Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Pope To (Myanmar's) Church: "The Way of Revenge Is Not of Jesus"

Thanks principally to the 104 overseas tours undertaken by John Paul II, there aren't many places left on earth where a Pope could say Mass for the first time – China and Russia are the big ones, Vietnam isn't far behind, and most of the Middle East is in there, too.... But now, one of the few others remaining can be struck from the list.

Early this morning, Francis celebrated Myanmar's first-ever papal liturgy on a Yangon racetrack, drawing roughly a quarter of the country's 700,000 Catholics.

Trading in his usual silver pastorale (staff) for a wooden one more in keeping with the Asian context (above), the Mass on a stage resembling a pagoda – the first of this weeklong visit's mostly-in-English liturgies – saw Papa Bergoglio shift focus from the diplomatic fracas that framed the trek's wider storyline to a meditation on how the Cross should inform the life, challenges and gifts of a church living as a distinct minority (often coupled with dire poverty), and the contribution such a community can make to society at large.

Set to meet tonight with Myanmar's bishops (Ed.: English text), before departing for Bangladesh on Thursday afternoon, the Pope's final event on his first stop will be a relatively intimate Mass with young people, its message likely to resonate far beyond Southeast Asia amid the approach to next October's global Synod on the young and vocational discernment. (Speaking of the coming Synod, the deadline for the online consultation of young people on the gathering's topics – originally set for tomorrow – has been extended to 31 December following reports of a low response rate from the trenches.)

Given the relative uniqueness of today's Mass, here's fullvideo...

...and the English text of Francis' homily (emphases original):
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Before coming to this country, I very much looked forward to this moment. Many of you have come from far and remote mountainous areas, some even on foot. I have come as a fellow pilgrim to listen and to learn from you, as well as to offer you some words of hope and consolation.

Today’s first reading, from the Book of Daniel, helps us to see how limited is the wisdom of King Belshazzar and his seers. They knew how to praise “gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone” (Dn 5:4), but they did not have the wisdom to praise God in whose hand is our life and breath. Daniel, on the other hand, had the wisdom of the Lord and was able to interpret his great mysteries.

The ultimate interpreter of God’s mysteries is Jesus. He is the wisdom of God in person (cf. 1 Cor 1:24). Jesus did not teach us his wisdom by long speeches or by grand demonstrations of political or earthly power but by giving his life on the cross. Sometimes we can fall into the trap of believing in our own wisdom, but the truth is we can easily lose our sense of direction. At those times we need to remember that we have a sure compass before us, in the crucified Lord. In the cross, we find the wisdom that can guide our life with the light that comes from God.

From the cross also comes healing. There, Jesus offered his wounds to the Father for us, the wounds by which we are healed (cf. 1 Pet 2:24). May we always have the wisdom to find in the wounds of Christ the source of all healing! I know that many in Myanmar bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible. The temptation is to respond to these injuries with a worldly wisdom that, like that of the king in the first reading, is deeply flawed. We think that healing can come from anger and revenge. Yet the way of revenge is not the way of Jesus.

Jesus’ way is radically different. When hatred and rejection led him to his passion and death, he responded with forgiveness and compassion. In today’s Gospel, the Lord tells us that, like him, we too may encounter rejection and obstacles, yet he will give us a wisdom that cannot be resisted (cf. Lk 21:15). He is speaking of the Holy Spirit, through whom the love of God has been poured into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5). By the gift of his Spirit, Jesus enables us each to be signs of his wisdom, which triumphs over the wisdom of this world, and his mercy, which soothes even the most painful of injuries.

On the eve of his passion, Jesus gave himself to his apostles under the signs of bread and wine. In the gift of the Eucharist, we not only recognize, with the eyes of faith, the gift of his body and blood; we also learn how to rest in his wounds, and there to be cleansed of all our sins and foolish ways. By taking refuge in Christ’s wounds, dear brothers and sisters, may you know the healing balm of the Father’s mercy and find the strength to bring it to others, to anoint every hurt and every painful memory. In this way, you will be faithful witnesses of the reconciliation and peace that God wants to reign in every human heart and in every community.

I know that the Church in Myanmar is already doing much to bring the healing balm of God’s mercy to others, especially those most in need. There are clear signs that even with very limited means, many communities are proclaiming the Gospel to other tribal minorities, never forcing or coercing but always inviting and welcoming. Amid much poverty and difficulty, many of you offer practical assistance and solidarity to the poor and suffering. Through the daily ministrations of its bishops, priests, religious and catechists, and particularly through the praiseworthy work of Catholic Karuna Myanmar and the generous assistance provided by the Pontifical Mission Societies, the Church in this country is helping great numbers of men, women and children, regardless of religion or ethnic background. I can see that the Church here is alive, that Christ is alive and here with you and with your brothers and sisters of other Christian communities. I encourage you to keep sharing with others the priceless wisdom that you have received, the love of God welling up in the heart of Jesus.

