Thursday, October 27, 2011

At Assisi, the Peace Train Rides Again

Precisely a quarter-century after Blessed John Paul II convoked a global gathering of interfaith leaders in the city of St Francis, today saw the latest sequel of the Assisi meeting for peace -- and this time, one with distinctly Ratzingerian touches.

While the 1986 encounter was limited to the senior clergy of world religions, several representatives of atheist and secularist thought were included this time around. What's more, to keep a lid on interpretations of the day as a festival of relativism or syncretism -- the favored charges of B16's right flank -- no common prayer was held. Instead, after what the schedule dubbed a "frugal lunch" at a Franciscan convent, the participants each took to a private room for some 90 minutes of meditation and reflection according to their respective traditions. (Lest any doubt remained, yesterday's preparatory rite for the pilgrimage opened with the "Tu es Petrus.")

Formally billed as a "Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World" and a "pilgrimage of truth and peace," the encounter began with the pontiff departing the Vatican's tiny rail station with several of the delegation heads. On their arrival, the event's first speaker was its lead planner -- the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter Turkson, taking center stage for the second time this week following Monday's release of his dicastery's policy note on the reform of the global markets.

Against the stunning backdrop of the Umbrian countryside, the day climaxed in the lower plaza of the hilltop basilica where Francis is buried, as the delegates embraced and doves were released by friars on the surrounding balconies.

Here below, Benedict's main text for the event.

* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Distinguished Heads and Representatives of Churches,
Ecclesial Communities and World Religions,

Dear Friends,

Twenty-five years have passed since Blessed Pope John Paul II first invited representatives of the world’s religions to Assisi to pray for peace. What has happened in the meantime? What is the state of play with regard to peace today? At that time the great threat to world peace came from the division of the earth into two mutually opposed blocs. A conspicuous symbol of this division was the Berlin Wall which traced the border between two worlds right through the heart of the city. In 1989, three years after Assisi, the wall came down, without bloodshed. Suddenly the vast arsenals that stood behind the wall were no longer significant. They had lost their terror. The peoples’ will to freedom was stronger than the arsenals of violence. The question as to the causes of this dramatic change is complex and cannot be answered with simple formulae. But in addition to economic and political factors, the deepest reason for the event is a spiritual one: behind material might there were no longer any spiritual convictions. The will to freedom was ultimately stronger than the fear of violence, which now lacked any spiritual veneer. For this victory of freedom, which was also, above all, a victory of peace, we give thanks. What is more, this was not merely, nor even primarily, about the freedom to believe, although it did include this. To that extent we may in some way link all this to our prayer for peace.

But what happened next? Unfortunately, we cannot say that freedom and peace have characterized the situation ever since. Even if there is no threat of a great war hanging over us at present, nevertheless the world is unfortunately full of discord. It is not only that sporadic wars are continually being fought – violence as such is potentially ever present and it is a characteristic feature of our world. Freedom is a great good. But the world of freedom has proved to be largely directionless, and not a few have misinterpreted freedom as somehow including freedom for violence. Discord has taken on new and frightening guises, and the struggle for freedom must engage us all in a new way.

Let us try to identify the new faces of violence and discord more closely. It seems to me that, in broad strokes, we may distinguish two types of the new forms of violence, which are the very antithesis of each other in terms of their motivation and manifest a number of differences in detail. Firstly there is terrorism, for which in place of a great war there are targeted attacks intended to strike the opponent destructively at key points, with no regard for the lives of innocent human beings, who are cruelly killed or wounded in the process. In the eyes of the perpetrators, the overriding goal of damage to the enemy justifies any form of cruelty. Everything that had been commonly recognized and sanctioned in international law as the limit of violence is overruled. We know that terrorism is often religiously motivated and that the specifically religious character of the attacks is proposed as a justification for the reckless cruelty that considers itself entitled to discard the rules of morality for the sake of the intended “good”. In this case, religion does not serve peace, but is used as justification for violence.

The post-Enlightenment critique of religion has repeatedly maintained that religion is a cause of violence and in this way it has fuelled hostility towards religions. The fact that, in the case we are considering here, religion really does motivate violence should be profoundly disturbing to us as religious persons. In a way that is more subtle but no less cruel, we also see religion as the cause of violence when force is used by the defenders of one religion against others. The religious delegates who were assembled in Assisi in 1986 wanted to say, and we now repeat it emphatically and firmly: this is not the true nature of religion. It is the antithesis of religion and contributes to its destruction. In response, an objection is raised: how do you know what the true nature of religion is? Does your assertion not derive from the fact that your religion has become a spent force? Others in their turn will object: is there such a thing as a common nature of religion that finds expression in all religions and is therefore applicable to them all? We must ask ourselves these questions, if we wish to argue realistically and credibly against religiously motivated violence. Herein lies a fundamental task for interreligious dialogue – an exercise which is to receive renewed emphasis through this meeting. As a Christian I want to say at this point: yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith. We acknowledge it with great shame. But it is utterly clear that this was an abuse of the Christian faith, one that evidently contradicts its true nature. The God in whom we Christians believe is the Creator and Father of all, and from him all people are brothers and sisters and form one single family. For us the Cross of Christ is the sign of the God who put “suffering-with” (compassion) and “loving-with” in place of force. His name is “God of love and peace” (2 Cor 13:11). It is the task of all who bear responsibility for the Christian faith to purify the religion of Christians again and again from its very heart, so that it truly serves as an instrument of God’s peace in the world, despite the fallibility of humans.

If one basic type of violence today is religiously motivated and thus confronts religions with the question as to their true nature and obliges all of us to undergo purification, a second complex type of violence is motivated in precisely the opposite way: as a result of God’s absence, his denial and the loss of humanity which goes hand in hand with it. The enemies of religion – as we said earlier – see in religion one of the principal sources of violence in the history of humanity and thus they demand that it disappear. But the denial of God has led to much cruelty and to a degree of violence that knows no bounds, which only becomes possible when man no longer recognizes any criterion or any judge above himself, now having only himself to take as a criterion. The horrors of the concentration camps reveal with utter clarity the consequences of God’s absence.

