Sunday, June 30, 2013

"Jesus Always Invites Us. He Does Not Impose."

From the "office" window on this Sunday Noon, the Pope's Angelus....

Dear brothers and sisters,

This Sunday's Gospel (Lk 9:51-62) shows a very important step in the life of Christ: the moment in which, as St Luke writes, "[Jesus] steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. (9:51)” Jerusalem is the final destination, where Jesus, in his last Passover, must die and rise again, and so to fulfill His mission of salvation.

From that time, after the steadfast decision, Jesus aims straight for the finish line, and even to the people he meets and who ask to [be allowed to] follow Him, He says clearly what are the conditions: not having a permanent abode; knowing how to detach oneself from familiar affections; not succumbing to nostalgia for the past.

Jesus also said to his disciples, charged with preceding Him on the way to Jerusalem to announce His coming, not to impose anything: if they do not find willing welcome, they are [simply] to proceed further, to move on. Jesus never imposes. Jesus is humble. Jesus extends invitations: “If you want, come.” The humility of Jesus is like this: He always invites us. He does not impose.

All this makes us think. It tells us, for example, the importance, even for Jesus, of conscience: listening in his heart to the Father's voice, and following it. Jesus, in his earthly life, was not, so to speak, “remote-controlled”: He was the Word made flesh, the Son of God made man, and at one point he made a firm decision to go up to Jerusalem for the last time - a decision taken in His conscience, but not on His own: ​​with the Father, in full union with Him! He decided in obedience to the Father, in profound intimate attunement to the Father’s will. For this reason, then, was the decision was steadfast: because it was taken together with the Father. In the Father, then, Jesus found the strength and the light for His journey. Jesus was free. His decision was a free one. Jesus wants us Christians to be free as he is: with that liberty, which comes from this dialogue with the Father, this dialogue with God. Jesus wants neither selfish Christians, who follow their egos and do not speak with God, nor weak Christians, without will: “remote-controlled” Christians, incapable of creativity, who seek ever to connect with the will of another, and are not free. Jesus wants us free, and this freedom – where is it found? It is to be found in the inner dialogue with God in conscience. If a Christian does not know how to talk with God, does not know how to listen to God, in his own conscience, then he is not free – he is not free.

So we also must learn to listen more to our conscience. Be careful, however: this does not mean we ought to follow our ego, do whatever interests us, whatever suits us, whatever pleases us. That is not conscience. Conscience is the interior space in which we can listen to and hear the truth, the good, the voice of God. It is the inner place of our relationship with Him, who speaks to our heart and helps us to discern, to understand the path we ought to take, and once the decision is made, to move forward, to remain faithful.

Pope Benedict XVI has given us a great example in this sense. When the Lord had made it clear, in prayer, what was the step he had to take [i.e. to resign the papacy], he followed, with a great sense of discernment and courage, his conscience, that is, the will of God that spoke to his heart – and this example of our father does much good to all of us, as an example to follow.

Our Lady, with great simplicity, listened to and meditated deep within herself upon the Word of God and what was happening to Jesus. She followed her Son with deep conviction, with steadfast hope. May Mary help us to become more and more men and women of conscience – free in our conscience, because it is in conscience that the dialogue with God is given – men and women able to hear the voice of God and follow it with decision.
Following the weekly prayer, Francis thanked everyone who's taken part in this weekend's Peter's Pence collection, which helps enable the Pope's charitable and humanitarian response.

As previously noted, with July and the Curia's summer break now upon us, papal audiences are suspended through the month and the activity of the Holy See is curtailed. The pontiff, however, will celebrate a Mass for seminarians in St Peter's next Sunday as part of the previously-scheduled calendar for the Year of Faith, which runs through late November.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Peter: From "Jelly" To "Rock"

In light of today's feast, the following is fullvid of a recent Lectio Divina on the First Apostle by one of his newest successor's electors – Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, who devoted the June edition of his monthly cathedral master-class on the Scriptures to the Matthew 14 account of Peter walking on the water... adding in some Conclave reflections, to boot:

And as this foundational observance winds down, it's just another way of saying buona festa a tutti... not to mention, to all our friends up North, a blessed and Happy Canada Day – hope you're having a beautiful holiday weekend.


"United In Our Differences: This Is the Way of Jesus" – On Peter's Day, Francis Seeks to Share the Keys

Today's feast of Saints Peter and Paul is the "Pope's Day" – the patronal feast of the bishop of Rome. Yet in marking his first 29 June as Peter's 265th successor, the first Francis to occupy the Chair kept to his own script in repeatedly veering from his prepared homily to speak of, among other things, an enhanced spirit of "synodality," or collegiality, between the Roman pontiff and the college of bishops.

Even if that prospect has already been voiced by Papa Bergoglio in less high-profile contexts, on a day where the global liturgy is centered on the Conferral of the Keys to the Prince of the Apostles – and nowhere more than at the Vatican, with the recipient's heir presiding and Arnulfo di Cambio's famous statute of Peter decked out in a cope, alb and the bygone tiara – what shapes up as a papal call for greater power-sharing is especially potent. 

The off-the-cuff lines were likewise notable in that Francis' apparent concept of "the Synod of Bishops" was of something far more expansive than the Vatican-chartered advisory body which holds an assembly every three or so years on a set topic, with some 200 of the church's 5,000-plus hierarchs in attendance. Here, the Pope's portrayal of "the Synod" was that of the episcopal college, full stop – just as the term entails in each Eastern church. Ergo, the combination of the concept and the spontaneous reference amid today's feast serve to indicate what could be a significant change to the form of Petrine governance kicking around in Papa Bergoglio's mind.

As all but one of the world's 35 metropolitans named over the last year received the pallium – the woolen band that signifies their office – from the pontiff's hand at the start of the basilica Mass, Francis' standard "three words" reflection focused on Christ's charge to Peter to "confirm your brothers." (The Pope is shown above with his hand-picked successor in Buenos Aires: now-Archbishop Mario Poli, long an auxiliary to Jorge Bergoglio in Argentina's premier diocese who, today, was emotional to the point of faltering in his turn before his mentor.)

On another front, meanwhile, in keeping with the custom begun last year with the choir of Westminster Abbey, an ecumenical group of singers – this time from a Lutheran church in Germany – joined the Sistine Choir for today's rites. As for what was missing, however, no reference was made to the first surviving ex-pontiff in centuries on the 62nd anniversary of Joseph Ratzinger's ordination to the priesthood.

To reflect Francis' changes on delivery, the Pope's unscripted asides are added in brackets below to the Vatican's English translation of the preach as initially prepared....

Your Eminences,
[Your Eminence, Metropolitan Ioannis,]
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are celebrating the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles, principal patrons of the Church of Rome: a celebration made all the more joyful by the presence of bishops from throughout the world. A great wealth, which makes us in some sense relive the event of Pentecost. Today, as then, the faith of the Church speaks in every tongue and desire to unite all peoples in one family.

