Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"I Have Prayed For You, Francis" – On Peter's Day, The Pope on The Keys

Before anything else, a refresher on this feast's context from the Catechism of the Catholic Church...
When Christ instituted the Twelve, "he constituted [them] in the form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from among them." Just as "by the Lord's institution, St. Peter and the rest of the apostles constitute a single apostolic college, so in like fashion the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are related with and united to one another."

The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the "rock" of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. "The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head." This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church's very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.

The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful." "For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered."
...along these lines, then, here follows the reigning Pope's morning preach for this solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul – the foundational observance of a Christianity rooted in Rome, born from the blood of the Princes of the Apostles:
The word of God in today’s liturgy presents a clear central contrast between closing and opening. Together with this image we can consider the symbol of the keys that Jesus promises to Simon Peter so that he can open the entrance to the kingdom of heaven, and not close it before people, like some of the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus reproached (cf. Mt 23:13).

The reading from the Acts of the Apostles (12:1-11) shows us three examples of “closing”: Peter is cast into prison; the community gathers behind closed doors in prayer; and – in the continuation of our reading – Peter knocks at the closed door of the house of Mary, the mother of John called Mark, after being set free.

In these three examples of “closing”, prayer appears as the main way out. It is a way out for the community, which risks closing in on itself out of persecution and fear. It is a way out for Peter who, at the very beginning of the mission given him by the Lord, is cast into prison by Herod and risks execution. And while Peter was in prison, “the church prayed fervently to God for him” (Acts 12:5). The Lord responds to that prayer and sends his angel to liberate Peter, “rescuing him from the hand of Herod” (cf. v. 11). Prayer, as humble entrustment to God and his holy will, is always the way out of our becoming “closed”, as individuals and as a community. It is always the eminent way out of our becoming “closed”.

Paul too, writing to Timothy, speaks of his experience of liberation, of finding a way out of his own impending execution. He tells us that the Lord stood by him and gave him strength to carry out the work of evangelizing the nations (cf. 2 Tim 4:17). But Paul speaks too of a much greater “opening”, towards an infinitely more vast horizon. It is the horizon of eternal life, which awaits him at the end of his earthly “race”. We can see the whole life of the Apostle in terms of “going out” in service to the Gospel. Paul’s life was utterly projected forward, in bringing Christ to those who did not know him, and then in rushing, as it were, into Christ’s arms, to be “saved for his heavenly kingdom” (v. 18).

Let us return to Peter. The Gospel account (Mt 16:13-19) of his confession of faith and the mission entrusted to him by Jesus shows us that the life of Simon, the fishermen of Galilee – like the life of each of us – opens, opens up fully, when it receives from God the Father the grace of faith. Simon sets out on the journey – a long and difficult journey – that will lead him to go out of himself, leaving all his human supports behind, especially his pride tinged with courage and generous selflessness. In this, his process of liberation, the prayer of Jesus is decisive: “I have prayed for you [Simon], that your own faith may not fail” (Lk 22:32). Likewise decisive is the compassionate gaze of the Lord after Peter had denied him three times: a gaze that pierces the heart and brings tears of repentance (cf. Lk 22:61-62). At that moment, Simon Peter was set free from the prison of his selfish pride and of his fear, and overcame the temptation of closing his heart to Jesus’s call to follow him along the way of the cross.

