possibly more than they might usually realize.

It can seem pretty cliché, but whenever a standout soul leaves our midst, some among us like to say that "a great tree has fallen in the forest." As we don't have a tradition of felling trees, though, for our purposes, maybe it's better to recall the opening rite of the Easter Vigil -- of a church only as bright as the number of candles lit and held within it (each, however hard we try, still dripping wax on the pews) -- and, ergo, to see each loss among us as that of another great light gone out.

Whatever our image, grief and prayer will only ever go so far. As ever, but especially now, the challenge of each loss among us lies in finding others who'll take up the light... or, in some places, to simply share it more and better with those already seeking it out.

Now as ever, this church knows the feeling of darkness and, just as much, the feeling of heat -- per usual, one that comes as much from within as without.

However hot it might run, though, no degree of the latter could ever replace or replicate The Light that gives sight, grants freedom, gives life.

Like it or not, darkness and heat will always be with us... but if the future promises to be as bright as our past, suffice it to say, whatever your call, Lights Wanted.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Live from Mothership: CCHD 2.0

After extensive controversy in some quarters over a handful of grants given by the US bishops' Catholic Campaign for Human Development to groups whose political aims conflicted with church teaching, this morning the Mothership's arm for community organizing and eradicating poverty announced a slate of bolt-tightening measures after an extensive "review and renewal" process.

Its annual mid-November collection suspended by several ordinaries in their dioceses amid the furor, among other aspects of the CCHD reform -- "affirmed" by the bench's Administrative Committee in September -- are a series of commitments that include an increased priority for supporting ad intra initiatives and, beyond tighter scrutiny over grant recipients, dictate enhanced, "ongoing" consultation with a moral theologian (who has yet to be named).

Already, accounts from the Catholic left and right have emerged on this morning's announcement. Given the delicacy of the subject-matter and its context, however, the ecclesial interest would seem to be best served by the fullaudio of today's rollout.... Ergo, for those keen to tackle it, the 45-minute session can be heard here.

The report and its outcomes will be discussed by the bishops at their Fall Plenary in Baltimore next month.

On a wider note, just as the US bishops have seen a challenge to the conditions of the grants awarded by their development arm, so too have their Northern peers; after similar controversy over actions of the Canadian bishops' Development and Peace agency, at yesterday's opening of their annual weeklong plenary in Cornwall, Ontario, in its customary opening letter to B16 the Canuck bench pledged to "renew" their D&P "in the light" of the pontiff's social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Finally: JP Center Sells... To the Sisters

Capping years of drama over the future of Washington's Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, late tonight the Michigan-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, announced that they had inked an agreement to buy the property for use as a house of studies.

Opened in 2000 as a tribute to the late pontiff with the hopes of amplifying his teaching and witness, the facility -- built at a cost of $75 million -- has endured difficulties practically since its launch; visions of the center's success as a museum and gathering place quickly proved unfounded, and the project's enduring insolvency left its principal funding source, the archdiocese of Detroit, some $40 million in debt due to unpaid loans for its construction.

The center's realization was the legacy project of the Motor City's now-retired archbishop, Cardinal Adam Maida; Pope Benedict addressed the nation's interfaith community there on his 2008 visit, and before and since, its most prominent purpose has been as the Washington studios of EWTN.

While several prospective suitors have emerged over the years for the property adjacent to the Catholic University of America -- most prominently the "bishops' academy" itself, not to mention Notre Dame -- provided the deal goes through, the building will belong to one of the nation's fastest-growing religious communities.

Founded in 1997 with four sisters led by the former superior of the likewise-booming Nashville Dominicans, Mother Assumpta Long, the community's grown to over a hundred; today, the Ann Arbor-based order -- geared toward the charism of education -- boasts an average age of 26, welcomed over 20 postulants this fall, recently received the first vows of eight novices, and earlier this year, a group of the sisters made a widely-noted appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Among other splashes, the move would create a Dominican double-threat on the CUA campus, long home to the much-celebrated friars of the Dominican House of Studies, their province likewise breaking modern records of entrants.