I offer a heartfelt and grateful greeting to the Delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, led by Metropolitan Ioannis. I thank Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I for this renewed gesture of fraternity. I greet the distinguished ambassadors and civil authorities. And in a special way I thank the Thomanerchor, the Choir of the Thomaskirche of Leipzig – Bach’s own church – which is contributing to today’s liturgical celebration and represents an additional ecumenical presence.

I would like to offer three thoughts on the Petrine ministry, guided by the word “confirm”. What has the Bishop of Rome been called to confirm?

1. First, to confirm in faith. The Gospel speaks of the confession of Peter: “You are Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16), a confession which does not come from him but from our Father in heaven. Because of this confession, Jesus replies: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (v. 18). The role, the ecclesial service of Peter, is founded upon his confession of faith in Jesus, the Son of the living God, made possible by a grace granted from on high. In the second part of today’s Gospel we see the peril of thinking in worldly terms. When Jesus speaks of his death and resurrection, of the path of God which does not correspond to the human path of power, flesh and blood re-emerge in Peter: “He took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him ... This must never happen to you” (16:22). Jesus’ response is harsh: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (v. 23). Whenever we let our thoughts, our feelings or the logic of human power prevail, and we do not let ourselves be taught and guided by faith, by God, we become stumbling blocks. Faith in Christ is the light of our life as Christians and as ministers in the Church!

2. To confirm in love. In the second reading we heard the moving words of Saint Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tm 4:7). But what is this fight? It is not one of those fights fought with human weapons which sadly continue to cause bloodshed throughout the world; rather, it is the fight of martyrdom. Saint Paul has but one weapon: the message of Christ and the gift of his entire life for Christ and for others. It is precisely this readiness to lay himself open, personally, to be consumed for the sake of the Gospel, to make himself all things to all people, unstintingly, that gives him credibility and builds up the Church. The Bishop of Rome is called himself to live and to confirm his brothers and sisters in this love for Christ and for all others, without distinction, limits or barriers. [And not only the Bishop of Rome: each of you, new archbishops and bishops, have the same task: to let yourselves be consumed by the Gospel, to become all things to everyone. It is your task to hold nothing back, to go outside of yourselves in the service of the faithful and holy people of God.]

3. To confirm in unity. Here I would like to reflect for a moment on the rite which we have carried out. The pallium is a symbol of communion with the Successor of Peter, “the lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion” (Lumen Gentium, 18). And your presence today, dear brothers, is the sign that the Church’s communion does not mean uniformity. Vatican II, in speaking of the hierarchical structure of the Church, states that the Lord “established the apostles as college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from their number” (ibid., 19). [To confirm in unity: the Synod of Bishops, in harmony with the primate. Let us go forward on the path of synodality, and grow in harmony with the service of the primacy.] And [the Council] continues, “this college, in so far as it is composed of many members, is the expression of the variety and universality of the people of God” (ibid., 22). In the Church, variety, which is itself a great treasure, is always grounded in the harmony of unity, like a great mosaic in which every small piece joins with others as part of God’s one great plan. This should inspire us to work always to overcome every conflict which wounds the body of the Church. United in our differences: [there is no other Catholic way to be united. This is the Catholic spirit, the Christian spirit: to be united in our differences. T]his is the way of Jesus! The pallium, while being a sign of communion with the Bishop of Rome and with the universal church, [with the Synod of Bishops,] also commits each of you to being a servant of communion.

To confess the Lord by letting oneself be taught by God; to be consumed by love for Christ and his Gospel; to be servants of unity. These, dear brother bishops, are the tasks which the holy apostles Peter and Paul entrust to each of us, so that they can be lived by every Christian. May the holy Mother of God guide us and accompany us always with her intercession. Queen of Apostles, pray for us! Amen.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"Until Today" – On Marriage, The Court Rules... And The Church Responds

In two epochal decisions on the final day of its term, this morning the Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, granting full federal benefits to same-sex couples who've been married in states which have sanctioned the unions, while at the same time declining to rule on California's Proposition 8, effectively upholding a lower court's  overturn of the 2008 state referendum that banned gay marriage, yet stopping short of a national verdict on the hot-button issue. (Note: links are to the full opinions.)

To date, some 32 states have precluded same-sex marriage either by statute or constitutional amendment, while eleven others and the District of Columbia have granted full recognition to the unions, no less than three – Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode Island (per capita, the US' most densely-Catholic state) – having done so within the last six weeks.

Having waged an intense fight in recent years for the defense of traditional marriage – even as a slim majority of the faithful now back full recognition for gay couples – statements from Catholic entities with official standing will be run here as they emerge.

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11.50am ET – Just issued, the following is the statement of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, its signatories listed as the body's president, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York (where same-sex marriage was legislatively enacted in 2011), and the subcommittee chair for the Defense of Marriage, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco:
Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation. The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Court got it wrong. The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so. The preservation of liberty and justice requires that all laws, federal and state, respect the truth, including the truth about marriage. It is also unfortunate that the Court did not take the opportunity to uphold California’s Proposition 8 but instead decided not to rule on the matter. The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in witness to this truth.

These decisions are part of a public debate of great consequence. The future of marriage and the well-being of our society hang in the balance.

Marriage is the only institution that brings together a man and a woman for life, providing any child who comes from their union with the secure foundation of a mother and a father.

Our culture has taken for granted for far too long what human nature, experience, common sense, and God’s wise design all confirm: the difference between a man and a woman matters, and the difference between a mom and a dad matters. While the culture has failed in many ways to be marriage-strengthening, this is no reason to give up. Now is the time to strengthen marriage, not redefine it.

When Jesus taught about the meaning of marriage – the lifelong, exclusive union of husband and wife – he pointed back to “the beginning” of God’s creation of the human person as male and female (see Matthew 19). In the face of the customs and laws of his time, Jesus taught an unpopular truth that everyone could understand. The truth of marriage endures, and we will continue to boldly proclaim it with confidence and charity.

Now that the Supreme Court has issued its decisions, with renewed purpose we call upon all of our leaders and the people of this good nation to stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life. We also ask for prayers as the Court’s decisions are reviewed and their implications further clarified.
Meanwhile, the following op-ed has likewise just emerged from the DC-based head of the 1.5 million-member archdiocese for the Military Services, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, whose responsibility for all Catholic servicemen and women and federal employees abroad has seen his charge often placed in the crossfire of recent changes on social policy....
In two decisions today the US Supreme Court avoided a firm declaration about same sex-marriage but signaled that attempts by the federal government to limit rights available under state law could be unconstitutional. By sidestepping the issue of marriage per se, the Court shifts the debate to the states where it is now but raises questions about the scope of the federal government’s authority to administer its own programs.

In ruling DOMA out of bounds, the Court confirmed Congress’ basic authority to establish rules for federal programs including rules about marriage but has called into question the reach of that authority. While marriage traditionally has been defined by the states, the states have no basis to press the variety of those views on the federal government.

Until today. It is unseemly that the uniformity of the federal system can now be upset by state policies in this area of life and law.