I mentioned that, in the continuation of the passage from the Acts of the Apostles, there is a detail worthy of consideration (cf. 12:12-17). When Peter finds himself miraculously freed from Herod’s prison, he goes to the home of the mother of John called Mark. He knocks on the closed door and a servant by the name of Rhoda comes. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in disbelief and joy, instead of opening the door, she runs to tell her mistress. The account, which can seem comical, and which could give rise to the “Rhoda complex”, makes us perceive the climate of fear that led the Christian community to stay behind closed doors, but also closed to God’s surprises. Peter knocks at the door. Behold! There is joy, there is fear… “Do we open, do we not?...”. He is in danger, since the guards can come and take him. But fear paralyzes us, it always paralyzes us; it makes us close in on ourselves, closed to God’s surprises. This detail speaks to us of a constant temptation for the Church, that of closing in on herself in the face of danger. But we also see the small openings through which God can work. Saint Luke tells us that in that house “many had gathered and were praying” (v. 12). Prayer enable grace to open a way out from closure to openness, from fear to courage, from sadness to joy. And we can add: from division to unity. Yes, we say this today with confidence, together with our brothers from the Delegation sent by the beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to take part in the celebration of the Holy Patrons of Rome. Today is also a celebration of communion for the whole Church, as seen by the presence of the metropolitan archbishops who have come for the blessing of the pallia, which they will receive from my representatives in their respective sees.

May Saints Peter and Paul intercede for us, so that we can joyfully advance on this journey, experience the liberating action of God, and bear witness to it before the world.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Papa Ratzi's "Thanksgiving" – On His Priestly 65th, B16 Seeks "The Transubstantiation of the World"

Forty months into an unprecedented experience in the modern life of the church, this morning saw another of those moments that still feels a bit surreal: two men in white in the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace, as the Pope led a Vatican celebration (fullvid) marking his predecessor's 65th anniversary of priesthood.

Having referred to his ordination day in his 1997 memoir as "the high point of my life," the figure who'd become Benedict XVI was praised by the reigning pontiff for a "whole life spent in priestly service and true theology that" Joseph Ratzinger had "not accidentally described as 'the search for the Beloved.'"

Amid the first papal retirement since the 13th century – and a far more peaceful one than prior attempts at it – Francis underscored to his predecessor that "you, Holiness, continue to serve the church, [you] do not cease to truly contribute with vigor and wisdom to her growth," adding that Benedict's "hidden" life in a converted Vatican convent "reveals itself to be altogether something other than one of those forgotten corners in which the disposable culture of today tends to relegate individuals when, with age, their strength fails."

For his part, meanwhile, Papa Ratzinger closed the gathering by offering an unscripted word, marking the first public talk he's given since leaving Peter's chair on 28 February 2013, when Benedict told the waiting crowd at Castel Gandolfo that – whatever his secretary may have to say about it these days – "I'm no longer the Pope; now I'm just a pilgrim, beginning the last part of his journey on Earth."

Here below, video and a rush English translation of B16's remarks today:

Holy Father, dear brothers,

65 years ago, a brother ordained with me decided to inscribe on the prayer card of his first Mass just one thing: leaving out his name and the date, one word, in Greek, "Eucharistomen," convinced that with that word, in all its many dimensions, already said everything one could in that moment. "Eucharistomen" speaks of a human thanks, thanks to all. Thanks above all to you, Holy Father! Your goodness, from the first moment of your election, in each moment of my life here, moves me, it really carries me interiorly. More than in the Vatican Gardens, with their beauty, your goodness as the place where I live: I feel protected. Thank you, too, for the word of appreciation, for everything. And we hope that you will carry us all forward on this way of Divine Mercy, showing the way of Jesus, toward Jesus, towards God.

Thanks as well to you, Eminence [Cardinal Sodano], for your words which have truly touched my heart: "Cor ad cor loquitur." You have made the hour of my priestly ordination present again, as well as my 2006 visit to Friesing, where I relived it. I can only say that, with these words, you have interpreted the essentials of my vision of the priesthood, of my work. I'm grateful for the bond of friendship that has stretched over all this time, even now roof to roof: it's so present and tangible.

Thank you, Cardinal Muller, for the work you did on presenting my texts on the priesthood, in which I also seek to help our brothers to enter ever more into the mystery which the Lord himself puts into our hands.