Yet I do not intend to speak further here about state-imposed atheism, but rather about the decline of man, which is accompanied by a change in the spiritual climate that occurs imperceptibly and hence is all the more dangerous. The worship of mammon, possessions and power is proving to be a counter-religion, in which it is no longer man who counts but only personal advantage. The desire for happiness degenerates, for example, into an unbridled, inhuman craving, such as appears in the different forms of drug dependency. There are the powerful who trade in drugs and then the many who are seduced and destroyed by them, physically and spiritually. Force comes to be taken for granted and in parts of the world it threatens to destroy our young people. Because force is taken for granted, peace is destroyed and man destroys himself in this peace vacuum.

The absence of God leads to the decline of man and of humanity. But where is God? Do we know him, and can we show him anew to humanity, in order to build true peace? Let us first briefly summarize our considerations thus far. I said that there is a way of understanding and using religion so that it becomes a source of violence, while the rightly lived relationship of man to God is a force for peace. In this context I referred to the need for dialogue and I spoke of the constant need for purification of lived religion. On the other hand I said that the denial of God corrupts man, robs him of his criteria and leads him to violence.

In addition to the two phenomena of religion and anti-religion, a further basic orientation is found in the growing world of agnosticism: people to whom the gift of faith has not been given, but who are nevertheless on the lookout for truth, searching for God. Such people do not simply assert: “There is no God”. They suffer from his absence and yet are inwardly making their way towards him, inasmuch as they seek truth and goodness. They are “pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace”. They ask questions of both sides. They take away from militant atheists the false certainty by which these claim to know that there is no God and they invite them to leave polemics aside and to become seekers who do not give up hope in the existence of truth and in the possibility and necessity of living by it. But they also challenge the followers of religions not to consider God as their own property, as if he belonged to them, in such a way that they feel vindicated in using force against others. These people are seeking the truth, they are seeking the true God, whose image is frequently concealed in the religions because of the ways in which they are often practised. Their inability to find God is partly the responsibility of believers with a limited or even falsified image of God. So all their struggling and questioning is in part an appeal to believers to purify their faith, so that God, the true God, becomes accessible. Therefore I have consciously invited delegates of this third group to our meeting in Assisi, which does not simply bring together representatives of religious institutions. Rather it is a case of being together on a journey towards truth, a case of taking a decisive stand for human dignity and a case of common engagement for peace against every form of destructive force. Finally I would like to assure you that the Catholic Church will not let up in her fight against violence, in her commitment for peace in the world. We are animated by the common desire to be “pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace”.



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On the "Signs of the Times," A Word from the North

As the rival camps of the Catholic chattering class continue the latest round of their traditional Exegetical Wars following yesterday's release of a certain hierarchical text, the Inaugural Message of the Canadian bench's new chief makes for even more worthwhile listening.

Elected president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops at last week's Northern plenary in Cornwall, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton (above) has long been seen -- at least, 'round these parts -- as a rising star. Currently all of 52, the Nova Scotia native was named a bishop at 43, then was tapped to succeed the celebrated TC in Alberta's senior church post barely five years later. Prior to his 2002 appointment to Pembroke, the archbishop had been vicar-general in his hometown of Halifax, a seminary professor, and pastor of three parishes all at once.

Hailed as a savvy communicator (sign language inclusive) and a whip-smart administrator, his devotees become legion over the years, Smith blogs weekly alongside hosting Nothing More Beautiful, a monthly New Evangelization program of catecheses and lay witness-talks in his cathedral that's shot for broadcast over the country's Salt + Light Catholic TV network. In May, the archbishop dedicated a new, green-certified seminary (photos) for the Oil Country church, home to some 375,000 Catholics.

At the start of his two-year term on the plenary's Friday close, the new CCCB head drew from the day's Gospel to speak of the church's need to discern the signs of the times, and the responsibilities the task demands in the context of today's society.

Especially amid the high dudgeon returned to the scene in these days, both the challenge and the hope of the scene sketched out applies well beyond Canada:

As the conference presidency alternates between the bench's English- and French-speaking sectors, the freshly-named Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau was elected as Smith's deputy, and the body's de facto president-in-waiting.

Having served along the US border since he was named a bishop in 1997, the 57 year-old Franco-Ontarioan -- an opera singer and blogger, among other things -- is expected to take a more policy-heavy role than usual in the #2 slot given his new see's cross-river proximity to the Federal capital of Ottawa.

Not to be outdone, meanwhile, in three weeks' time, the US bishops will convene in Baltimore for their traditional five-ring circus, better known as the November Meeting. More on it in due course.


Monday, October 24, 2011

The Grand Relator: For DC Cardinal, A Key Vatican Nod

While the celebration of Saturday's first-ever feast of Blessed John Paul II was initially limited to Rome and the dioceses of Papa Wojtyla's native Poland, one of the handful of Stateside locales that got to join in was Washington, where Cardinal Donald Wuerl had successfully petitioned the Holy See earlier this year for the memorial to be added to the local calendar.

(The US bishops will nationally follow suit, with a vote to add the observance to the national ordo at next month's Baltimore plenary.)

Featuring the long-scheduled dedication of a new seminary in the capital dedicated to the novus Beatus, DC's Wojtyla feast already had the makings of something big. It got bigger still, though, at Roman Noon on the day, as the Holy See fittingly rolled out B16's first major appointments to next year's Synod of Bishops on one of John Paul's pet projects -- namely, the New Evangelization -- with Wuerl being named to the gathering's all-important post of Relator-General, a task roughly equivalent to the Synod's chief "spokesman."

Responsible for articulating the Synod's goals and vision in a major address (traditionally delivered in Latin) on opening day, then pooling the results of its discussions for the October meeting's final message -- and, in time, its closing papal document -- the 70 year-old cardinal joins an elite group of top-shelf prelates who've served as Relator at the prior four Synods of Benedict XVI's pontificate:
  • Then the archbishop of Quebec, Cardinal Marc Ouellet was named Relator of the 2008 Synod on the Word of God; last year, Benedict returned the Canadian to Rome as the first-ever North American to serve as prefect of the all-powerful Congregation for Bishops;
  • Then the lone Scripture scholar in the Pope's "Senate" -- at least, its electoral part -- the Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson's stock as a "papabile" spiked when he was appointed spokesman for 2009's Second Synod for Africa, which Benedict will formally wrap up next month on his second trip to the continent. At the gathering's close, however, the US-trained dynamo's standing only rose further as the pontiff called Turkson to the Vatican as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. (In his Curial post, the cardinal was the lead mover behind the crafting and release of this morning's text on global market reform.)
...see a trend here?