In light of today’s Supreme Court opinion, it seems imperative to remind the faithful of the Archdiocese for the Military Services that they must never forget that all, regardless of their sexual inclination, must be treated with the respect worthy of their human dignity. As you know well, the Catholic Faith teaches clearly the biblical principle thatall persons, regardless of their sexual inclination, are called to chastity regardless of their state of life. While today’s decision voids federal law it opens the doors to others: it allows the citizens of each state the opportunity to uphold the true definition of marriage by voting for representatives and legislation that defend the true definition of marriage. I call on all Catholics and men and women of good will to make their voices heard through the democratic process by upholding marriage in their home states.

I remain confident that people of this great country, no matter the consequences, will continue to promote and defend the good and the truth of marriage as the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife for life. Marriage remains what it has always been, regardless of what any government might say.

I likewise remain confident that the First Amendment Constitutional guarantee of the “Free Exercise of Religion” will forever ensure that no restrictions or limitations on the teaching of the Catholic Faith will be placed on any Catholic priest or deacon serving in the Armed Forces. Furthermore, the Constitution guarantees that no endorsed minister will ever be compelled to perform a religious ceremony contrary to the dictates of his/her faith nor will today’s decision have any effect on the role and teaching ability of a priest or deacon in the pulpit, the classroom, the barracks or in the office.

This Archdiocese remains resolved in the belief that no Catholic priest will ever be compelled to condone- even silently – same-sex “marriages”.
Elsewhere, this response has just come from the de facto dean of the USCCB's moderate-progressive bloc, Bishop Robert Lynch of St Petersburg – a former general secretary of the conference (emphasis original):
The S-4 decision of the United States Supreme Court on the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) comes as no surprise and has been anticipated by the bishops of the United States. Most likely not unlike the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion of 1973, this action of the Court will be debated for a long time also.

Also of interest to me was the decision in the Proposition 8 case arising from a state constitutional referendum barring same-sex marriage. In invalidating that action of the electorate for lack of standing of those who brought the proposal forward,the majority of this court left standing for the time being the Florida constitutional amendment passed here in 2008 and thus there will be no change here.

The Catholic Church has a great interest in the definition of marriage since it is one of its seven sacraments. We firmly believe that marriage is and can only be the union of one man and one woman. I pray that no civil legislation will ever require of us or any religion the freedom to define marriage for our own ecclesial purpose.
Back to parts North, ostensibly reflecting the mind of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archdiocese of Washington issued this statement (again, emphasis original)....
Upon initial review, the Archdiocese of Washington finds very troubling that the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional and chose not to rule on the question of same-sex marriage in California. The apparent outcome of these decisions is that the federal government may not set parameters for the definition of marriage, but instead must leave that power to the states. The Court, in effect, has pointed out both the power of civil government and its limitations. We believe that although government might choose to use the word marriage to apply to a whole range of unions of people, it cannot change what marriage is in its very essence.

Marriage is not a creation of the state. While a number of states and the District of Columbia have changed the legal definition of marriage, government is ultimately powerless to redefine human nature and what describes the exclusive and lifelong union of one man and one woman with the possibility of generating and nurturing children. Governments have the power to create legal definitions. They do not have the ability or authority to change created human nature.

Despite the unsettling outcome of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the archdiocese is grateful for the ongoing efforts undertaken by those who uphold the authentic meaning of marriage and thankful that the Court’s rulings respect individual states’ right to recognize that true meaning. The archdiocese will continue to educate Catholics and the wider community about the truth of marriage as the union between one man and one woman.
And in a series of tweets issued shortly after the rulings, Bishop Kevin Farrell – the DC-bred head of the 1.2 million-member Dallas church – said that "In the sheep's clothing of 'equality,' the sacrament of Marriage is being reduced to an 'exalted conception' of an institution.... Sexual difference matters... it is essential for marriage. Only through this difference can man & woman speak the language of married love."

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4.50pm ET – And here, some more ad intra reactions from later in the day.

First, from a key USCCB moderate, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, a former conference president:

Today's unfortunate decision by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act is extremely disappointing. The Catholic Church promotes and defends marriage by teaching about marriage's authentic meaning as a lifelong, exclusive, and fruitful communion of one man and one woman. Today's decision is part of a public debate of great consequence. The future of marriage and the well-being of our society hang in the balance.

For the time being, the U.S. Supreme Court left standing Georgia's constitutional amendment protecting marriage as a union between one man and one woman, so there will be no change here.

Catholic teaching protects the dignity of every human person, all deserving love and respect, including those who experience same-sex attraction. This is a reality that calls for compassion, sensitivity, and pastoral care. But no one –especially a child, is served by marriage redefinition.

I ask for prayers as the Court's decisions are reviewed and their implications further clarified. The Catholic Church will continue to stand for the truth of marriage and the good of children.
...from the signal figure among the bench's conservative flank, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia:
In striking down Sec. 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in United States v. Windsor, the Court leaves intact – at least for now -- state constitutional definitions of marriage as an institution restricted to one man and one woman. As Justice Samuel Alito points out in his dissent, no federal “right” to same-sex marriage exists. The Constitution simply does not establish one.

As Catholics we believe marriage needs to be strengthened, not redefined. It is a great gift to men, women, children and society. Affirming the true definition of marriage denies no one his or her basic rights. On the contrary protecting marriage affirms the equal dignity of women and men and safeguards the basic rights of children.

Same-sex unions, whatever legal form they take, cannot create new life. They cannot duplicate the love of a man and woman. But they do copy marriage and family, and in the process, they compete with and diminish the uniquely important status of both. The legal battle about marriage will continue. And the Church’s commitment to promote the authentic meaning of marriage and family will be vigorously pursued.
And lastly, amid the second "Fortnight for Freedom" – called by the US bishops in large part with an eye to today's rulings and their effects on religious liberty – the response of Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, the figure widely credited as the Fortnight's architect:
As in the case of Roe v. Wade striking down abortion laws forty years ago, the United States Supreme Court has again usurped its legitimate prerogative through a raw exercise of judicial power by giving legal protection to an intrinsic evil, this time by striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in the case of U.S. v. Windsor and in refusing to take up the defense of Proposition 8 in California in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry.

These hollow decisions are absolutely devoid of moral authority. It is becoming increasingly and abundantly clear that what secular law now calls “marriage” has no semblance to the sacred institution of Holy Matrimony. People of faith are called to reject the redefinition of marriage and bear witness to the truth of Holy Matrimony as a lasting, loving and life-giving union between one man and one woman.
A canon and civil lawyer (who recently added a Notre Dame MBA to the shelf), the Illinois prelate has been particularly active on the marriage front over recent weeks. 

Last month, a coalition effort led by Catholic and Black church clergy saw the Illinois legislature balk on a redefinition push whose supporters had expected it to pass, following which the capital prelate went to Phoenix to take part in a first-of-its-kind public dialogue on  Catholics and same-sex marriage with Sister Jeannine Gramick, the co-founder of New Ways Ministry, whose "gay-positive" outreach to LGBT in the church led to the group's denunciation by then-Cardinal Ratzinger's CDF in 1999.