"Eucharistomen": in that moment, my friend Berger sought to emphasize not only the dimension of human gratitude, but naturally the more profound word hidden within it, which appears in the Liturgy, in Scripture, in the words "gratias agens benedixit fregit deditque" ["giving You thanks, blessed and broke it, saying..."]. "Eucharistomen" recalls that reality of gratitude, that new dimension which Christ has given us. He has transformed in gratitude, and so in blessing, the cross, suffering, all the evil of the world. And so he has fundamentally transubstantiated life and the world and has given us and gives us each day the Bread of true life, which conquers the world through the strength of His love.

In the end, let us place ourselves in this "thanks" of the Lord, so to really receive newness of life and help for this transubstantiation of the world: that there may be a world not of death, but of life; a world in which love has conquered death.

Thanks to all of you. May the Lord bless you all.

Thank you, Holy Father.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

In Armenia, The Pope's Prayer: "May Our Communion Be Complete"

Amid what's arguably been the most under-covered PopeTrip of recent times – all the more given the usual hysteria surrounding this pontificate – Francis' weekend trek to Armenia hasn't lacked for striking moments and, indeed, a pocket of controversy in the Pope's unscripted use of the charged word "genocide" in his remarks to the country's leadership: a move which, to the surprise of no one, set off another round of tension with the Turkish government.

All that said, however, the visit's core emphasis came earlier today as Papa Bergoglio attended a Divine Liturgy of the country's Oriental Orthodox Church in its home-base at Etchmiadzin, celebrated by the Catholicos (Patriarch) Karekin II.

Given the opportunity to deliver his own homily at the rite – and notably clad in a stole bearing the coat of arms of his predecessor (unusually topped by a tiara, to boot) – the Bishop of Rome echoed his prior messages to the Orthodox world in advancing the cause of full communion between East and West as "God's call," and ending with a request that the Armenian hierarch "bless me and the Catholic Church":
During this Divine Liturgy, the solemn chant of the Trisagion rose to heaven, acclaiming God’s holiness. May abundant blessings of the Most High fill the earth through the intercession of the Mother of God, the great saints and doctors, the martyrs, especially the many whom you canonized last year in this place. May “the Only Begotten who descended here” bless our journey. May the Holy Spirit make all believers one heart and soul; may he come to re-establish us in unity. For this I once more invoke the Holy Spirit, making my own the splendid words that are part of your Liturgy. Come, Holy Spirit, you “who intercede with ceaseless sighs to the merciful Father, you who watch over the saints and purify sinners”, bestow on us your fire of love and unity, and “may the cause of our scandal be dissolved by this love” (Gregory of Narek, Book of Lamentations, 33, 5), above all the lack of unity among Christ’s disciples.

May the Armenian Church walk in peace and may the communion between us be complete. May an ardent desire for unity rise up in our hearts, a unity that must not be “the submission of one to the other, or assimilation, but rather the acceptance of all the gifts that God has given to each. This will reveal to the entire world the great mystery of salvation accomplished by Christ the Lord through the Holy Spirit” (Greeting at the Divine Liturgy, Patriarchal Church of Saint George, Istanbul, 30 November 2014).

Let us respond to the appeal of the saints, let us listen to the voices of the humble and poor, of the many victims of hatred who suffered and gave their lives for the faith. Let us pay heed to the younger generation, who seek a future free of past divisions. From this holy place may a radiant light shine forth once more, and to the light of faith, which has illumined these lands from the time of Saint Gregory, your Father in the Gospel, may there be joined the light of the love that forgives and reconciles.

Just as on Easter morning the Apostles, for all their hesitations and uncertainties, ran towards the place of the resurrection, drawn by the blessed dawn of new hope (cf. Jn 20:3-4), so too on this holy Sunday may we follow God’s call to full communion and hasten towards it.

Now, Your Holiness, in the name of God, I ask you to bless me, to bless me and the Catholic Church, and to bless this our path towards full unity.
* * *
Once his 14th overseas trek enters the books this evening – finished off as ever with another in-flight press conference (its content likely to drop around 10pm Rome/4pm ET) – Francis returns to Rome for an eerily quiet wrap-up to the "Vatican year," culminating in Wednesday's celebrations of the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.