Jesus wants to give this wisdom in abundance. He will surely crown your efforts to sow seeds of healing and reconciliation in your families, communities and the wider society of this nation. Does he not tell us that his wisdom is irresistible (cf. Lk 21:15)? His message of forgiveness and mercy uses a logic that not all will want to understand, and which will encounter obstacles. Yet his love, revealed on the cross is ultimately unstoppable. It is like a spiritual GPS that unfailingly guides us towards the inner life of God and the heart of our neighbour.

Our Blessed Mother Mary followed her Son even to the dark mountain of Calvary and she accompanies us at every step of our earthly journey. May she obtain for us the grace always be to messengers of true wisdom, heartfelt mercy to those in need, and the joy that comes from resting in the wounds of Jesus, who loved us to the end.

May God bless all of you! May God bless the Church in Myanmar! May he bless this land with his peace! God bless Myanmar!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Between Diplomacy and "Risk" – In Myanmar, Francis' Moment of Truth

The tension has been mounting for months.

And on finally taking his own turn to speak earlier today, at least in the eyes of some, the Pope punted.

With Myanmar increasingly in the crosshairs of the international community over the country's perceived aggression toward the persecuted Muslim minority known as the Rohingya, the run-up to this first-ever papal visit there has been dominated by whether or not Francis would seek to confront his hosts by using the group's name for itself, which is "taboo" among the Buddhist majority. Yet in his late-afternoon speech to the leaders of the onetime Burma, the pontiff ostensibly heeded the pressure from his own diplomats and the country's first-ever cardinal, avoiding the thicket head-on while calling nonetheless for "respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society, respect for each ethnic group and its identity, respect for the rule of law, and respect for a democratic order that enables each individual and every group – none excluded – to offer its legitimate contribution to the common good."

Of course, this was just the end of the first day of a weeklong trek – one whose final leg, in heavily-Muslim Bangladesh, will head to the place to which tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled. Still, today's address to Myanmar's ruling elite was arguably the principal indicator of the degree to which Francis was willing to push the issue, above all given the presence of the Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, whose global fame as a champion of human rights has been tarnished by her silence on the military-led campaign against her own country's religious minority, who are viewed by the authorities as "illegal immigrants."

Now holding the posts of "State Counselor" and Foreign Minister after last year's limited return to democratic rule, Suu Kyi – who remains constitutionally barred from Myanmar's presidency due to a provision inserted by the country's prior military regime to keep her from the role – met for nearly an hour with the Pope today, then going on to host Francis' encounter with the civil authorities (seen at top).

Further underscoring her standing as the nation's supreme figure in fact if not title, Papa Bergoglio's time with the official head of state, President Htin Kyaw, ran considerably shorter and was designated as a mere "courtesy visit."

After Suu Kyi's private audience with Francis in the Vatican last May, Myanmar became the latest country to establish full diplomatic relations with the Holy See, having been one of the last few holdouts.

Notably, the contretemps over the Rohingya – who the Pope last referred to by name in August while pleading for their "full rights" – has overshadowed the stark poverty he will find on both stages of this visit. As the front page of yesterday's L'Osservatore Romano sought to highlight, roughly a third of Myanmar's population of 53 million lives in "absolute indigence."

While Catholics comprise only some 700,000 Myanmarese, the country now has a cardinal in the Salesian Charles Maung Bo, 69 (above right) – the archbishop of its largest city, Yangon, who Francis elevated to the scarlet in 2015.

A lead public voice against the pontiff's explicit use of the term "Rohingya" ahead of this week's trip – and long seen in Roman circles as a decidedly influential figure across the growing Asian church – it bears recalling that Bo's entrance into the papal "Senate" had been anticipated at the Vatican well before the current pontificate, extending as far back as 2010.

Before departing for the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, on Thursday afternoon local time, the Pope will celebrate two Masses (including one strictly for young people) and hold formal meetings with Myanmar's bishops and its leading Buddhist monks.

Albeit not on the Pope's public schedule in Bangladesh, a meeting with Rohingya who've left Myanmar has been hinted at by Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, one of Francis's "Gang of Nine" advisers, its exact timing unknown. In a rarity for any papal road trip, meanwhile, Francis will perform priestly ordinations on Friday morning at a Dhaka park.

Like Myanmar, the pontiff's next stop has its own first red hat given by Francis: Dhaka's Patrick D'Rozario, 74, the first member of the Congregation of Holy Cross to become a cardinal in some six decades.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

"It Happened To Our Fathers...."

we do well to join all creation,
in heaven and on earth,
in praising you, our mighty God
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

You made man to your own image
and set him over all creation.
Once you chose a people
and, when you brought them out of bondage to
freedom, they carried with them the promise
that all men would be blessed
and all men could be free.

What the prophets pledged
was fulfilled in Jesus Christ,
your Son and our saving Lord.
It has come to pass in every generation
for all men who have believed that Jesus
by his death and resurrection
gave them a new freedom in his Spirit.

It happened to our fathers,
who came to this land as if out of the desert
into a place of promise and hope.
It happens to us still, in our time,
as you lead all men through your Church
to the blessed vision of your peace....
Granted, the text above is no longer in use, but as it's the old proper Preface for this Thanksgiving Day, it still makes for a worthwhile reflection.

Whether your centerpiece is dinner with family, the marathon football, a raid on the mall (God forbid), or something else, with thanks for all the blessings of these years, may all this day's joy and goodness be yours.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Suffice it to say, folks, so much for a quiet Thanksgiving Week.

No complaints there, of course – it comes with the turf... still, full as the last few days have been – with more on tap after the holiday – as this shop's still tackling the $2,000 in costs from covering last week on top of all the usual bills, as ever, it bears repeating that the budget for these pages depends completely on your support....

Most of all, with all the thanks under the sun for being able to keep at the work these many years, here's to a beautiful feast ahead for you and yours, and those you serve – travel safe, soak it up, and may all its blessings and joys be as abundant as the turkey.

And now, time for a memorable double-shot of press conferences. As always, stay tuned.


For US Bench, The Pope's "Doorbuster" – Nashville, Jeff City Land Long-Tipped Bishops

(Updated with presser video/statements.)

If anyone ever said the Vatican doesn't do Christmas ahead of December 25th, this Tuesday morning would prove them wrong.

In a significant double-shot of appointments following last week's November Meeting, at Roman Noon the Pope named Fr Joseph Mark Spalding, 52 (above) – until now vicar-general of Louisville and pastor of two city parishes – as 12th bishop of Nashville...

...and Fr William Shawn McKnight, 49 (right) – pastor of Wichita's flourishing Church of the Magdalen, already a familiar figure on the national stage from his five years as director of the USCCB's Clergy arm – to Missouri's capital as the fourth bishop of Jefferson City. With his appointment, the Sant'Anselmo-trained liturgist becomes the US' youngest head of a Latin-church diocese.

While the relative youth of both (not to mention their shared use of their middle names) will stand out on the wider scene – and, to be sure, their active service will stretch into the 2040s – the striking piece internally is the outsize experience and reputation each brings to the bench. Indeed, having known them both for what feels like ages, these choices respectively possess a degree of ecclesial firepower beyond their years, and from a national vantage, to see them come up together is the most significant thing of all.

Far unlike some recent nods which few, if any, could foresee, today's bishops-elect have been (pun intended) marked out for years by their colleagues and the prelates they now join. In Spalding's case, the Nashville pick has garnered "rising star" buzz since before 2011, when he replaced his close friend Chuck Thompson as Archbishop Joseph Kurtz's top deputy and pastor of the large, vibrant Holy Trinity parish upon Thompson's ascent as bishop of Evansville. (Likewise a son of Kentucky's "Holy Land," Thompson became the nation's youngest archbishop earlier this year on his transfer to Indianapolis.)

As successor to the beloved native son Bishop David Choby, who died in June after years of health struggles, Spalding inherits what is, by far, the most prominent of the posts for which he's been championed over recent years. Now comprising Tennessee's middle third, the Nashville church is in the midst of a significant boom – while diocesan figures state some 80,000 members on the books, a migration wave of undocumented Hispanics has been estimated at 200,000 or more on top of it, and that's not counting the ongoing addition of transplants from across the US amid the city's rise as a commercial and cultural capital.

Long story short, a young, enthusiastic "career pastor" steeped in administration and able to manage growth is just what the doctor ordered – and that the bishop-elect comes with sufficient Spanish to handle Mass and a scripted homily is icing on the cake. As an added sign of confidence, meanwhile, no priest from outside Tennessee has been elevated to the Nashville seat without prior episcopal experience since 1936... then again, as one of Spalding's email taglines once ran, quoting St Luke's Gospel, "To whom much has been given, much will be required."

In a notable nod to the diocese's burgeoning Latin presence – not to mention the horde of Louisvilleans angling to make the trip – early word from Nashville Chancery relays that Spalding's ordination on Presentation Day (February 2nd) won't be held at the century-old Cathedral of the Incarnation, but the far larger and newer Sagrado Corazon Church (above). Located just across the street from the Grand Ole Opry, the 2,500-seat Hispanic worship-space forms the centerpiece of the onetime Two Rivers evangelical megachurch, whose sprawling compound was acquired by Choby in 2014 to serve as the diocese's administrative and ministerial hub with an eye to its ongoing growth.

*    *    *
As for McKnight, it's probably not a stretch to say that the happiest place over today's move won't be the Wichita mega-parish losing its pastor, nor the destination where he's arriving sight unseen, but the USCCB Mothership in Washington.