Of course, whether it'll hold true in Wuerl's case is anybody's guess. Regardless, the main takeaway is that the Relator's nod has consistently gone to prelates who clearly rank very high in the pontiff's esteem, and whom he's ostensibly singling out for a major turn on the church's global stage. In the case of the famously-diligent, hyper-efficient Washington cardinal, however, the pick likewise indicates that, for this Synod, Benedict wants everything done right.

At the same time, the appointment plays well to what's become one of the cardinal's strong suits. Long a master of catechesis as host of his own TV show during his days as bishop of his native Pittsburgh, then the guiding force behind a national Catholic Catechism for Adults, Wuerl has recently turned his focus toward the New Evangelization, penning a Pastoral Letter on the faith's "reproposal" just prior to his elevation to the College of Cardinals last fall and making the topic a centerpiece of his talks, like this one to a March crowd at the capital's Catholic University of America:

To be sure, Wuerl is no stranger to Rome -- already a veteran of four prior Synods, the DC prelate was a student-priest at the Angelicum before essentially running the Congregation for the Clergy through the late 1970s as priest-secretary to his ailing mentor, Cardinal John Wright.

More recently, the cardinal's latest call to the Aula is the second major ongoing task given him by the Holy See on top of his duties in the District.

By appointment of the CDF, Wuerl has spent the last year as the Stateside delegate for the implementation of Anglicanorum coetibus -- an intense national undertaking all its own -- most recently receiving some 60 former Anglicans into the Catholic fold in Washington earlier this month.

While the cardinal had indicated in a June report that a domestic jurisdiction for the journeying groups was to be erected "this fall," in a recent interview while on tour in Scotland, he said he was "still hopeful that, before this year is out, a US ordinariate will be established."

Wuerl will again brief the bench on Anglicanorum's progress during the Baltimore plenary.

The DC red-hat is the second American hierarch in recent times to be named Relator-General of a global Synod. In 2001, New York's Cardinal Edward Egan was tapped for the post as the body met to discuss the ministry of bishops.

The now-retired canonist's turn at the rostrum was cut short, however, given Egan's need to be home in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

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


Toward a World Watchdog: The Vatican Talks Finance

Having garnered a high level of buzz over recent weeks, this morning brought the rollout of a text from the Holy See on the reform of the global financial market, highlighted by the call for an international "public authority at the service of the common good" to enforce accountability on the part of the states, banks and exchanges who comprise the worldwide monetary system.

Inspired by the financial collapse of recent years, its effects continuing to ricochet across Europe into the present, here below (in the scrollable window) is a provisional English translation of the statement, published under the aegis of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace:

SVILUPPO: As reaction to the above text has (albeit predictably) fallen along secular ideological lines, some can seemingly use the reminder of another extensive document prepared by the J&P office: the 2003 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

Completed at the silver jubilee of Blessed John Paul II's election, the volume was undertaken at the behest of the late pontiff, to whom it was dedicated with the inscription "master of social doctrine, evangelical witness to justice and peace."


Saturday, October 22, 2011

"Blessed Are You, John Paul II, Because You Believed!"

“The absolute, and yet sweet and gentle, power of the Lord responds to the whole depths of the human person, to his loftiest aspirations of intellect, will and heart. It does not speak the language of force, but expresses itself in charity and truth.

The new Successor of Peter in the See of Rome today makes a fervent, humble and trusting prayer: Christ, make me become and remain the servant of your unique power, the servant of your sweet power, the servant of your power that knows no dusk. Make me a servant: indeed, the servant of your servants....

Do not be afraid. Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development.

Do not be afraid. Christ knows “that which is in man”. He alone knows it.

So often today, man does not know that which is in him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair.

We ask you, therefore, we beg you with humility and with trust: let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of life eternal.
--Inaugural Homily of the Pontificate
22 October 1978
Office of Readings
for 22nd October

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Less than six months since his elevation to the altars, today the church celebrates for the first time the feast of Karol Wojtyla -- Blessed Pope John Paul II.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Quote of the Day

“Teddy Roosevelt was a man who had a reputation for being frank and direct. In 1900, a year before he entered the White House, he wrote these words:

'No community is healthy where it is ever necessary to distinguish one politician [from] his fellows because ‘he is honest’ . . . [Moreover, it is not] enough that a public official should be honest. No amount of honesty will avail if he is not also brave and wise. The weakling and the coward cannot be saved by honesty alone ...'

Leadership requires two virtues that seem very simple until they become very inconvenient: honesty and courage.

All of you have earned the right to be here today by winning the trust of the people of Philadelphia. But along with that honor comes a duty of humility, integrity and public service. So let’s settle our hearts for just a moment in prayer.

God of justice and mercy, thank you for the gift of life, and the opportunity to serve the people of our city. Help us to act with character and conviction; help us to listen with understanding and good will; help us to speak with charity and restraint. Give us a spirit of service. Remind us that we are stewards of your authority. Guide us to be the leaders your people need. Help us see the humanity and dignity of those who disagree with us, and to treat all persons, no matter how weak or poor, with the reverence your creation deserves. And finally Father, renew us with the strength of your presence and the joy of helping to build a community worthy of the human person. We ask this as your sons and daughters, confident in your goodness and love. Amen.

--Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap.
Archbishop of Philadelphia
Invocation before the City Council
Philadelphia City Hall
20 October 2011
Much as the note might easily seem superfluous in a town where voter registration runs eight-to-one Democratic, the River City's quadrennial elections for Mayor and Council take place in 11 days' time.

Yet wherever we find ourselves -- even if a ballot isn't just in the offing -- remember well, church, that ours is always a call to Faithful Citizenship.


G'day, Vatican -- From Ad Limina to the Domus, Aussie Week in Rome

Just over a fortnight until the Stateside bench begins its first report to Rome in B16's pontificate, the past week has seen the first ad limina visit of the Australian bishops to the reigning Pope.

Last received in early 2004, the Aussies were the last Anglophone bench outside the USCCB who had yet to make the all-important trip since Benedict's 2005 election.

As part of the festivities surrounding the visit, last night the Pope formally opened the new Domus Australia (above) -- a former Marist house that, following an extensive renovation, will now serve as the country's pilgrim lodge in Rome. With available space for some 85 overnight guests, the house is being billed as the largest national hub for visitors to the city.