In a statement on the move, Mother Assumpta said that "We believe that the ultimate acquisition of this building... represents an opportunity that is aligned with the visions of our community, Pope John Paul II and the archdiocese of Detroit. It is a wonderful way to build upon the intention of the Center to bring the message of His Holiness to contemporary culture and promote vocations, and it provides yet another connection to his influence in our community and the incredibly generous donors to all these venerable institutions."

Alongside their announcement, the Sisters have released a promotional video on the move:


Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Ad Fidem Tradendam"

As previously noted, at today's closing Mass of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, the Pope announced the topic of the global episcopate's next Roman group-think.

Here, from the official English translation of the talk -- originally given, as ever, wholly in Italian -- the relevant snip for what lies ahead:
"During the work of the Synod what was often underlined was the need to offer the Gospel anew to people who do not know it very well or who have even moved away from the Church. What was often evoked was the need for a new evangelization for the Middle East as well. This was quite a widespread theme, especially in the countries where Christianity has ancient roots. The recent creation of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization also responds to this profound need. For this reason, after having consulted the episcopacy of the whole world and after having listened to the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, I have decided to dedicate the next Ordinary General Assembly, in 2012, to the following theme: 'Nova evangelizatio ad christianam fidem tradendam - The new evangelization for the transmission [lit.: handing on] of the Christian faith.'"
Meanwhile, keeping a tradition begun by John Paul II -- who convoked 16 of the 23 Synodal assemblies since the concept's Western launch in the wake of the Council -- the fortnight's informal close came yesterday at a papal lunch for the gathering's clerical and lay attendees alike.

Here, a translation from B16's postprandial remarks:
Communion and witness. In this moment I thank the Lord for the communion he has given to us and gives us. We've seen the richness, the diversity of this communion. You are a church of diverse rites, but who still together form, with all the other ritues, one Catholic church. It's beautiful to see this true catholicity, so rich in diversity, so rich in possibilities, in diverse cultures; and yet, still growing from it, the polyphony of one faith, of a true communion of hearts, which only the Lord could give. For this experience let us thank the Lord, and I thank all of you. It seems that maybe the most important gift of this Synod is that we have seen and realized the communion that binds all of us to each other and is witnessed to through that.

Communion. The Catholic, Christian, communion is an open communion, one of dialogue. So we have been in permanent dialogue, internally and externally, with our Orthodox brothers, with the other ecclesial communions. And we have felt that through this we are united -- even if there are external divisions: we have felt the profound communion in the Lord, in the gift of his Word, of his life, and let us hope that the Lord guides us toward proceeding in this profound communion.

We are united with the Lord, and so -- we could say -- we are "discovered" by the truth. And this truth doesn't close, nor places limits, but opens. And so we've also been in a frank and open dialogue with our Muslim brothers, with our Jewish brethren, all together responsible for the gift of peace, for peace in that part of the earth blessed by the Lord, cherished by Christianity and also by two other religions. We wish to continue along this road with strength, tenderness and humility, and with the courage of the truth that is love and that, in love, opens itself.

I said that we conclude this Synod with lunch. But its real close tomorrow is with the banquet of the Lord, the celebration of the Eucharist. The Eucharist, in reality, is never a closing, but an opening. The Lord walks with us, and with us, the Lord sets us out in movement. And so, in this sense, we are in Synod, that is a road that continues even as we part: we are in Synod, on a shared road.


The Next Synod: The New Evangelization

In yet another prominent signal of the Vatican's push to spark a new dawn for the church in "the so-called 'first world,'" in his closing homily at today's Synod of Bishops for the MidEast, CNS relays that B16 is to call another Synod -- the fourth of his pontificate -- with a focus on the New Evangelization.

Scheduled for 2012, the next "synodal event" already has its nickname: Rinopalooza.