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All that said, a Vatican response to the rulings is unlikely. For one, the Holy See is generally reluctant to react – especially in a negative sense – to matters of domestic policy, all the more when they're decided in the courts. 

All the more again, as this pontificate goes, shortly after the Uruguayan President José Alberto Mujica signed a bill legalizing gay marriage there last month – the second Latin American country to do so, following in the footsteps of the Pope's native Argentina – the head of state was apparently given a cordial welcome by Pope Francis, the Vatican's readout of which described the meeting as "an opportunity for an exchange of information and reflections on the socio-political situation of the country and its role in the region. 

"In this perspective," the Holy See related, "issues of common interest were discussed, including the integral development of the person, and respect for human rights, justice, and social peace."


"How Do We Live Our Being Church?"

Before yet another full house in the Square, the following is the Vatican Radio translation of today's PopeTalk at the Wednesday Audience – the last one before the summer recess, during which the weekly gatherings are suspended.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like briefly to refer to one more picture that helps us to illustrate the mystery of the Church: that of the temple (cf. Lumen Gentium, 6).

What does the word, ‘temple’ call to mind? It makes us think of a building, a construction. In particular, it recalls to many minds the history of the People of Israel narrated in the Old Testament. In Jerusalem, the great Temple of Solomon was the locus of the encounter with God in prayer. Within the Temple was the Ark of the Covenant, a sign of God's presence among the people, and inside the Ark were the Tablets of the Law, the manna and the rod of Aaron, a reminder that God had always been in the history of his people, had always been with them on their journey, always directed their stride – and the Temple recalls this story. We, too, when we go to the temple, must remember this story – my story – the story of each one of us – of how Jesus encountered me, of how he walked with me, how Jesus loves and blesses me.

That, which was prefigured in the ancient Temple, is realized in the Church, by the power of the Holy Spirit: the Church is the “house of God”, the place of His presence, where we can find and meet the Lord, the Church is the temple in which dwells the Holy Spirit, who animates, guides and sustains her. If we ask ourselves, “Where we can meet God? Where can we enter into communion with Him through Christ? Where can we find the light of the Holy Spirit to enlighten our lives?” the answer is, “in the People of God, among us, for we are Church – among us, within the People of God, in the Church – there we shall meet Jesus, we shall meet the Holy Spirit, we shall meet the Father.

The ancient temple was built by the hands of men: they wanted to “give a home” to God, to have a visible sign of His presence among the people. With the Incarnation of the Son of God, the prophecy of Nathan to King David is fulfilled (cf. 2 Sam 7.1 to 29): it is not the king, it is not we, who are to “give a home to God,” but God Himself who “builds his house” to come and dwell among us, as St. John writes in the Prologue of his Gospel (cf. 1:14). Christ is the living Temple of the Father, and Christ himself builds His “spiritual home”, the Church, made not of stone materials, but of “living stones” – of us, our very selves. The Apostle Paul says to the Christians of Ephesus: you are “Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone: in whom all the building, being framed together, groweth up into an holy temple in the Lord.(Eph 2:20-22)” How beautiful this is! We are the living stones of God, profoundly united to Christ, who is the rock of support, and among ourselves. What then, does this mean? It means that we are the Temple – the Church, but, us, living – we are Church, we are [the] living temple, and within us, when we are together, there is the Holy Spirit, who helps us grow as Church. We are not isolated, we are People of God – and this is the Church: People of God.

It is, moreover, the Holy Spirit with His gifts, who designs the variety – and this is important – what does the Holy Spirit do in our midst? He designs the variety – the variety, which is the richness of the Church and unites everything and everyone, so as to constitute a spiritual temple, in which we offer not material sacrifices, but us ourselves, our life (cf. 1 Pt 2:4-5). The Church is not a weave of things and interests, it is rather the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Temple in which God works, the Temple in which each of us with the gift of Baptism is living stone. This tells us that no one is useless in the Church – no on is useless in the Church! – and should anyone chance to say, some one of you, “Get home with you, you’re useless!” that is not true. No one is useless in the Church. We are all needed in order to build this temple. No one is secondary: “Ah, I am the most important one in the Church!” No! We are all equal in the eyes of God. But, one of you might say, “Mr. Pope, sir, you are not equal to us.” But I am just like each of you. We are all equal. We are all brothers and sisters. No one is anonymous: all form and build the Church. Nevertheless, it also invites us to reflect on the fact that the Temple wants the brick of our Christian life, that something is wanting in the beauty of the Church.

So I would like for us to ask ourselves: how do we live our being Church? We are living stones? Are we rather, so to speak, tired stones, bored, indifferent? Have any of you ever noticed how ugly a tired, bored, indifferent Christian is? It’s an ugly sight. A Christian has to be lively, joyous, he has to live this beautiful thing that is the People of God, the Church. Do we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, so as to be an active part of our communities, or do we close in on ourselves, saying, “I have so many things to do, that’s not my job.”?

May the Lord grant us His grace, His strength, so that we can be deeply united to Christ, the cornerstone, stone of support for all of our lives and the life of the Church. Let us pray that, animated by His Spirit, we might always be living stones of the Church.

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At this morning's Mass, meanwhile, Francis talked fatherhood....

"When a man does not have this desire [to be a father], something is missing in this man. Something is wrong. All of us, to exist, to become complete, in order to be mature, we need to feel the joy of fatherhood: even those of us who are celibate. Fatherhood is giving life to others, giving life, giving life… For us, it is pastoral paternity, spiritual fatherhood, but this is still giving life, this is still becoming fathers....

"A father who knows what it means to protect his children. And this is a grace that we priests must ask for ourselves: to be a father, to be a father. The grace of fatherhood, of pastoral paternity, of spiritual paternity. We may have many sins, but this is commune sanctorum: We all have sins. But not having children, never becoming a father, it like an incomplete life: a life that stops half way. And therefore we have to be fathers. But it is a grace that the Lord gives. People say to us: 'Father, Father, Father ...'. They want us to be this, fathers, by the grace of pastoral fatherhood."

With His Own Hand, Francis Targets The Bank

While much of the beat waits with bated breath for this morning's expected Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage, back in Rome, the Pope's launched a salvo on what's become one of his favorite punchlines, naming a five-member commission "in the general atmosphere of reform" to advise him on the Vatican Bank.

Like the old line goes, it's becoming ever clearer that Francis "never more serious than when [he's] joking." And to underscore his intent here, the boom was lowered in a rare "chirograph" letter – that is, a legal text drawn up by the Pope in his own handwriting. (The bank's roundhouse headquarters are seen above.)

While four senior Vatican prelates form the "guts" of the effort, the pontiff rounded out the group by naming Mary Ann Glendon – the Harvard Law professor and former US ambassador to the Holy See – to its membership. 