And this morning, the visit formally closed with the traditional papal address to the bishops, one that heavily emphasized the life and witness of Australia's first saint, the recently-canonized foundress Mother Mary MacKillop (1842-1909).

While Benedict included an oblique reference to the country's abuse and cover-up scandals -- for which he apologized during a 2008 Mass in Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral during the city's World Youth Day -- even more conspicuous by its absence was no allusion to the recent tumult in the Western diocese of Toowoomba, where the pontiff removed Bishop William Morris from office last February following years of complaints over the prelate's lax handling of liturgical and doctrinal matters, culminating in a 2006 pastoral letter in which Morris presented the ordination of women as a "possible solution" to the region's spiraling priest shortage.

Having discussed the situation this week in meetings described as remarkably "candid," the Australians are reportedly expected to issue a statement on the Toowoomba aftermath in short order.

In the meantime, some snips from today's PopeTalk:
[T]he church in Australia has been marked by two special moments of grace in recent years. Firstly, World Youth Day was blessed with great success and, together with you, I saw how the Holy Spirit moved the young people gathered on your home soil from all over the world. I have also learned from your reports of the continued impact of that celebration. Not just Sydney but Dioceses throughout the country welcomed the world’s young Catholics as they came to deepen their faith in Jesus Christ along with their Australian sisters and brothers. Your clergy and faithful saw and experienced the youthful vitality of the Church to which we all belong and the perennial relevance of the Good News which must be proclaimed afresh to every generation. I understand that one of the outstanding consequences of the event is still to be seen in the numbers of young people who are discerning vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. The Holy Spirit never ceases to awaken in young hearts the desire for holiness and apostolic zeal. You should therefore continue to foster that radical attachment to the person of Jesus Christ, whose attraction inspires them to give their lives completely to him and to the service of the Gospel in the Church. By assisting them, you will help other young people to reflect seriously upon the possibility of a life in the priesthood or the religious life. In so doing, you will strengthen a similar love and single-minded fidelity among those men and women who have already embraced the Lord’s call....

The canonization last year of Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop is another great event in the life of the Church in Australia. Indeed, she is an example of holiness and dedication to Australians and to the Church throughout the world, especially to women religious and to all involved in the education of young people. In circumstances that were often very trying, Saint Mary remained steadfast, a loving spiritual mother to the women and children in her care, an innovative teacher of the young and an energetic role model for all concerned with excellence in education. She is rightly considered by her fellow Australians to be an example of personal goodness worthy of imitation. Saint Mary is now held up within the Church for her openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and for her zeal for the good of souls which drew many others to follow in her footsteps. Her vigorous faith, translated into dedicated and patient action, was her gift to Australia; her life of holiness is a wonderful gift of your country to the Church and to the world. May her example and prayers inspire the actions of parents, religious, teachers and others concerned with the good of children, with their protection from harm and with their sound education for a happy and prosperous future.

Saint Mary MacKillop’s courageous response to the difficulties she faced throughout her life can also inspire today’s Catholics as they confront the new evangelization and serious challenges to the spread of the Gospel in society as a whole. All the members of the Church need to be formed in their faith, from a sound catechesis for children, and religious education imparted in your Catholic schools, to much-needed catechetical programmes for adults. Clergy and religious must also be assisted and encouraged by an ongoing formation of their own, with a deepened spiritual life in the rapidly secularizing world around them. It is urgent to ensure that all those entrusted to your care understand, embrace and propose their Catholic faith intelligently and willingly to others. In this way, you, your clergy and your people will give such an account of your faith by word and example that it will be convincing and attractive. People of good will, seeing your witness, will respond naturally to the truth, the goodness and the hope that you embody.

It is true that yours is a pastoral burden which has been made heavier by the past sins and mistakes of others, most regrettably including some clergy and religious; but the task now falls to you to continue to repair the errors of the past with honesty and openness, in order to build, with humility and resolve, a better future for all concerned. I therefore encourage you to continue to be pastors of souls who, along with your clergy, are always prepared to go one step further in love and truth for the sake of the consciences of the flock entrusted to you (cf. Mt 5:41), seeking to preserve them in holiness, to teach them humbly and to lead them irreproachably in the ways of the Catholic faith.

Finally, as Bishops, you are conscious of your special duty to care for the celebration of the liturgy. The new translation of the Roman Missal, which is the fruit of a remarkable cooperation of the Holy See, the Bishops and experts from all over the world, is intended to enrich and deepen the sacrifice of praise offered to God by his people. Help your clergy to welcome and to appreciate what has been achieved, so that they in turn may assist the faithful as everyone adjusts to the new translation. As we know, the sacred liturgy and its forms are written deeply in the heart of every Catholic. Make every effort to help catechists and musicians in their respective preparations to render the celebration of the Roman Rite in your Dioceses a moment of greater grace and beauty, worthy of the Lord and spiritually enriching for everyone. In this way, as in all your pastoral efforts, you will lead the Church in Australia towards her heavenly home under the sign of the Southern Cross.
* * *
On an ad limina note closer to home, it's worth noting that as the scheduling of the visits by 12 of the 15 USCCB regions had been strangely held up for several months, over recent days at least several of the remaining groups have finally received their dates for the trip... and by the looks of it, some might need to scramble to be ready.

While Regions I, II and III -- which comprise the Northeast -- had known for a year that they'd be going over through November and early December, the freshly-revealed schedule picks up with Region IV (the provinces of Baltimore, Washington, and the archdiocese for the Military Services) on 16-21 January 2012. Other regions have likewise gotten formal word of dates through the winter.

For the first time, the Stateside visit will reflect the shift made by the conference in 2006, in which the nation's Eastern-church hierarchs were grouped into a region of their own, as opposed to being linked with the prelates of the Latin-church areas where their see cities were located.

As the groups are going over in numerical order -- a break from the prior practice of drawing their respective turns from a hat -- all appearances are that the visit will end with the eparchs.

PHOTOS: Getty(1); Reuters(2)


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

At Long Last, Viganò = US Nuncio

Months in the rumor-mill, yet conspicuously delayed amid very credible reports of a Vatican power struggle, at this Roman Noon the move is finally official: Pope Benedict has named Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò as his ambassador to the United States in the footsteps of the late, lamented "Super-Nuncio" Pietro Sambi.