Given recent debacles, though, one can't help but wonder if the gathering will have internet access. (Or, for that matter, if the newly-formed Pontifical Council for said re-evangelization -- part of its mandate to "study and promote" the internet -- will see its computers by then.)

Yesterday, the two-week MidEast Synod issued the Aula's traditional closing "Message to the People of God." In a unique twist, though, the body's final proposals were made public before their vote... and in response to the patriarchal and eparchal pleas of the fortnight, among them was a plan to study an expansion of the ordination of married clergy.

Lest anyone get too hopped up, though, the call pertains solely to Eastern candidates, albeit in their respective diasporae beyond the dominant territory of each sui iuris patriarchal church.

PHOTO: Reuters


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tim v. Times, Round 10

A year after firing his first salvo at the nation's paper of record -- and fresh off his latest blog-post resuming the charge -- the archbishop of New York upped his criticism of the New York Times in a TV interview... sans collar:

Long live the Great O'Connor... and tip to the Bench.


For Bishop Noonan, the Magic Kingdom; Miami Aux to Orlando

In just the fourth Saturday appointment these shores have seen over recent years, this morning the Pope named Miami Auxiliary Bishop John Noonan, 59, as bishop of Orlando.

At the helm of the 800,000-member Disney diocese, the Irish-born prelate succeeds Thomas Wenski, who was sent home to South Florida as Miami's archbishop in late April.

Ordained a bishop for the 1.3 million-member South Florida church in 2005 -- during which rite he memorably wept (right) -- the nominee once described by the Miami Herald as a "prankster priest" becomes the third US auxiliary named by B16 to be given a diocese of his own.

Over his 27-year priesthood, Noonan's served in parish and youth ministry work, as overseer of the Miami clergy, and rector of the archdiocese's college seminary. The bishop's departure leaves the Southeast's largest local church with all of one active auxiliary... and given its archbishop's famously hard-charging ways, smart money says the paperwork for more is ready to go, if not already sent.

While the name of Orlando's fifth bishop -- the diocese's third Miamian in a row -- is anything but a surprise, the appointment came unexpectedly quick; the nod wasn't anticipated until after the 20 November dedication of St James Cathedral following an extensive rehab.

Wenski's still slated to preside over the Grand Re-Opening. His successor's installation is scheduled for 16 December.

With the move, a record-low two Stateside Latin dioceses are currently vacant, the longest-standing of the openings stretching all the way back to... late June. Another 11 local churches on these shores are led by ordinaries serving past the retirement age of 75.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Dawn... The Notable

And so, folks, welcome to the Red Dawn Post-Game... just some stuff to wrap up.

* * *
For starters, anyone finding it noteworthy that the Man from Gotham didn't make yesterday's cut hasn't exactly been paying attention.

Well, either that or -- thanks to Tim Dolan's latest blog-post -- the Times was just looking for something to hit back with.

Indeed, as the regular crowd here was well aware -- repeatedly, and all in advance, no less -- apart from a springtime float in the Italian press, an eighth red hat for the Big Apple never really figured in the cards this time around. Yet while the Grey Lady's mention of "robust" rumor over the prospect doesn't just border on the ridiculous (not to mention linking to a shot of the wrong headgear), as some folks have still taken to ask "What, in the name of scarlet, happened?" it seems a quick explanation is necessary.

True, the history is well-founded: for almost a half-century, it's invariably been the case that the archbishop of New York becomes a cardinal at the first consistory following his appointment; so it was for Cardinals Terence Cooke, John O'Connor and Edward Egan. However -- and here, your "a-ha" moment -- unlike any who preceded him in the Manhattan chair since the Big Apple church's 1808 founding, to use his own phrase, Egan "got out alive." As a result, in retirement the city's ninth archbishop continues to hold the conclave seat that, until now, opened for him and all of his predecessors upon the death in office of the prior incumbent. (Given the red hat -- this one -- all of eight months after moving into 452 Madison, Egan's voting privileges expire on his 80th birthday, 2 April 2012.)