For the first time since 1984 – when St John Paul II began the practice of summoning the world's new metropolitans to bestow the pallium on 29 June – Peter's successor won't be flanked by the freshly-named archbishops on the feast, culminating Francis' desire for the insignia's conferral to take place in the respective local churches. As with last year's rites – when, due to already arranged pilgrimages from some spots, the archbishops were invited one last time – the Pope will bless the lambswool bands at Wednesday's morning Mass, after which they'll be sent to the world's Nuncios, who now impose the pallia on the new archbishops in their cathedrals. In the US, the newly-arrived Archbishop Christophe Pierre will have just one to give: the pallium for Archbishop Bernie Hebda in the Twin Cities, its conferral date at St Paul yet undetermined.

In addition to the feast, meanwhile, the 29th likewise brings the 65th anniversary of Benedict XVI's priestly ordination. While a non-liturgical celebration of the Pope-emeritus' milestone is scheduled to take place in the Apostolic Palace this week, it's likewise expected that Papa Ratzinger will be present in the Basilica for the liturgy, possibly as a concelebrant for just the second time since his resignation.

While the end of year likewise brings a batch of the annual plenary meetings for the Curial dicasteries and other final business before the summer exodus, barring any surprises – and there might just be some – attention's already turned to two matters for the next term: Francis' still-pending choice of leadership for the new mega-Office for Laity, Family and Life, which will consolidate two Pontifical Councils on September 1st, and the shape of the next intake into the College of Cardinals, with a Consistory widely expected to be called either late in the Fall or early next year.

By November's end, the voting College will be at least 13 members shy of the maximum 120, and given Francis' practice of anticipating future vacancies, his third crop of scarlet could see some 20 electoral red hats doled out – a figure which would give Bergoglio's picks just shy of a majority of the voters in a hypothetical Conclave. Though the possibilities of the Pope's precedent-shattering penchant for the peripheries are fairly endless, with the US having been shut out of back-to-back Consistories for the first time in four decades, and the second-largest voting bloc now reduced to a modern low of seven members – a drop of four in two years – the Stateside element of the mix bears particular watching.

Maintaining his usual practice of "staycationing" at the Domus, the Pope's morning homilies will again be on hiatus in July and August, with next month's trip to Poland for World Youth Day in Krakow the lone major event on tap. Yet while any last-round appointments are usually announced by July 15th, that might not be the case this year – at least, in one particular instance... and, well, more there in due course.


Monday, June 13, 2016

"In Our Pain, We Are Not Alone" – In Orlando, "Love Never Comes To An End"

While the US and much of the wider world continues to reel from early yesterday's "lone wolf" terror attack on an Orlando nightclub, tonight in the stricken city's St James Cathedral, Bishop John Noonan led an interfaith prayer "to dry the tears" of the community; below is video of the core of the 40-minute rite....

To be sure, the title of the service was no accident – it was lifted from that of another vigil held last month in St Peter's, at which all "those in need of consolation" were invited to participate, with the Pope presiding.

As Francis' homily then seems to fit a good deal of this moment for many, here's its key in reprise:
At times of sadness, suffering and sickness, amid the anguish of persecution and grief, everyone looks for a word of consolation. We sense a powerful need for someone to be close and feel compassion for us. We experience what it means to be disoriented, confused, more heartsick than we ever thought possible. We look around us with uncertainty, trying to see if we can find someone who really understands our pain. Our mind is full of questions but answers do not come. Reason by itself is not capable of making sense of our deepest feelings, appreciating the grief we experience and providing the answers we are looking for. At times like these, more than ever do we need the reasons of the heart, which alone can help us understand the mystery which embraces our loneliness.

How much sadness we see in so many faces all around us! How many tears are shed every second in our world; each is different but together they form, as it were, an ocean of desolation that cries out for mercy, compassion and consolation. The bitterest tears are those caused by human evil: the tears of those who have seen a loved one violently torn from them; the tears of grandparents, mothers and fathers, children; eyes that keep staring at the sunset and find it hard to see the dawn of a new day. We need the mercy, the consolation that comes from the Lord. All of us need it. This is our poverty but also our grandeur: to plead for the consolation of God, who in his tenderness comes to wipe the tears from our eyes (cf. Is 25:8; Rev 7:17; 21:4).