With the appointment, the 70 year-old veteran of the Roman Curia -- whose lone previous posting as a mission-chief came in Nigeria from 1992-98 -- becomes the 14th papal legate to these shores since the Holy See's establishment of a diplomatic presence in Washington in 1893. Upon the presentation of his credentials to President Obama, Viganò will be the fifth prelate to serve as the Vatican's emissary to both the nation's church and government since bilateral relations were accepted in 1984.

Even from its earlier erection, however, the DC assignment has come to be seen as one of Vatican diplomacy's "Big Four" postings, alongside those to Rome, Paris and, in time, the United Nations.

And there's more still -- likewise today, B16's tapped Msgr David Kagan, 60, vicar-general of Rockford and pastor of the Illinois diocese's largest parish, as bishop of Bismarck.

The runner-up for general secretary of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops at last year's turnover of the Mothership's helm, the bishop-elect succeeds Bishop Paul Zipfel, who reached the retirement age of 75 in September 2010, at the helm of western North Dakota's 60,000-member church.

As ever, more to come.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

For Vatican II's 50th, A "Year of Faith"

While this morning's return of the PopeMover will likely garner its share of media note (for "Papal Death Watch" purposes, of course), in reality, the prime development to come from a weekend Vatican conference on the New Evangelization was B16's announcement of a "Year of Faith" to mark next fall's 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.

The global observance will begin on 11 October 2012 -- the half-century of Vatican II's first day -- and wrap up on 24 November 2013, the feast of Christ the King.

At its start, the Year will include the next global Synod of Bishops, slated for next October with a focus on the New Evangelization.

In calling the third themed commemoration since his 2005 election, the pontiff said the focus was intended "to give renewed impulse to the mission of the whole church to lead people out of the desert... toward the path of life [and] the friendship with Christ that gives us life to the full."

The 13-month celebration "will be a moment of grace and challenge for our ever fuller conversion to God," Benedict added, "to strengthen our faith in him and announce him with joy to the people of our time."

The purpose of the Year will be explained more fully in an Apostolic Letter which, the Pope indicated, would be published in short order.

In 2008, B16 declared his first thematic year to mark the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of St Paul, quickly following it with the 2009-10 Year for Priests. The latter would become irrevocably marred, however, by an unprecedented Europe-wide eruption of sex-abuse revelations, including a case from the early 1980s in which Benedict himself was accused in the press of returning a priest to ministry during his days as archbishop of Munich and Freising despite prior allegations against the cleric.
* * *
As appearances go, meanwhile, today's Mass to close the New Evangelization conference was indeed conspicuous for the re-introduction of the "mobile platform" that pushes the pontiff in his processions along the aisle of St Peter's Basilica, the world's largest church.

Originally designed for Blessed John Paul II in 2000 prior to the Polish Pope's adoption of a wheeled throne at the twilight of his 27-year reign, the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi said that the PopeMover's return was warranted by the effects of Benedict's natural fatigue just shy of his 85th birthday. The device likewise aids the pontiff's security, especially in the wake of the 2009 incident that saw Benedict pulled to the ground by a mentally unstable Italian woman as he entered the basilica for Christmas Midnight Mass. (After some minutes of disruption, the liturgy proceeded without incident.)

The originator of the concept of a renewed push to proclaim the faith in the West, today marks the 33rd anniversary of Karol Wojtyla's election as the 264th Roman pontiff. And for the first time since his May beatification, this coming Saturday brings the first JPII feast-day on the anniversary of his Inaugural Mass as Pope.

As the feast is technically limited to celebration in Rome and Poland in accordance with tradition for those not yet canonized, the US bishops will consider adding John Paul's memorial to the Stateside calendar at their upcoming November plenary in Baltimore.

And for the record, while the reigning pontiff has reinstituted the wheeled platform, the late Pope's coat of arms -- tiara and all -- still adorn its sides.

SVILUPPO: At his midday Angelus following the morning Mass that revealed the initiative, the Pope linked the coming Year of Faith to two of his predecessors -- John Paul and the pontiff who closed Vatican II, Paul VI:
Benedict XVI explained that "already the Blessed John Paul II had clearly indicated to the Church it was an urgent and exciting challenge. He [who] in the wake of Vatican II was the one who started its implementation -- Pope Paul VI -- was, in fact, both a staunch supporter of the mission ad gentes, to the peoples and territories where the Gospel had not yet taken root, and a herald of the new evangelization. "

New evangelization and mission ad gentes go together, "They are - he said - aspects of the mission of the Church, and therefore it is significant to consider them together in this month of October, characterized by the celebration of World Mission, next Sunday."

The pontiff also said that "the motives, purposes and guidelines of this 'Year', I have illustraded in an Apostolic Letter which will be published in the coming days."

He added: "The Servant of God Paul VI proclaimed a similar 'Year of Faith' in 1967, during the nineteenth centenary of the martyrdom of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and in a time of great cultural upheaval. I think that, after half a century since the opening of the Council, linked to the happy memory of Blessed John XXIII, it is appropriate to recall the beauty and the centrality of faith, the need to strengthen and deepen it on a personal and community level, and to do so not in a celebratory perspective, but rather a missionary one, the mission ad gentes and new evangelization. "
PHOTOS: Reuters


Friday, October 14, 2011

Man of the Poor, Successor of Sin: B16's Thrilla for Manila

Home to 3 million Catholics in a country where four-fifths of its 88 million residents belong to the fold, one would have a hard time finding a larger or more influential Asian diocese than that of Manila.

Yet with the Filipino church currently embroiled in two political storms which have severely tested its storied clout, the Pope yesterday chose a tricycling, stage-singing theologian who takes questions over YouTube as the capital's next archbishop...

...and one so young he could reign for a quarter-century.

All of 54, Luis Antonio Tagle (left) represents a dramatic generational shift from his now-predecessor, 79 year-old Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales. And as soon as late next year -- by which point the Philippines' traditional group of papal electors will all have aged out of a hypothetical conclave -- the prelate widely seen as a "Bishop of the Poor" is likely to become the youngest Latin-church member of the scarlet-clad College that'll elect B16's successor.