On a related note, while, of course, a Pope can do as he wishes (the last one did, after all, balloon the voting college to 135 members), it's worth noting that -- at least for now -- the de facto rule against two cardinal-electors in a given diocese became considerably more air-tight with yesterday's new class.

Though residential cardinals transferred from archdioceses to posts in the Roman Curia have traditionally been seen as "detached" from their prior assignments, thus enabling the elevation of their successors at home (most recently in Mumbai, Sao Paulo and, indeed, Boston), amid a current slow pace of vacancies in the voting College and the resulting glut of cardinals-in-waiting, not even the new archbishops of Florence nor Spain's primatial see of Toledo -- who, respectively, replaced the Vatican's current Family and Worship Czars -- made this consistory's cut. Keeping with the well-established custom, neither did Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster -- who, with Dolan, likewise has a first-ever scenario in the UK's top church-post of a surviving cardinal-predecessor still of electoral age. And while we're at it, at Benedict's first Red Dawn in February 2006, the same rang true for Paris; even with the retired Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger all of six months from turning 80, then-Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois was passed over until the next intake, getting his red hat in November 2007 (by which time his celebrated predecessor had died).

In a March interview with New York's ABC flagship, Dolan heavily downplayed expectations of his quick elevation, underscoring the one-diocese-one-vote "praxis" of the Holy See. Additionally, B16's three consistories have now confirmed his set practice for naming American cardinals: one from a residential archdiocese on these shores, the other in a senior Rome-based post. (This is especially significant -- until 1998, only one US cleric had ever become a cardinal-designate while already serving at the Vatican; in the dozen years since, however, another four have been so tapped.)

Bottom line: regardless of the metrics one uses to size up the scene, by every credible measure of how these things pan out, here at home, this was Donald Wuerl's moment over and above anyone else's. Yet while the number-crunch of 120 seats has currently made the traffic jam into the world's most exclusive club even worse than usual, for all the buzz over a purported Gotham "delay" that, given unprecedented circumstances, really isn't, a far more possible domestic exception to the 1-under-80 rule lies out West -- where, lest anyone needed reminding, the nation's largest local church is now twice the size of New York's.

Almost two years younger than Dolan, 58 year-old Archbishop José Gomez will take the reins of what is, by far, the most massive diocese American Catholicism has ever known -- the 5 million-member Los Angeles church -- in early 2011. With the transition expected to trigger at Cardinal Roger Mahony's 75th birthday in February, however, keeping the standard protocol would mean that Gomez wouldn't see his Red Dawn until, at the earliest, 2016.

As things stand, it's doubtful he'll be made to wait that long -- for one, by age alone, at least four more conclave seats currently held by Americans (among 23 total) open up between now and late 2012, so the current back-up will effectively vanish. Above all, though, the Vatican's understandable temptation to fast-track the elevation of the nation's first Hispanic cardinal will likely prove too much to resist.

Come Consistory Morning, the US will again have 13 cardinal-electors, six of them chosen by Benedict.

* * *
While some were wondering what happened to a second red hat for New York, a whole continent could've been asking the same question yesterday with considerably more cred.

At one point in the twilight of John Paul II's reign, Oceania had five cardinal-electors -- three Australians, New Zealand's Thomas Williams of Wellington and the first ever scarlet-clad Samoan, the Marist Pio Taofinu'u. Just seven years later, the region -- home to over 7 million Catholics, a figure grown by 12% over the last decade -- is down to a lone papal voter... a figure who, earlier this year, came wildly close to departing for Rome.

On the flip side of things, meanwhile, perhaps the most staggering aspect of the eight Italian cardinals-designate named yesterday is that the Boot only lost three of its electors since the last consistory. So while the Italian contingent in a conclave scenario comprised 16 electors going into yesterday's announcement, come next month, the Home Team's representation will increase by half, to 24 (a clean fifth of the maximum 120).