In our pain, we are not alone. Jesus, too, knows what it means to weep for the loss of a loved one. In one of the most moving pages of the Gospel, Jesus sees Mary weeping for the death of her brother Lazarus. Nor can he hold back tears. He was deeply moved and began to weep (cf. Jn 11:33-35). The evangelist John, in describing this, wanted to show how much Jesus shared in the sadness and grief of his friends. Jesus’ tears have unsettled many theologians over the centuries, but even more they have bathed so many souls and been a balm to so much hurt. Jesus also experienced in his own person the fear of suffering and death, disappointment and discouragement at the betrayal of Judas and Peter, and grief at the death of his friend Lazarus. Jesus “does not abandon those whom he loves” (Augustine, In Joh., 49, 5). If God could weep, then I too can weep, in the knowledge that he understands me. The tears of Jesus serve as an antidote to my indifference before the suffering of my brothers and sisters. His tears teach me to make my own the pain of others, to share in the discouragement and sufferings of those experiencing painful situations. They make me realize the sadness and desperation of those who have even seen the body of a dear one taken from them, and who no longer have a place in which to find consolation. Jesus’ tears cannot go without a response on the part of those who believe in him. As he consoles, so we too are called to console.

In the moment of confusion, dismay and tears, Christ’s heart turned in prayer to the Father. Prayer is the true medicine for our suffering. In prayer, we too can feel God’s presence. The tenderness of his gaze comforts us; the power of his word supports us and gives us hope. Jesus, standing before the tomb of Lazarus, prayed, saying: “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me” (Jn 11:41-42). We too need the certainty that the Father hears us and comes to our aid. The love of God, poured into our hearts, allows us to say that when we love, nothing and no one will ever be able to separate us from those we have loved. The apostle Paul tells us this with words of great comfort: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or the sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:35, 37-39). The power of love turns suffering into the certainty of Christ’s victory, and our own victory in union with him, and into the hope that one day we will once more be together and will forever contemplate the face of the Trinity Blessed, the eternal wellspring of life and love.

At the foot of every cross, the Mother of Jesus is always there. With her mantle, she wipes away our tears. With her outstretched hand, she helps us to rise up and she accompanies us along the path of hope.
* * *
While the reactions of the nation's bishops to Sunday's atrocity have spanned the usual range of the Stateside bench – and a good few can be found in these pages' side-feed – a particularly notable one emerged only as tonight's Orlando prayer ended: a long, intense statement from the Pope's lead North American adviser, Cardinal Seán O'Malley OFM Cap., himself an honorary Floridian as his family now lives in Miami, not to mention his own experience of having "wintered in Palm Beach," sent to clean up after the diocese's prior two bishops were found to have respectively abused altar boys and seminarians, before the call came his way to tackle the scandals' flagship in Boston, where terror would again erupt with the bombing of the 2013 Marathon.

Even as O'Malley joined the bulk of the bench in avoiding any explicit reference to the LGBT community – which, as even the Canadian primate Cardinal Gerald Lacroix saw fit to note, was "specifically targeted" in yesterday's attack – the Capuchin "super-cardinal" nonetheless put other action-items on the table in ways none other among his confreres could....
As our society faces the massive and violent assault on human life in Orlando on Sunday, the Archdiocese of Boston offers and encourages prayers on behalf of those who were killed in the attack, those who were injured, and all their families and friends. At this time our prayers are also with Bishop Noonan and the Diocese of Orlando, with the wider community of Orlando, and for our country, once again confronted by the face of hatred expressed through gun violence.