A veteran Roman hand and conservative favorite on both sides of the Atlantic, Glendon – the first woman named to lead the Holy See's delegation to a UN conference, who famously declined Notre Dame's Laetare Medal instead of sharing the stage with President Obama at the university's 2009 commencement – was one of two Americans tapped, alongside the Curia's "deputy chief of staff," the Assessore of the Secretariat of State, Oklahoma's own Msgr Peter Wells.

Joining them will be a trio of in-house heavyweights: the church's archivist-emeritus, Cardinal Raffaele Farina (notably, a Salesian confrere of the lame-duck Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone), the veteran diplomat and now Cardinal Proto-deacon Jean Louis Tauran, and the #2 of the Vatican's de facto legal office – the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, Archbishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, a Spaniard designated as the group's "coordinator."

Formally dubbed the "Pontifical Advisory Commission on the Institute for the Works of Religion [IOR]" – the bank's official name – this morning's announcement said the move was born from "the Holy Father's desire to better grasp the juridical position and the activities of the Institute, [thus] to enable a better harmonizing of it with the mission of the universal church and the Apostolic See, in the more general context of the reforms that are opportune to be realized on the part of [all] the institutions that aid the Apostolic See."

Shortly after Francis' election, a flurry of speculation broke out that Papa Bergoglio was intent on closing the bank, whose decades of travails and links with scandal have arguably made it the Vatican's easiest whipping-boy of all. Already, the IOR is formally overseen by two entities: a commission of five cardinals and a separate supervisory board, whose secretary, Carl Anderson, is best known as the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, the global church's largest lay fraternal organization. 

Amid the IOR's failure to fully clear scrutiny of its activities by Europe's financial watchdogs, the board unceremoniously dumped the bank's president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, last year, and in one of his final acts as Pope, Benedict XVI named a German, Ernst von Freyberg, to its helm in the days before his 28 February resignation.

Even if it's merely coincidental, it's nonetheless worth noting that the move on the bank coincides with the annual Peter's Pence collection, which is taken up worldwide on the weekend closest to Saturday's feast of Saints Peter and Paul to enable the pontiff's aid both for charitable works and humanitarian crises.

Given the remarkable response Francis has received over just more than 100 days in office, it wouldn't be surprising if this year's piatto shaped up as one for the record books. 
Then again, in just another of the off-the-cuff lines that've wrought horror behind the walls, the Pope threw a bucket of water on his own collection earlier this month, wryly observing in one of his morning homilies that "St Peter did not have a bank account."


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Summer Digest

Buona domenica, folks... and at long, blessed last, Happy Summer.

For those who've asked, everything's fine – the older one gets, the trickier it is to mix work-travel with the shop's usual monastic hum... add in trying to fix a still-down Page Three, and there goes what little time the road allows for writing. It's good to be back, but there's some cleaning up to do, and all feeds should be up and running again shortly.

That said, the summer – measured from next weekend's feast of Saints Peter and Paul (the unofficial close of the Vatican's working year) – usually does bring a slow period 'round here, but with the Pope again bucking tradition by declining his "Camp David" at Castel Gandolfo to remain in Rome, it remains to be seen what exactly the time will look like... not to mention the red-letter presence of World Youth Day in Rio, for which the first American pontiff is set to arrive on July 22nd.

While we're told that the audiences, semi-public daily Masses and most other business will be suspended in July to give the workers a break, beyond the WYD trip, it's still more than likely that Francis – a life-long homebody who's never spent his vacations getting away – will keep plodding through his "crash course" on the global church at the Domus, quietly receiving visitors and taking soundings straight through the Curial hiatus. As Vatican summer tends to extend into late September (the point when B16 would return from the Alban villa), the substance of the Franciscan reform is expected to start crystallizing in early October, when the Pope convenes the first meeting of his "gang of eight" cardinals, each of whom are expected to bring roughly a U-Haul's worth of policy proposals for the reshaping of the church's central government.

In the meanwhile, the week to come brings Rome's biggest gathering of church leadership since the Conclave as the dicasteries hold their wrap-up meetings and the last year's crop of archbishops arrive with their pilgrimages to receive the pallium on the 29th. Among the latter, of course, are four Americans: Cordileone of San Francisco, Tobin of Indianapolis, Sample of Portland and Jackels of Dubuque; five if you count Gintaras Grusas – the DC-born, 51 year-old archbishop of Vilnius who went to UCLA and worked for IBM before entering seminary. 

Yet even beyond these, what's always been the Vatican's "old home week" will especially be that for Papa Bergoglio as Francis' hand-picked successor in Buenos Aires, now Archbishop Mario Poli, makes his first visit to his predecessor, apparently with planeloads from Argentina in tow.

In other words, they'll be rolling out the welcome maté at the Domus. Closer to home and for now, hope the season's off to a beautiful start for you and yours.


Monday, June 17, 2013

On "Life Sunday," The Barque Meets the Bikes

...and, there, the "When Worlds Collide" shot everyone's been waiting for – the Pope blessing a couple thousand Harley riders, who came with their bikes for a Vatican pilgrimage as part of a weekend-long meeting in Rome.

The group's presence even got a papal plug at the Angelus:

By the looks of it, the only thing missing was Lou Vallone, so whenever Pittsburgh's legendary biker-priest rides into town next, they'll just have to do it all over again.

Meanwhile, as two Harleys were given to the Pope after Wednesday's General Audience, given Francis' oft-stated priority, perhaps the gifts could end up being part of an initiative recently highlighted for the struggling church in Haiti, where motorcycles were donated to help a diocese's field teachers reach their schools more safely and effectively than their usual means of riding mules.

* * *
Sure, the Hogs took center stage for the press, but as previously noted, yesterday's actual Main Event was the closing liturgy of a two-day Vatican conference commemorating Evangelium Vitae, Blessed John Paul II's 1995 encyclical on "The Gospel of Life."

Unusual as an outdoor papal Mass to close a relatively low-profile symposium might seem – and is – it's worth recalling that such is the new Pope's nature that he doesn't need much prodding to take to the Basilica steps. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio's policy was to celebrate the major diocesan liturgies not in the capital's metropolitan cathedral, but in the plaza outside it – both for the church to give witness in the open, and to avert the building's restrictions on space and seating. (By contrast, though Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI eventually came to accept outdoor rites as part and parcel of the modern papacy, Francis' predecessor reportedly sought to have his inaugural liturgy moved inside St Peter's Basilica, succeeding with time at bringing in several other events previously held outdoors.)

In any event, the weekend's focus on life was underpinned by the presence of a delegation of the sick flanking the altar, who Francis greeted individually following the Mass (above and below). And here, in its Vatican translation, the pontiff's homily:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This celebration has a very beautiful name: the Gospel of Life. In this Eucharist, in the Year of Faith, let us thank the Lord for the gift of life in all its forms, and at the same time let us proclaim the Gospel of Life.

On the basis of the word of God which we have heard, I would like to offer you three simple points of meditation for our faith: first, the Bible reveals to us the Living God, the God who is life and the source of life; second, Jesus Christ bestows life and the Holy Spirit maintains us in life; and third, following God’s way leads to life, whereas following idols leads to death.

1. The first reading, taken from the Second Book of Samuel, speaks to us of life and death. King David wants to hide the act of adultery which he committed with the wife of Uriah the Hittite, a soldier in his army. To do so, he gives the order that Uriah be placed on the front lines and so be killed in battle. The Bible shows us the human drama in all its reality: good and evil, passion, sin and its consequences. Whenever we want to assert ourselves, when we become wrapped up in our own selfishness and put ourselves in the place of God, we end up spawning death. King David’s adultery is one example of this. Selfishness leads to lies, as we attempt to deceive ourselves and those around us. But God cannot be deceived. We heard how the prophet says to David: "Why have you done evil in the Lord’s sight? (cf. 2 Sam 12:9). The King is forced to face his deeds of death; what he has done is truly a deed of death, not life! He recognizes what he has done and he begs forgiveness: "I have sinned against the Lord!" (v. 13). The God of mercy, who desires life and always forgives us, now forgives David and restores him to life. The prophet tells him: "The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die".

What is the image we have of God? Perhaps he appears to us as a severe judge, as someone who curtails our freedom and the way we live our lives. But the Scriptures everywhere tell us that God is the Living One, the one who bestows life and points the way to fullness of life. I think of the beginning of the Book of Genesis: God fashions man out of the dust of the earth; he breathes in his nostrils the breath of life, and man becomes a living being (cf. 2:7). God is the source of life; thanks to his breath, man has life. God’s breath sustains the entire journey of our life on earth. I also think of the calling of Moses, where the Lord says that he is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the God of the living. When he sends Moses to Pharaoh to set his people free, he reveals his name: "I am who I am", the God who enters into our history, sets us free from slavery and death, and brings life to his people because he is the Living One. I also think of the gift of the Ten Commandments: a path God points out to us towards a life which is truly free and fulfilling. The commandments are not a litany of prohibitions – you must not do this, you must not do that, you must not do the other; on the contrary, they are a great "Yes!": a yes to God, to Love, to life. Dear friends, our lives are fulfilled in God alone, because only he is the Living One!

2. Today’s Gospel brings us another step forward. Jesus allows a woman who was a sinner to approach him during a meal in the house of a Pharisee, scandalizing those present. Not only does he let the woman approach but he even forgives her sins, saying: "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little" (Lk 7:47). Jesus is the incarnation of the Living God, the one who brings life amid so many deeds of death, amid sin, selfishness and self-absorption. Jesus accepts, loves, uplifts, encourages, forgives, restores the ability to walk, gives back life. Throughout the Gospels we see how Jesus by his words and actions brings the transforming life of God. This was the experience of the woman who anointed the feet of the Lord with ointment: she felt understood, loved, and she responded by a gesture of love: she let herself be touched by God’s mercy, she obtained forgiveness and she started a new life. God, the Living One, is merciful. Do you agree? Let’s say it together: God, the Living One, is merciful! All together now: God, the Living One, is merciful. Once again: God, the Living One is merciful!

This was also the experience of the Apostle Paul, as we heard in the second reading: "The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). What is this life? It is God’s own life. And who brings us this life? It is the Holy Spirit, the gift of the risen Christ. The Spirit leads us into the divine life as true children of God, as sons and daughters in the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Are we open to the Holy Spirit? Do we let ourselves be guided by him? Christians are "spiritual". This does not mean that we are people who live "in the clouds", far removed from real life, as if it were some kind of mirage. No! The Christian is someone who thinks and acts in everyday life according to God’s will, someone who allows his or her life to be guided and nourished by the Holy Spirit, to be a full life, a life worthy of true sons and daughters. And this entails realism and fruitfulness. Those who let themselves be led by the Holy Spirit are realists, they know how to survey and assess reality. They are also fruitful; their lives bring new life to birth all around them.

3. God is the Living One, the Merciful One; Jesus brings us the life of God; the Holy Spirit gives and keeps us in our new life as true sons and daughters of God. But all too often, as we know from experience, people do not choose life, they do not accept the "Gospel of Life" but let themselves be led by ideologies and ways of thinking that block life, that do not respect life, because they are dictated by selfishness, self-interest, profit, power and pleasure, and not by love, by concern for the good of others. It is the eternal dream of wanting to build the city of man without God, without God’s life and love – a new Tower of Babel. It is the idea that rejecting God, the message of Christ, the Gospel of Life, will somehow lead to freedom, to complete human fulfilment. As a result, the Living God is replaced by fleeting human idols which offer the intoxication of a flash of freedom, but in the end bring new forms of slavery and death. The wisdom of the Psalmist says: "The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes" (Ps 19:8). Let us always remember: the Lord is the Living One, he is merciful. The Lord is the Living One, he is merciful.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us look to God as the God of Life, let us look to his law, to the Gospel message, as the way to freedom and life. The Living God sets us free! Let us say "Yes" to love and not selfishness. Let us say "Yes" to life and not death. Let us say "Yes" to freedom and not enslavement to the many idols of our time. In a word, let us say "Yes" to the God who is love, life and freedom, and who never disappoints (cf. 1 Jn 4:8; Jn 11:2; Jn 8:32); let us say "Yes" to the God who is the Living One and the Merciful One. Only faith in the Living God saves us: in the God who in Jesus Christ has given us his own life by the gift of the Holy Spirit and has made it possible to live as true sons and daughters of God through his mercy. This faith brings us freedom and happiness. Let us ask Mary, Mother of Life, to help us receive and bear constant witness to the "Gospel of Life". Amen.
* * *
Here, we come to an intriguing twist in the plot-line.

Perhaps it's needless to say, but in the context of the Magisterium, much of the Western discourse has seen the term "life" become either ideologized at worst, or taken piecemeal at best. That's arguably nowhere truer than in the States, and both sides in the American Catholic conversation bear responsibility for it.

In that light, it was rather striking that the Vatican chose to release the Pope's letter to this week's G8 Summit in Northern Ireland yesterday, in tandem with the Francis' "Gospel of Life" homily, instead of waiting for the gathering's start (and the Press Office's normal workweek) today.

The papal response was prompted by a message sent by the convener of this year's round of talks between the world's industrialized superpowers, the British Prime Minister David Cameron.

As it's apparently intended to be seen as part of the weekend's "life" package, the text of the Pope's letter, dated Saturday, is given below:

To The Right Honourable David Cameron, MP
Prime Minister [of the United Kingdom]

I am pleased to reply to your kind letter of 5 June 2013, with which you were good enough to inform me of your Government's agenda for the British G8 Presidency during the year 2013 and of the forthcoming Summit, due to take place at Lough Erne on 17 and 18 June 2013, entitled A G8 meeting that goes back to first principles.