Born in the capital but having moved to its outskirts as a boy, Tagle is no stranger to North America. As opposed to Rome, the archbishop-elect was sent for graduate studies in theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, earning his doctorate there in 1991. Having been tapped to head his native diocese of Imus a decade later, the Manila designate returned to make a splash at the 2008 International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City, delivering a rapturously-received catechesis (text/video) on the Eucharist that included the following passage:
It is interesting to note that quite often, Jesus was denounced as a violator of God's law when he showed compassion for the weak, the poor, the sick, the women, and public sinners. He offered new life to those considered impure by eating and mingling with them. He assured them that God was not distant and there was hope in God's loving mercy.

But he himself got no mercy from his adversaries, only ridicule for disobeying laws that were supposed to embody God's will. Jesus suffered on account of his self-offering for those loved by God. But he never wavered in his sacrifice. In the process he exposed the false gods that people worshipped, erroneous notions of holiness and the blindness of righteous people to the visitations of God. Jesus' sacrifice uncovered the link between the worship of false gods and insensitivity to the needy.

An idolater easily loses compassion for the weak. Though he was judged, Jesus was the one actually judging the untrue worship that kept people blind and deaf to the true God and the poor. The Church that lives the life of Christ and offers his living sacrifice cannot run away from its mission to unearth the false gods worshipped by the world. How many people have exchanged the true God for idols like profit, prestige, pleasure and control? Those who worship false gods also dedicate their lives to them. In reality these false gods are self-interests.

To keep these false gods, their worshippers sacrifice other people's lives and the earth. It is sad that those who worship idols sacrifice other people while preserving themselves and their interests. How many factory workers are being denied the right wages for the god of profit? How many women are being sacrificed to the god of domination? How many children are being sacrificed to the god of lust? How many trees, rivers, hills are being sacrificed to the god of "progress"? How many poor people are being sacrificed to the god of greed? How many defenseless people are being sacrificed to the god of national security?

The Church however must also constantly examine its fidelity to Jesus' sacrifice of obedience to God and compassion for the poor. Like those who opposed Jesus in the name of authentic religion, we could be blind to God and neighbors because of selfrighteousness, spiritual pride and rigidity of mind. Ecclesiastical customs and persons, when naively and narrowly deified and glorified, might become hindrances to true worship and compassion. I am disturbed when some people who do not even know me personally conclude that my being a bishop automatically makes me closer to God than they could ever be. My words are God's words, my desires are God's, my anger is God's, and my actions are God's. If I am not cautious, I might just believe it and start demanding the offerings of the best food and wine, money, car, house, adulation and submission.

After all, I am "God!" I might take so much delight in my stature and its benefits that I might end up being callous to the needs of the poor and the earth. I remember an experience in the market of our town of Imus, the seat of our diocese. One Saturday morning I went to monitor the prices of goods and the condition of the simple market vendors. I saw a woman selling fruit and vegetables in a corner. She was one of those who went to Sunday Mass regularly. It was only 10 o'clock in the morning but she was already closing her store. So I asked her the reason. She told me, "I belong to a prayer group. We have a big assembly this afternoon.

Some tasks were assigned to me. So I want to be there early." Upon hearing this, the pragmatic side of me surfaced. I responded, "The Lord will understand if you extend your working hours. You have a family to support. You can benefit from additional income. I am sure the Lord will understand." With a smile, she said, "But Bishop, the Lord has been faithful to me. The Lord has always been there for us. We may not be rich but we have enough to live by. Why will I fear?" Then looking at me tenderly, she said, "Are you not a Bishop? Are you not supposed to be encouraging me in faith?" I was quite embarrassed. But for me it was an experience of spiritual worship. I, the religiously and culturally accepted presence of God was revealed to be a faltering representation of God.

That simple woman, offering herself to God in trust for love of her family, became for me the manifestation of the presence of God. She had brought the Eucharistic sacrifice and Jesus' spiritual worship from the elegant Cathedral to the noise and dirt of the market place. God must have been well pleased.
* * *
Despite a CV that includes no formal Roman training or full-time experience, the archbishop-elect -- known widely by his nickname, "Chito" -- is likewise unusually well-known at the Vatican.

By 1997 -- while still serving as a parish priest -- Benedict's Manila pick was tapped to join the Holy See's International Theological Commission, then led by the now-Pope. Perhaps even more notably, though, even before his appointment to Curial slots, the new archbishop has spent 15 years on the Bologna-based editorial board of the controversial "History of Vatican II" project led by Alberto Melloni, which has been assailed by church conservatives for its thesis that, as opposed to "an insignificant meeting of ecclesiastical dignitaries," the Council represented an event "of global significance and a transition to a new epoch."

And elsewhere, it being the Philippines, the question of politics never lingers far from the limelight. This is, after all, Manila -- where, even recently, archbishops have taken to engineering successful coups.

Ergo, 25 years after the legendary Cardinal Jaime Sin helped set the stage for the "People Power" Revolution that toppled the regime of Ferdinand Marcos, it has been widely noted that Tagle enjoys a particular closeness with the family of President Benigno Aquino, whose mother assumed power following the 1986 overthrow of the longtime dictator.

Yet unlike the famously-devout "Tita Cory," the younger Aquino has broken with the hierarchy with his backing for a bill set to widen access to contraceptives that's garnered a ferocious protest from the bishops, telling a recent gathering with reporters that he didn't mind the "ire" of the church. The measure is headed for its final debate and vote in the Filipino Congress.

Meanwhile, the standing of the church's leadership on the islands was dented in the wake of June revelations that, in 2009 and 2010, several prelates had accepted cars paid for by national lottery funds in exchange for political support for Aquino's predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

As far back as 2002, Tagle had taken to interviews to declare that his confreres "must also indulge in self-criticism to bring us back to the poor.

"We must rediscover our connection with the poor," he said. "We must examination [sic] why they feel so 'out' when the church is for them."

The future archbishop quickly added that the failure of post-1986 protests of government led by the hierarchy struck him him as "a sign that the poor are no longer with the church."

The fifth native-born cleric to head the Manila church, whose roots date to 1579, an installation date for the 32nd archbishop has yet to be announced.

While their proportion of the national population is significantly higher, the Philippines' roughly 70 million Catholics constitute an equal number of the church's global membership as does the fold in the US. The former's rightly-celebrated spirit of devotion and fervor, however, easily puts that of most relatively observant American Catholics to shame.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

All apologies for the slowdown, gang -- for starters, there's a mountain of mail still to be plowed through on the work side...