That said, though the Bel Paese's reassertion of dominance largely took the top storyline in the mainstream coverage of yesterday's nods, one significant aspect of the new intake foreseen here some weeks back did, indeed, come to pass: with the elevations of four Africans and an Asian of voting age, B16 nearly doubled his pontificate's total number of electoral slots given to global Catholicism's most prolific growth zones -- what had been a combined six electoral seats between the continents in the pontiff's first two classes now jumps to 11 with the new crop.

Among these, one garnered a particular buzz of reaction among the more historically-minded.... While the archbishop-emeritus of Lusaka, Cardinal-designate Medardo Joseph Mazombwe, becomes the first native Zambian ever to enter the papal "Senate," the elevation of the retiree was especially notable on two fronts: first, at 79, Mazombwe -- who retired in 2006 -- will only be ten months or so off his 80th birthday when he receives the red hat.

Yet even more conspicuously, the Zambian pick is especially conspicuous for who he succeeded in Lusaka -- namely, the (in)famous Emmanuel Milingo, whose colorful ways saw him transferred to Rome in the early 1980s for a reining in which succeeded... until 2001, when he memorably disappeared from the city, emerged to marry a South Korean acupuncturist in a mass wedding of the Rev Sun Myung Moon's Unification church, left "La Sung" to reconcile with John Paul II, then vanish again to reunite with his bride, start a movement for married priests and, after ordaining four married men as bishops without a papal mandate in 2006, incur both excommunication and dismissal from the clerical state alike.

In one of his valid rites, Milingo ordained Mazombwe in 1971... and in the wake of his successor's most recent promotion, some couldn't help but see the move as the last word of a Pope scorned.

(On a side-note, while Mazombwe becomes the first native Zambian cardinal -- and the first elector from the southern African country -- he's not the first Zambian cardinal, outright. That distinction belonged to a Polish-born prelate, the Jesuit Adam Kozlowiecki, who was elevated by John Paul II in 1998 at age 86.

(A survivor of the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, on his release Kozlowiecki undertook missionary work in Zambia, becoming a bishop there in 1956, then the first archbishop of Lusaka before stepping aside in 1969 after his request that a native prelate be appointed -- as it turned out, he was succeeded by Milingo. Either way, the future cardinal remained in the country, returning to the work of a simple missionary priest there until his death at 96 in 2007. He's buried in Lusaka Cathedral.)

All that said, for all the places that ended up on the haler side of the biglietto, at least one always has to lose out. And three consistories into this pontificate, that place has ended up being the home of roughly half the Catholic world: Latin America.

Since his election, B16's named one shy of 50 voting cardinals all-told... just six, however, have hailed from south of the border.

In the same time-span, as many have been elevated from the US alone.

* * *
Lastly, for whatever reason, at least one prominent outlet and (perhaps as a result) a smattering of the e.mail took to referring to what'll be handed out over Christ the King Weekend as "the red cap."

Sure, the trains might run as oddly a good bit of the time... but, folks, with all affection, this ain't Amtrak; please, it's the "Red Hat."

To be sure, that's not to say this scribe's batting 1.000 -- if anything, yesterday's Crow Breakfast ended up lasting well into the night.

PHOTOS: Getty(1); AP(2)


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Out of Darkness: At Long Last, "Wuerlybird" Gets the Hat

In his first major turn since this morning's announcement of his elevation to the papal "Senate," Cardinal-designate Donald Wuerl will deliver a lecture tonight at Houston's University of St Thomas on "Religious Faith’s Role in Building a Good & Just Society."

Slated to begin at 7.30pm Central (8.30ET, 0030GMT), a livestream link to the talk has been provided, and the vid should be available on-demand shortly afterward. (ED: On-demand link.)

The 49th American cleric called to the scarlet since New York's John McCloskey in 1875, here are snips from the DC designate's post-Mass presser in the capital's St Matthew's Cathedral:

...and, while just a graf of it emerged early this morning, here in full, Wuerl's Red Dawn statement:
The gracious act of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in elevating me to the College of Cardinals is a recognition of the importance the Holy See places on the Archdiocese of Washington, the Church in the nation’s capital. I am humbled and grateful to our Holy Father for his trust in me as shepherd of this flock and I renew my pledge of fidelity, affection and loyalty to him.