If this topic is to attain its broadest and deepest resonance, it is necessary to ensure that all political and economic activity, whether national or international, makes reference to man. Indeed, such activity must, on the one hand, enable the maximum expression of freedom and creativity, both individual and collective, while on the other hand it must promote and guarantee their responsible exercise in solidarity, with particular attention to the poorest.

The priorities that the British Presidency has set out for the Lough Erne Summit are concerned above all with the free international market, taxation, and transparency on the part of governments and economic actors. Yet the fundamental reference to man is by no means lacking, specifically in the proposal for concerted action by the Group to eliminate definitively the scourge of hunger and to ensure food security. Similarly, a further sign of attention to the human person is the inclusion as one of the central themes on the agenda of the protection of women and children from sexual violence in conflict situations, even though it must be remembered that the indispensable context for the development of all the afore-mentioned political actions is that of international peace. Sadly, concern over serious international crises is a recurring theme in the deliberations of the G8, and this year it cannot fail to address the situation in the Middle East, especially in Syria.. In this regard, I earnestly hope that the Summit will help to obtain an immediate and lasting cease-fire and to bring all parties in the conflict to the negotiating table. Peace demands a far-sighted renunciation of certain claims, in order to build together a more equitable and just peace. Moreover, peace is an essential pre-requisite for the protection of women, children and other innocent victims, and for making a start towards conquering hunger, especially among the victims of war.

The actions included on the agenda of the British G8 Presidency, which point towards law as the golden thread of development – as well as the consequent commitments to deal with tax avoidance and to ensure transparency and responsibility on the part of governments – are measures that indicate the deep ethical roots of these problems, since, as my predecessor Benedict XVI made clear, the present global crisis shows that ethics is not something external to the economy, but is an integral and unavoidable element of economic thought and action.

The long-term measures that are designed to ensure an adequate legal framework for all economic actions, as well as the associated urgent measures to resolve the global economic crisis, must be guided by the ethics of truth. This includes, first and foremost, respect for the truth of man, who is not simply an additional economic factor, or a disposable good, but is equipped with a nature and a dignity that cannot be reduced to simple economic calculus. Therefore concern for the fundamental material and spiritual welfare of every human person is the starting-point for every political and economic solution and the ultimate measure of its effectiveness and its ethical validity.

Moreover, the goal of economics and politics is to serve humanity, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable wherever they may be, even in their mothers' wombs. Every economic and political theory or action must set about providing each inhabitant of the planet with the minimum wherewithal to live in dignity and freedom, with the possibility of supporting a family, educating children, praising God and developing one's own human potential. This is the main thing; in the absence of such a vision, all economic activity is meaningless.

In this sense, the various grave economic and political challenges facing today's world require a courageous change of attitude that will restore to the end (the human person) and to the means (economics and politics) their proper place. Money and other political and economic means must serve, not rule, bearing in mind that, in a seemingly paradoxical way, free and disinterested solidarity is the key to the smooth functioning of the global economy.

I wished to share these thoughts with you, Prime Minister, with a view to highlighting what is implicit in all political choices, but can sometimes be forgotten: the primary importance of putting humanity, every single man and woman, at the centre of all political and economic activity, both nationally and internationally, because man is the truest and deepest resource for politics and economics, as well as their ultimate end.

Dear Prime Minister, trusting that these thoughts have made a helpful spiritual contribution to your deliberations, I express my sincere hope for a fruitful outcome to your work and I invoke abundant blessings upon the Lough Erne Summit and upon all the participants, as well as upon the activities of the British G8 Presidency during the year 2013, and I take this opportunity to reiterate my good wishes and to express my sentiments of esteem.

From the Vatican, 15 June 2013


Friday, June 14, 2013

For the Vatican, Obama Sends "Relief" – Retired CRS Chief Tapped as US Holy See Ambassador

In this administration's second turn at filling Villa Richardson, shortly after 4pm today, the White House announced that President Obama has nominated Ken Hackett – the recently retired president of Catholic Relief Services – as US ambassador to the Holy See.

A rare figure of wide acclaim in today's Stateside church, the Boston native left the helm of CRS in 2011 with both laurels from the nation's bishops and American Catholicism's most prestigious prize – Notre Dame's Laetare Medal. Accordingly, even in a polarized capital, all indications are that the choice of the Peace Corps veteran is a lock to fly through the requisite Senate confirmation, which will likely begin in short order with hearings before the Foreign Relations Committee.

Having moved its headquarters to Baltimore from its longtime home in Washington under Hackett's 18-year watch, CRS – the official humanitarian arm of the US bishops – coordinates a staff of some 5,000 workers in over 90 countries, its annual budget approaching $1 billion drawn from a combination of government and private sources. Having remained almost uniquely immune from the bruising conflicts over Catholic identity which have besieged other church-sponsored social efforts over recent years, the agency's board of directors is constituted to include several members of the USCCB, led per statute by a bishop-chair – the post the now-Cardinal Timothy Dolan held on his 2010 election as the conference's president.

A surprising result – yet one reportedly lobbied for by some senior domestic hierarchs – the nomination caps a months-long cycle of speculation and campaigning for the prized Vatican posting, which had earlier been rumored to be heading toward a key "bundler" (fundraiser) for the Democratic president's re-election campaign. In the end, though, the nod has gone to one of the US church's most trusted lay hands, signaling an olive branch to the bishops amid the ongoing fight over the Obama administration's controversial contraceptive mandate in health care plans. 

The focus of scores of lawsuits on religious freedom grounds, under the current state of the regulations, a sizable number of Catholic entities would be forced to accommodate the policy into their benefits packages on August 1st. The bishops' response to the mandate was discussed in a rare mid-retreat executive session during the bench's plenary this week in San Diego.

As the Vatican slot has almost invariably gone to a choice from outside the professional diplomatic service, the ambassadorship is classified as a "political appointment." 

Pending the upper chamber's advice and consent, Hackett would succeed the Cuban-born theologian Miguel Diaz – the first Hispanic named to the post – who returned to these shores earlier this year to take up a professorship at the University of Dayton.

The new ambassador-designate will be the tenth representative of Washington to the Vatican since full bilateral relations were established in 1984. For the half-century prior, presidents beginning with Franklin Delano Roosevelt named personal legates to the Popes. 

After roughly a century of relying on the archbishops of Baltimore as its point-men on these shores, the Holy See has kept a listening post in the capital since 1893, its emissaries accredited as apostolic delegates – the non-diplomatic rank intended to represent the Vatican solely to the national church – until relations were normalized.

*   *   *
In light of this afternoon's news – and, indeed, to reflect Hackett's standing among what's often been one of the Obama White House's toughest crowds – below is fullvideo of the ambassador pick's farewell as CRS president (and his anointing by Dolan as the agency's "icon") at the USCCB's 2011 June plenary in Seattle....