...yet above all right now, just above the Home Office we're in the midst of a difficult family situation, so hopefully you'll understand that the priority on this scribe's time and energy lies elsewhere these days.

See, if I'm not doing my best for my domestic church, there ain't a thing I can do for the rest of you lot.

More once the dust settles. In the meanwhile, having already communicated with the donors about the shape of things, a word of thanks to them for their ever-unbelievable goodness, closeness and support, especially given the current backdrop. Along those lines, if there's anyone who should've gotten that word, but ended up lost in the shuffle of compiling a couple hundred e.mail addresses, please send a shout so the note can get your way.

For what it's worth, it's a blessing that this October's making for a fairly quiet cycle as the blips go. The "real action" of this fall lies after All Saints' Day as the long-awaited ad limina visit of the Stateside bench to Rome (their first of B16's reign) gets underway, the ever-newsy November Meeting of the US bishops in Baltimore returns at mid-month... and, of course, everyone's favorite 800lb gorilla emerges in full bloom with the implementation of the new Roman Missal on these shores and in Canada as part of the text's full-book rollout across the English-speaking world (at least, minus South Africa).

Even before those, though, for a fuller view of the State of the Beat, this scribe recently gave the readers of the esteemed an "Around the Church" look at Big Things Catholic, with an eye to the moments, moves and forces that'll take the lead in shaping the road ahead.

All that said, it'll take some time for things to shake out on the homefront, and it's not something I'm in a position to put a deadline on. Ergo, for now, your patience and prayers would mean the world... and, where it applies, not being pounced on in the mail about everything under the sun has its ways of making life easier, to boot.

God love you and yours forever... and, well, hope everything's less wild on your end.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

For the Council, The 50th Year

Today, the church marks the 49th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council...

...while fittingly celebrating the feast-day of the Pope who convoked it: Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli -- Blessed John XXIII.

Ergo, in the spirit of the milestone -- and, to be sure, its letter, too -- here's some footage from the dramatic end of that Opening Day, which set the stage for one of the most memorable and beloved papal messages of modern times... not to mention Catholicism's most thoroughgoing makeover since the Reformation:

Dear sons and daughters,

I feel your voices! Mine is just one lone voice, but it sums up the voice of the whole world.

And here, in fact, all the world is represented here tonight. It could even be said that even the moon hastens close tonight, that from above, it might watch this spectacle that not even St Peter's Basilica, over its four centuries of history, has ever been able to witness.

We ask for a great day of peace. Yes, of peace! 'Glory to God, and peace to men of goodwill.'' If I asked you, if I could ask of each one of you: where are you from? The children of Rome, especially represented here, would respond: ah, we are the closest of children, and you're our bishop. Well, then, sons and daughters of Rome, always remember that you represent 'Roma, caput mundi' ['Rome, the capital of the world'] which through the design of Providence it has been called to be across the centuries.

My own person counts for nothing -- it's a brother who speaks to you, become a father by the will of our Lord, but all together, fatherhood and brotherhood and God's grace, give honor to the impressions of this night, which are always our feelings, which now we express before heaven and earth: faith, hope, love, love of God, love of brother, all aided along the way in the Lord's holy peace for the work of the good. And so, let us continue to love each other, to look out for each other along the way: to welcome whoever comes close to us, and set aside whatever difficulty it might bring.

When you head home, find your children. Hug and kiss your children and tell them: 'This is the hug and kiss of the Pope.' And when you find them with tears to dry, give them a good word. Give anyone who suffers a word of comfort. Tell them 'The Pope is with us especially in our times of sadness and bitterness.' And then, all together, may we always come alive -- whether to sing, to breathe, or to cry, but always full of trust in Christ, who helps us and hears us, let us continue along our path.
--Pope John XXIII
"Moonlight Speech"
Window of the Apostolic Palace
11 October 1962

While the pontiff still known as "Il Buon Papa" -- the "Good Pope" -- gave a more highbrow discourse that morning to formally open the 21st edition of Christianity's most eminent gathering, the afore-quoted talk (even today, one that looms large in Italian lore) was delivered by Papa Roncalli spontaneously from his apartment window following a torchlight prayer-vigil for the Council's success.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Quote of the Day

Fugitiva relinquere et aeterna captare": to abandon transient realities and seek to grasp the eternal. These words from the letter your Founder addressed to Rudolph, Provost of Rheims, contain the core of your spirituality: the strong desire to enter in union of life with God, abandoning everything else, everything that stands in the way of this communion, and letting oneself be grasped by the immense love of God to live this love alone....

Technical progress, markedly in the area of transport and communications, has made human life more comfortable but also more keyed up, at times even frantic. Cities are almost always noisy, silence is rarely to be found in them because there is always a lingering background noise, in some areas even at night. In the recent decades, moreover, the development of the media has spread and extended a phenomenon that had already been outlined in the 1960s: virtuality that risks getting the upper hand over reality. Unbeknown to them, people are increasingly becoming immersed in a virtual dimension because of the audiovisual messages that accompany their life from morning to night.

The youngest, who were already born into this condition, seem to want to fill every empty moment with music and images, as for fear of feeling this very emptiness. This is a trend that has always existed, especially among the young and in the more developed urban contexts but today it has reached a level such as to give rise to talk about anthropological mutation. Some people are no longer capable of remaining for long periods in silence and solitude.
I chose to mention this socio-cultural condition because it highlights the specific charism of the Charterhouse as a precious gift for the Church and for the world, a gift that contains a deep message for our life and for the whole of humanity. I shall sum it up like this: by withdrawing into silence and solitude, human beings, so to speak, “expose” themselves to reality in their nakedness, to that apparent “void”, which I mentioned at the outset, in order to experience instead Fullness, the presence of God, of the most royal Reality that exists and that lies beyond the tangible dimension. He is a perceptible presence in every created thing: in the air that we breathe, in the light that we see and that warms us, in the grass, in stones.... God, Creator omnium, [the Creator of all], passes through all things but is beyond them and for this very reason is the foundation of them all.