Yesterday I learned of this announcement, the day the Church celebrates North American martyrs. In the Church’s liturgy in memory of these missionaries, only two are recognized by name. The rest are simply listed as companions. That struck me as applicable to this honor today. In this wonderful Church, clergy, religious and lay faithful all work so hard on behalf of the Gospel, but since you cannot name everyone, the Church names the bishop.

My thoughts immediately turned to the Holy Father’s visit to Washington just over two years ago and the great privilege I had in welcoming him, the Chief Shepherd and Vicar of Christ, who came among us to strengthen us in our faith.

I had the joy of telling our Holy Father that not all that far from here in 1634 the first Catholics arrived in the colonies that later formed the United States. From those modest beginnings has come forth a Church truly representative of the Gospel’s message of hope. Today in his kindness to the Church of Washington, the Holy Father has renewed his support and love, and we in turn express again our bonds of faith and affection for him, the Vicar of Christ.

In accepting this honor, I renew my pledge, in the words of Pope Benedict, to “repropose the perennial truth of Christ’s Gospel” as this local Church carries out the New Evangelization in announcing the good news of Jesus Christ. Today as the Holy Spirit is urging the Church to rekindle in people’s daily lives a new awareness of and familiarity with Jesus, the Spirit is also charging me to deepen my commitment in my service as shepherd of this archdiocese.
And just one more thing....

Yet again, the Steel City's proven that its history of dominance merely begins on the gridiron -- with Wuerl's elevation, four of Pittsburgh's last five ordinaries have gone on to the red hat, and with two native-son cardinals already to the dioceses's name, for the second consistory running a Burgher has made the biglietto.

(The only other US diocese that could likewise lay claim to three living native-son Roman princes: the largest of 'em all, LA.)

Accordingly, in the town where he's still known as "Bishop Wuerl" -- the place he still regards as his "first love" -- Super Bowl-esque celebrations have ensued; the cardinal-designate's chief protege and chosen successor in the Burgh church, Bishop David Zubik, held a press conference of his own this morning to rejoice in his mentor's selection, and Wuerl's ascent has been the lead story all across local TV there from before the crack of dawn.

In that light, for the now-designate's 1988 installation as his hometown's 11th bishop, a special hymn was commissioned. Over time, such was the future cardinal's affinity for the tune that it was sung at every major diocesan event of his 18-year tenure, becoming along the way the unofficial anthem of his ministry there.

Ergo, to mark the day, it's worth rolling out once again...

PHOTOS: Getty(1); AP(2)


Red Alert, Red Alert

We have liftoff -- a 20 November consistory to create 24 new cardinals.....

Here, the biglietto, in order:
  • Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints;
  • Antonio Naguib, patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts,
  • Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum,
  • Francesco Monterisi, archpriest of St Paul's Outside the Walls,
  • Fortunato Baldelli, major penitentiary of the Roman church,
  • Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura,
  • Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  • Paolo Sardi, pro-Patron of the Order of Malta,
  • Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy
  • Velasio DePaolis CS, prefect for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See (& papal delegate to the Legionaries of Christ)
  • Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture
  • Medardo Joseph Mazombwe, archbishop-emeritus of Lusaka (Zambia)
  • Raul Eduardo Vela Chiliboga, archbishop-emeritus of Quito (Ecuador)
  • Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa
  • Paolo Romeo, archbishop of Palermo
  • Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington
  • Raymundo Damasceno Assis, archbishop of Aparecida
  • Kazmierz Nycz, archbishop of Warsaw
  • Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo
  • Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising
...and the over 80s:
  • Archbishop Jose Manuel Estepa Llaurens, Military Ordinary-emeritus of Spain
  • Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president-emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life
  • Msgr Walter Brandmuller, president-emeritus of the Pontifical Commission for Historical Sciences
  • Msgr Domenico Bartolucci, director-emeritus of the Sistine Choir
And, well, there you have it.