Yet another lament about the prevalence of guns throughout our society seems a pale response to the horror of the crimes in Orlando. With each repeated occurrence of mass shootings in schools, theaters, churches and social settings it appears increasingly clear that any hope for thwarting these tragedies must begin with more effective legislation and enforcement of who has access to guns and under what conditions. However, legislation alone will not be sufficient as there are wider and deeper forces at work in these attacks.

The United States proudly upholds its long-standing tradition of being open and welcoming to those in need of a safe haven. Our country greatly benefits from human creativity and achievement cultivated without distinction of race, ethnicity, religion, nationality or any other differentiating characteristic. From a multitude of differences we have sought unity. We must meet the challenges of combining freedom, pluralism and unity in our increasingly diverse society if the United States is to continue to be a beacon of hope to the world.

Achieving the unity which promotes peaceful coexistence means addressing those deeper forces which threaten our well-being. In all aspects of our lives, including our government, the private sector, our faith communities and our schools, we must be aware of and reflect on how we think and speak about those who are different from us. And we cannot allow ourselves to be defeated by the worst instincts in human nature, by efforts to divide us based on our differences or by an immobilizing fear.

Defeat in the face of the tragedies that we have seen in Florida, Texas, Colorado, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Arizona is not conceivable. Resistance is necessary; resolution is imperative. The resources to resist and the courage of resolve are on display each day in our society. Those who risked their lives in the midst of the assault on Sunday, the first responders and the friends at each other’s side in the midst of the terror, symbolize the kind of generosity of spirit which makes our country great. Together let us go forward with the commitment to work for the meaningful change that will help our country and all her people to live in safety and peace.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

On Orlando Massacre, The Pope's "Deepest Horror"

Reacting to the deadliest mass shooting in US history – at least 50 dead and another 53 injured in an early-morning attack on an LGBT nightclub in Orlando – the Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi SJ issued a rare nighttime statement from the Pope:
The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred. Pope Francis joins the families of the victims and all of the injured in prayer and in compassion. Sharing in their indescribable suffering he entrusts them to the Lord so they may find comfort. We all hope that ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence which so deeply upsets the desire for peace of the American people and of the whole of humanity.
On the local front, meanwhile, the city's Bishop John Noonan tweeted this morning that "We pray for victims of the mass shooting in Orlando this morning, their families & our first responders. May the Lord's Mercy be upon us."

In a separate statement, the president of the USCCB, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, wrote the following:
Waking up to the unspeakable violence in Orlando reminds us of how precious human life is. Our prayers are with the victims, their families and all those affected by this terrible act. The merciful love of Christ calls us to solidarity with the suffering and to ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every person.
Amid officials' determination that the attack was an act of domestic terrorism – now the largest such bloodshed since 9/11 – the US bishops are largely en route today to their annual spring meeting, this year's beginning tomorrow in Huntington Beach, California.

While committee meetings have been underway since yesterday, as this week's plenary is the body's triennial retreat, the meeting is closed to press and other observers, and no formal business is supposed to take place.

This round of the bench's spiritual exercises will be led by Manila's Cardinal Chito Tagle on the theme of "The Bishop as Missionary Leader for the Human Family." In addition to his role as head of Asia's largest diocese – and a frequently-cited contender to be the continent's first Pope – the Vatican II scholar and Catholic University of America alum, who turns 59 next week, was recently named global president of Caritas Internationalis, the worldwide confederation of the church's charitable and humanitarian efforts.


Friday, June 03, 2016

Bishop Sheen, Meet Bishop Reed – Pope Taps CatholicTV Titan, Tribunal Chief as Boston Auxes

(Updated 10.45 am with presser fullvid.)

Before anything else, a personal tale: after his broadcast of an episcopal ordination some years back, this scribe jokingly chided Fr Bob Reed that his commentary on the rites went just a bit over the top.

As Providence would have it, that won’t be happening again – not due to any words from here, but indeed, a call from above: after today, the next hat-giving Reed sees will be his own.