I have come here for this reason... to tell you that the Church needs you and that you need the Church. Your place is not on the fringes: no vocation in the People of God is on the fringes. We are one body, in which every member is important and has the same dignity, and is inseparable from the whole. You too, who live in voluntary isolation, are in the heart of the Church and make the pure blood of contemplation and of the love of God course through your veins.
--Pope Benedict XVI
Homily to the Carthusian Community
Charterhouse of Serra San Bruno
Calabria, 10 October 2011

PHOTOS: Reuters(1)


Sunday, October 09, 2011

"Praise to the Holiest": On Newman's Day in DC, A Second Anglicanorum Swim

Even if it's Sunday -- and, to be rubricly rigid, most of us aren't in England -- today still marks the second feast of Blessed John Henry Newman on the 166th anniversary of the celebrated theologian and writer's reception from Anglicanism into the Catholic fold.

Ergo, a year since his beatification, we'd be remiss to not mark the day by reprising the words that, as no less than B16 put it, the Blessed scribe "placed on the lips of the choirs of angels in heaven"....

* * *
Fittingly on this Newmanmas -- and, perhaps, not coincidentally -- this morning brought a further development toward the Stateside fulfillment of a seeming dream of today's saint: the Vatican-chartered jurisdiction for Anglican groups seeking corporate union with Rome.

At a Mass in the Crypt of Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Vatican's American delegate for Anglicanorum coetibus, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, welcomed into full communion some 76 members of the former Episcopal parish of St Luke's in the Maryland suburb of Bladensburg, just outside the capital. Yet while some published reports have sought to relay that St Luke's is the first US parish to be received post-Anglicanorum, the DC group is more accurately seen as the nation's second community to complete its Tiber-swim in anticipation of a domestic Ordinariate.

As previously noted here, the first Anglicanorum group to enter on these shores were the 30-some members of North Texas' St Peter the Rock, who -- led by two former Episcopal priests and their families -- made their Profession of Faith, Confirmation and First Eucharist at a 25 September Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin Vann of Fort Worth, another member of the three-prelate USCCB commission charged with implementing the 2009 Apostolic Constitution which created the groundbreaking Ordinariate setup. While groups nationwide have responded to the papal invitation and are set for reception over the coming months, the Lone Star State -- home to the nation's three oldest Anglican Use parishes -- has long been the nation's de facto center of Anglo-Catholicism, and is expected to boast a dominant chunk of the estimated 2,000 souls making the journey in the Ordinariate's first wave.

All that said, the Maryland parish is a relative rarity in that -- thanks to an unusual level of support from Washington's Episcopal bishop, John Bryson Chane -- St Luke's will be permitted to keep its church building and property. By contrast elsewhere, amid global Anglicanism's tumultuous splintering of traditional and progressive factions, the departure of numerous parishes (and even several dioceses) from the Episcopal church -- a path mostly trod toward new "continuing Anglican" entities -- has immersed the national denomination in a host of costly court fights to defend its ownership of assets from some departing groups' attempts to hold onto them.

Back to DC, here's a snip of Wuerl's homily at the Reception Mass (as prepared for delivery):
Your faith journey that brings you to the Lord’s Table and to the sacrament of confirmation began with baptism. It is for that reason that we began this Mass with the blessing and sprinkling of holy water to remind us of our baptism by which we were incorporated into Christ’s death and Resurrection.

Shortly you will be asked to renew your baptismal promises as a sign of your own faith. You will be asked to make a profession of faith and to claim as your own the faith of the Church, the faith that comes to us from the apostles.

When we come together in celebration, we are much more than a people of the Word — we are a people of the sacraments — especially the Eucharist. It is here that we encounter the living Christ. The Church comes to be and we are made one with her in the breaking of the bread — the celebration of the Eucharist. Here we encounter the living Christ, not as a figure of history but truly present.

Our emphasis on the Eucharist — the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass — resonates with the most profound and ancient intuition of the Christian faithful. “This is my Body; this is my Body” — “Do this in remembrance of me” — is constitutive of the Church and our communion with Jesus Christ. Nothing brings us into the intimate contact with the Lord Jesus as fully as does the Eucharistic Liturgy which is the source and summit of the Church’s experience of Christ.

In the midst of the Eucharistic Liturgy, we share a sign of peace and then at the conclusion of Mass we are dismissed at its end with the words “Go in peace.” We are meant to carry forth from the table of the Lord the grace and blessing we find there in a way that builds up the Body of Christ so that it is seen — it is placed on the lamp stand — the city built on the mountaintop.

Our challenge, then, is not only to rejoice in the gift of the Spirit, but do the works of the Spirit that manifest Christ to others in a way that we bring them to Christ.

Our celebration today is a realization that we are God’s family, God’s people, the beginning of his kingdom, his Church. And we rejoice in the outpouring of the Spirit in the sacraments of initiation. At the same time, we commit ourselves to live out that blessing in the full communion of the Church.
At today's rite, the cardinal's top aide on the national Anglicanorum project, Fr Scott Hurd -- himself a former Episcopal cleric -- served as sponsor for the entire group, and will reportedly lead the sacraments at St Luke's until the community's once and future priest, Mark Lewis, receives Catholic orders.

Shown above during his Confirmation by Wuerl, Lewis follows the two former Episcopal priests received last month in Fort Worth into the queue for the expedited national formation program for the Catholic priesthood that'll begin at Houston's St Mary's Seminary, likely not long after the Ordinariate is officially established by Rome.

The sizable prep-work for the clerics' course has been prepared under the supervision of Fr Jeffrey Steenson, who had been the Episcopal bishop of New Mexico's Rio Grande diocese before resigning in 2007 to join the Romish ranks. Now 58, Steenson was ordained for the archdiocese of Santa Fe in early 2009. Days after the following autumn's release of Anglicanorum coetibus, a second former Episcopal prelate -- the onetime Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida -- was ordained a Catholic priest for the diocese of St Petersburg.

Numbering 91 in all, a dozen members of the St Luke's community remain to be received at an unspecified later date. As previously noted, the parish's new status will be marked next weekend with a Pontifical Mass celebrated by Britain's founding Anglicanorum Ordinary, now Msgr Keith Newton, one of three Church of England prelates who were received and ordained at the launch of the UK's Ordinariate last January.

During his June briefing to the nation's bishops on the initiative's domestic progress (text/video), Wuerl indicated that the Stateside jurisdiction would be established by the Holy See this fall. Until the canonical erection of the Ordinariate, the pastoral care of groups making the journey and those already received falls to their respective Latin-church diocese.

The cardinal is scheduled to report again on the venture at next month's USCCB plenary in Baltimore.

PHOTO: Bill O'Leary/Washington Post