That said, the twin retired prelates -- among other aspects -- make this list stranger than almost any other in memory; Cardinal-designate Vela, 76, was just replaced in the Ecuadorean capital last month, while Cardinal-designate Mazombwe, who retired in 2006, loses his conclave vote on turning 80 next fall.

From Cardinal-designate Donald Wuerl of Washington, the following statement has quickly emerged...
“This truly is an honor for the Archdiocese of Washington, the Church in the nation’s capital, and for all of the clergy, religious and parishioners of this local Church who every day live out their faith in commitment and deep love for Christ. I am humbled by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI’s trust in me as shepherd of this flock and pledge to him my renewed fidelity, affection and loyalty.”
Once the secretary to a cardinal -- and, arguably, the most impeccably-prepared American cleric in history for the red hat -- the DC designate, 70 next month, will celebrate an 8am Mass this morning in St Matthew's Cathedral, with a press availability to follow.

Tonight, he'll be in Houston to give an address on faith and the just society at the University of St Thomas, for which a webstream will be had. Uniquely, late yesterday saw Wuerl announce a new seminary for the capital church -- a pre-theologate on the campus of the Catholic University of America, to open in August 2011.

And via "Big Rig" -- that is, the new St Louis chancery -- the following statement has just come from the Vatican's "chief justice," the Gateway City's eighth archbishop from 2004-08, Cardinal-designate Raymond Leo Burke:
I am deeply humbled and honored by the announcement that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI intends to name me to the College of Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church at the Consistory which he has convoked for this coming November 20th. Having received the news of the Holy Father’s intention, I express my deepest gratitude to His Holiness for the great confidence which he has placed in me, and I renew my commitment to serve Him, as Shepherd of the universal Church, in total fidelity and with all my being.

Considering the weighty responsibilities of the members of the College of Cardinals in assisting the Holy Father as his closest co-workers, even “to the shedding of blood,” I am more than ever conscious of my own weakness and of my total dependence upon the help of divine grace, in order that I may fulfill worthily and generously the responsibilities which will be mine, God willing, as a Cardinal of the Church.

I count upon the continued intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Communion of Saints, and the prayers of the many faithful whom I have been blessed to serve as priest and Bishop, especially in my home diocese, the Diocese of La Crosse, and in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, and of those with whom I have been, in the past, and am now privileged to serve in the Roman Curia, especially my co-workers at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. Only the knowledge of God’s immeasurable and unceasing outpouring of mercy and love from the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus gives me the confidence to accept the great honor and burden which His Holiness intends to confer upon me.

Today’s announcement turns my thoughts with deepest affection and gratitude to my late parents and all my family, living and deceased; and to the priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful who have assisted me to know my vocation to the Holy Priesthood and to respond to it with an undivided heart over the more than thirty-five years of my priestly life and ministry. Today, with all my heart, I humbly thank God for the gifts of life, of the Catholic faith, and of my vocation.

At the same time, my thoughts naturally turn to the many challenges which the Church faces in our day in carrying out her divine mission for the salvation of the world. In particular, I am deeply conscious of the critical importance of the loving witness of the Church to the truth, revealed to us by God through both faith and reason, which alone is our salvation. It is a witness which Our Holy Father tirelessly gives with remarkable wisdom and courage. I pledge myself anew to assist Pope Benedict XVI in this critical witness and in the many works of his pastoral charity on behalf of all our brothers and sisters in the Church and in the world.

I ask for prayers that I may be able to assist our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the best of my ability and with every ounce of my strength. I, once again, place my whole heart, together with the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, into the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. In the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus, I am confident that I will find the purification, courage and strength which I will need to carry out the new responsibilities to be confided into my hands. I thank, in advance, all who will pray for me, and ask God to bless them abundantly.
All that said, one conspicuous absence from the slate is enough to make for a major heartbreak.