At Roman Noon this Friday, the Pope tapped the super-energetic impresario behind what's now become an international CatholicTV network over cable and internet, and Fr Mark O’Connell, the widely-beloved Judicial Vicar of Boston’s office-park Chancery, as auxiliary bishops to Cardinal Seán O’Malley OFM Cap....

...and so it seems, not just the Fenway crowd will go wild when the ordination takes place on 24 August.

As the dual nod represents the first appointments to the nation’s fourth-largest diocese since O'Malley's ascent as Francis’ lead North American adviser, it was always bound to be the case that the picks would receive a heightened amount of focus. Accordingly, then, to crib another analogy from sports, given the reputation both enjoy at home and beyond on complementary fronts, it wouldn’t seem a stretch to call these bishops-elect the church’s answer to the “Splash Brothers.”

Yet again – for the second time in as many weeks, and more beyond – in choosing O’Connell, 51 (left), Francis has elevated another priest with campus ministry in his background, and (in a running theme all through the picks) whose parish assignments are spoken of with “love” from the people.

That said, the kindness and pastoral rep conceals some considerable chops in the canons – a JCD out of Rome, then a board seat for the Canon Law Society of America while serving as head of the Tribunal for the 1.9 million-member church since 2007. Yet law aside, out of nowhere as word of the moves began to emerge – but before the names were attached to it – one local op voiced a pure wish for the JV to be named, calling him "a true gem" and one of "Boston's best."

With today's move, O'Connell fills the canonist's slot among Boston's top rank left open by Bishop Robert Deeley's departure in 2014 for Portland; with three of the archdiocese's five episcopal regions currently lacking auxiliaries at the helm, however, what both of today's appointees end up doing going forward is the looming question in the mix.

As for Reed – 57 next week – suffice it to say, when you're talking about somebody who's been a wonderful friend and faithful champion of one's own work over these last ten years and beyond, both as friend and colleague, hopefully you'll understand how it's fairly impossible on this end to be anything other than completely elated. But well before he showcased varying stages of this scribe's hair to the wider world while building CatholicTV into a juggernaut across Stateside cable systems – and, most recently, Roku and AppleTV apps – the guy behind the best HD livefeed known to Church was simply a parish priest, leading four communities of his own before being assigned in 2005 to what was an old trusty of the Boston airwaves and guiding its transformation for the digital age.

On the wider scene, from a Pope who's no slouch in media himself, Reed's hat is the third Francis has given in less than a year to an English-speaking priest with deep experience in Catholic and secular communication alike, following December's appointment of the Irishman Paul Tighe as a bishop and #3 at the Pontifical Council for Culture, and last year's summer blockbuster launching the New Evangelization guru Robert Barron from his Chicago base to Hollywood as an auxiliary of Los Angeles, whose 5 million Catholics comprise the largest community US Catholicism has ever known.

Even closer to home, meanwhile, the bishop-elect now joins one of his own hosts on the bench: the native Pats fan Chris Coyne, who returned to New England early last year as head of Vermont's statewide diocese just before taking on the chairmanship of the USCCB's sprawling media apparatus.

In an extraordinary turn of events, this morning's twin appointments come as Boston was already preparing to mark another turn of history on this feast of the Sacred Heart with the afternoon ordination of Msgr Paul Russell as an archbishop-nuncio, the first priest of the Hub ever tapped to serve as a papal legate.

Having braved one of Vatican diplomacy's most complex assignments for the last seven years – namely, charge d'affaires in Taipei, which the Holy See recognizes as its posting to China (as opposed to the Communist Mainland) – the 57 year-old was handed yet another hornet's nest in March, when Francis named him to the Nunciature in Turkey, a nation whose tenuous relations with Rome over the Armenian genocide of the 20th century will make for a particularly tricky geopolitical tightrope as the Pope visits Armenia at this month's end.

* * *
SVILUPPO (10.45am): Featuring a humbled version of Reed's suaviter and O'Connell's moving burst into tears on the "rebuilding" of the Boston Church, here's fullvideo of the duo's Appointment Day presser, held just before Russell's pre-ordination lunch at St John's Seminary: