Sunday, December 26, 2010

Live from Capitol Hill: Christmas with The Cardinal

Keeping up what's become a Christmas tradition over his half-decade in the nation's capital, earlier today saw Washington's Cardinal Donald Wuerl return to Chris Wallace's table on Fox News Sunday.

(For the record, his predecessor's tradition -- both on this day and many others -- was Meet the Press.)

Along the way, the freshly-elevated DC prelate (shown above at yesterday's traditional meal for some 1,500 of the capital's lonely and poverty-stricken at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception) fielded questions on civility (or lack thereof) in the public discourse, the new evangelization (and his Yuletide "invite home" to inactive Catholics), the state of Catholicism on these shores, last month's Consistory... and, perhaps most newsworthily of all, became the highest-ranking Stateside cleric to talk up the church's position on last week's repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which barred gays and lesbians from serving openly in uniform.

Here, the full 10-minute chat... points North, meanwhile, in further proof that the first-ever New York presidency of the US bishops will, even on its quieter days, still be omnipresent-plus, no less than Politico published a Christmas message -- a call to serve the neediest -- from the new Chief, Himself:
This great country, which calls itself “Judeo-Christian,” recognizes the divine in those who are poor, struggling or left out — those for whom there is “no room in the inn.” Pope Benedict XVI explains, “Love of God and love of neighbor have become one: In the least of the brethren we find Jesus, and in Jesus we find God.”

This Christian moral imperative flows from the prophets of Israel, who measured a righteous society not by income or power but by how the widow, orphan and alien were treated. This solicitude for the poor echoes among our Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu neighbors, as well as those of goodwill who do not profess a belief in God.

This beautiful season’s warm sense of sharing and charity brings out the best in us. Our churches and service organizations are in overdrive. The outpouring of compassion, food for the hungry and gifts for those in need is essential. But, soberly, still not nearly enough. Those who gaze in awe on the cave of Bethlehem also sense an obligation to make our nation more just, our economy more fair, our world more at peace.

At this time of economic turmoil, the poor too often seem to be missing from our national conversation and decisions. The poor reflect the face of the divine; the poor have a name. They are our neighbors, our fellow citizens. The poor, Dorothy Day noted are not “cases” but our cousins....

The baby denied a bed at Bethlehem had a name, Jesus. Our poor have a name, and we cannot fail to find a place for them. Pope John Paul II, when he opened this millennium, reminded us, “The poor are not objects to be treated but agents of their own development.”

The legendary health care genius in St. Louis, Sister Isidore Lennon, would fuss at the admissions office. “We need to ask their names before we ask them what’s wrong,” she said, “we look in their eyes before we look at their insurance ID.”

So this Christmas I ask that we put the poor first. Every program or policy, every budget, tax or deficit proposal, must be assessed as to how it affects the life and innate human dignity of those who have no room at the inn. Their voices may be hoarse, and often shy, but their moral claims upon a nation boasting of “liberty and justice for all” are compelling.
A lá B16, the President spent his Christmas lunching with some 400 guests at a Bronx soup-kitchen that shares the facilities of a parochial school.

And lastly for now, the bench's newly-installed Southeastern "anchor" observed his first Christmas back home making an equally-pointed gesture to highlight the church's "preferential option" -- in Miami (above), Archbishop Tom Wenski marked the Incarnation by recalling the Bambino's journey into Egypt for 150 undocumented immigrants, celebrating an "emotional," tri-lingual Mass (English, Spanish, Kreyole) for the group at the South Florida detention center where they're currently being held.

As the Holy Family fled the persecution of Herod, "we are sure Joseph was not delayed trying to obtain a visa to cross the border,'' Wenski said in his homily.

"That is why we can say that Jesus was an undocumented immigrant.... Christ was an illegal immigrant. He was a refugee."

PHOTO: Melinda Mara/The Washington Post; Daniel Sone/
The Florida Catholic