As "A Fellow Citizen of the Saints" – Yet With an Ordinariate Plug – Francis Welcomes Canterbury

A top-level ecumenical encounter scripted to extend across a conversation, a joint prayer service and lunch, at the start of today's first meeting between the Pope and the new archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the following is Papa Francesco's greeting to the new Anglican primate on the latter's first Vatican visit, per the Holy See's English translation....
Your Grace, Dear Friends,

On the happy occasion of our first meeting, I make my own the words of Pope Paul VI, when he addressed Archbishop Michael Ramsey during his historic visit in 1966: "Your steps have not brought you to a foreign dwelling ... we are pleased to open the doors to you, and with the doors, our heart, pleased and honoured as we are ... to welcome you ‘not as a guest or a stranger, but as a fellow citizen of the Saints and the Family of God’" (cf. Eph 2:19-20).

I know that during Your Grace’s installation in Canterbury Cathedral you remembered in prayer the new Bishop of Rome. I am deeply grateful to you – and since we began our respective ministries within days of each other, I think we will always have a particular reason to support one another in prayer.

The history of relations between the Church of England and the Catholic Church is long and complex, and not without pain. Recent decades, however, have been marked by a journey of rapprochement and fraternity, and for this we give heartfelt thanks to God. This journey has been brought about both via theological dialogue, through the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, and via the growth of cordial relations at every level through shared daily lives in a spirit of profound mutual respect and sincere cooperation. In this regard, I am very pleased to welcome alongside you Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster. These firm bonds of friendship have enabled us to remain on course even when difficulties have arisen in our theological dialogue that were greater than we could have foreseen at the start of our journey.

I am grateful, too, for the sincere efforts the Church of England has made to understand the reasons that led my Predecessor, Benedict XVI, to provide a canonical structure able to respond to the wishes of those groups of Anglicans who have asked to be received collectively into the Catholic Church: I am sure this will enable the spiritual, liturgical and pastoral traditions that form the Anglican patrimony to be better known and appreciated in the Catholic world.

Today’s meeting, my dear brother, is an opportunity to remind ourselves that the search for unity among Christians is prompted not by practical considerations, but by the will of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who made us his brothers and sisters, children of the One Father. Hence the prayer that we make today is of fundamental importance.

This prayer gives a fresh impulse to our daily efforts to grow towards unity, which are concretely expressed in our cooperation in various areas of daily life. Particularly important among these is our witness to the reference to God and the promotion of Christian values in a world that seems at times to call into question some of the foundations of society, such as respect for the sacredness of human life or the importance of the institution of the family built on marriage, a value that you yourself have had occasion to recall recently.

Then there is the effort to achieve greater social justice, to build an economic system that is at the service of man and promotes the common good. Among our tasks as witnesses to the love of Christ is that of giving a voice to the cry of the poor, so that they are not abandoned to the laws of an economy that seems at times to treat people as mere consumers.

I know that Your Grace is especially sensitive to all these questions, in which we share many ideas, and I am also aware of your commitment to foster reconciliation and resolution of conflicts between nations. In this regard, together with Archbishop Nichols, you have urged the authorities to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict such as would guarantee the security of the entire population, including the minorities, not least among whom are the ancient local Christian communities. As you yourself have observed, we Christians bring peace and grace as a treasure to be offered to the world, but these gifts can bear fruit only when Christians live and work together in harmony. This makes it easier to contribute to building relations of respect and peaceful coexistence with those who belong to other religious traditions, and with non-believers.

The unity we so earnestly long for is a gift that comes from above and it is rooted in our communion of love with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As Christ himself promised, "where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt 18:20). My dear brother, let us travel the path towards unity, fraternally united in charity, and with Jesus Christ, our elder Brother, as our constant point of reference. In our worship of Jesus Christ we will find the foundation and raison d’être of our journey. May the merciful Father hear and grant the prayers that we make to him together. Let us place all our hope in him who "is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think" (Eph 3:20).
On a context note, while the contents of the customary exchange of gifts remain to be disclosed, it's striking that, at the very outset, Francis started from a reference-point of Michael Ramsey's visit to Paul VI – the first meeting of England's principal clergyman with the Roman pontiff since the Reformation.

As the unexpected highlight of that memorable encounter, Paul memorably gave Ramsey the ring off his finger.

Elsewhere as context goes, in a conspicuous shift from the usual Vatican protocol, the Catholic primate of England and Wales – Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster – took part in the day's events not in his own right, but as a member of Welby's entourage, alongside Canterbury's wife and aides, and the Anglican Communion's recently-arrived delegate in Rome, Archbishop David Moxon, lately the ranking hierarch in New Zealand.

* * *
And here, per Lambeth Palace, the first greeting of the 104th successor of St Augustine to the 266th bishop of Rome:
Your Holiness,

Dear Friends:

I am full of love and gratitude to be here. In the last few days we have been remembering the death of Blessed Pope John XXIII in the midst of the Second Vatican Council. At the Requiem said at Lambeth Palace fifty years ago this weekend by Archbishop Michael Ramsey, my much-loved predecessor said of him: ‘Pope John has shown us again the power of being, by being a man who touches human hearts with charity. So there has come to many a new longing for the unity of all Christians, and a new knowledge that however long the road may be, charity already makes all the difference to it.’

Having for many years found inspiration in the great corpus of Catholic social teaching, and worked on its implications with Catholic groups; having spent retreats in new orders of the Church in France, and being accompanied by the Prior of another new order; I do indeed feel that I am (in the words of Pope Paul VI to Archbishop Michael) coming to a place where I can feel myself at home.

Your Holiness, we are called by the Holy Spirit of God, through our fraternal love, to continue the work that has been the precious gift to popes and archbishops of Canterbury for these past fifty years, and of which this famous ring is the enduring token. I pray that the nearness of our two inaugurations may serve the reconciliation of the world and the Church.

As you have stressed, we must promote the fruits of our dialogue; and, with our fellow bishops, we must give expression to our unity in faith through prayer and evangelisation. It is only as the world sees Christians growing visibly in unity that it will accept through us the divine message of peace and reconciliation.

However, the journey is testing and we cannot be unaware that differences exist about how we bring the Christian faith to bear on the challenges thrown up by modern society. But our ‘goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey’ (Benedict XVI, Spe salvi 1), and we can trust in the prayer of Christ, ‘ut omnes unum sint’ (Jn 17.21). A firm foundation of friendship will enable us to be hopeful in speaking to one another about those differences, to bear one another’s burdens, and to be open to sharing the discernment of a way forward that is faithful to the mind of Christ pressed upon us as disciples.

That way forward must reflect the self-giving love of Christ, our bearing of his Cross, and our dying to ourselves so as to live with Christ, which will show itself in hospitality and love for the poor. We must love those who seek to oppose us, and love above all those tossed aside—even whole nations—by the present crises around the world. Also, even as we speak, our brothers and sisters in Christ suffer terribly from violence, oppression and war, from bad government and unjust economic systems. If we are not their advocates in the name of Christ, who will be?

Your Holiness, dear brother, I assure you of the love, respect and prayer of the bishops, clergy and people of the Anglican Communion.