Over his term as director of the bench's secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, Bishop-elect Shawn became an exceedingly well-regarded figure among staff and hats alike, so much so that, after returning home to Jayhawk Country, he was sought for an encore, being nominated as the "outside candidate" for the conference's top day-to-day post, the General Secretariat, at the 2015 election.

While custom held and the building's incumbent #2, Msgr Brian Bransfield, won the post – the vote-totals for which are never released – it's likewise traditional that the runner-up for the job is eventually made a bishop in his own right. And considering how some Whispers ops have mused over recent weeks how Kansas' fresh in-state opening in Salina was tailor-made for McKnight to "get the call," his elevation has come even more quickly than expected.

All that said, no indication has yet emerged on the reason behind Bishop John Gaydos' early retirement nine months before reaching the canonical age of 75. An ever-chatty figure with a raucous sense of humor, the St Louis native – who led the North-Central Missouri fold for over two decades – appeared to be in fine form during last week's meetings in Baltimore.

Per the canons, McKnight must be ordained and installed within four months of today's move. On the wider docket, meanwhile, today's twin nods leave all of two US Latin sees – Richmond and Salina – vacant, with just another three – Washington, Stockton and Las Vegas – led by (arch)bishops serving past retirement age until their respective successors are chosen.

SVILUPPO: From Nashville, Spalding's statement and video of this morning's introduction...

...and from Jefferson City, McKnight's opening remarks, and the presser vid:

Before introducing his successor, the retiring Gaydos told the locals that recent heart trouble, including a valve replacement, spurred his request to leave office a year ahead of schedule.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Live From "Friar Field": A Blessed for Detroit

It's like deja vu – this time, just bigger.

Much bigger.

Less than two months since the first-ever beatification of a priest on US soil, today in Detroit brings an even more massive moment, as the Church takes over the city's NFL stadium and a crowd of 75,000 witnesses the rites elevating the beloved local Capuchin Fr Solanus Casey to the step before sainthood.

While early reactions saw the choice of Ford Field for today's Mass as something akin to "crazy," as happened at September's Oklahoma City raising of Blessed Stanley Rother – when 5,000 more pilgrims converged on the convention center than could fit in the 15,000-seat venue – the Motor City crowd actually showed uncanny judgment. Tickets for today's event were gone within hours of their public availability last month, and the last-minute logistical hurdles required the coordination of drop-off and pickup spots across downtown for some 400 buses coming in from across the Midwest. And as weather's always the going concern for November in Michigan, even that ended up cooperating, staying above freezing with a touch of rain.

One of sixteen kids raised on a Wisconsin farm, Barney Casey entered the Capuchins after being deemed academically insufficient for Milwaukee's diocesan seminary. Eventually ordained in 1904, the future Blessed was prohibited by his superiors from preaching or hearing confessions, finding his niche instead as the compassionate doorkeeper of his community's houses over a half-century – a ministry from which miracles would come to be claimed during his life, credited to his prayers.

His cause for sainthood opened within a decade of his death at 86 in 1957, the miracle which secured today's beatification involved the inexplicable cure of a pilgrim to Solanus' Detroit shrine, who was instantaneously healed of a genetic skin disorder after praying for herself at his tomb. As Rother's elevation was made possible due to his martyrdom, the healing was the first miracle ever confirmed through the intercession of an American-born priest. (Above, Archbishop Allen Vigneron is seen at Solanus' burial site on the miracle's confirmation earlier this year.)

With the Vatican's Saintmaker-in-Chief Cardinal Angelo Amato again acting as papal legate and celebrant of today's Mass, here's your worship aid...

...and – with the Mass now completed – on-demand fullvid to come.

Per custom for the newly-beatified, the Pope will mention today's event and offer a brief word on Casey's example at tomorrow morning's Angelus.

According to the Michigan Catholic, Blessed Solanus' feast is slated to be declared for July 30th, the day before the anniversary of his death.

As beatification only affirms local devotion to a Blessed, Solanus' liturgical celebration in this case is restricted solely to the 1.4 million-member archdiocese of Detroit and the wider Capuchin order, unless and until the US bishops vote to petition the Vatican for its wider observance.

SVILUPPO: As the well-produced livefeed ostensibly hiccuped under the weight of some 20,000 viewers, until on-demand video of the full Mass emerges, here's the Rite of Beatification itself, with the customary unveiling of the image on Casey's formal declaration as Blessed Solanus...


Friday, November 17, 2017

"Nothing Will Be As It Was!" – In The Council and Francis, The Church's "New Consciousness"

As one of the bench put it, the week just past always makes for a "full immersion" experience... and to be sure, that the lounge of the USCCB hotel was dead by 10 on Wednesday night goes to show how knocked out everyone tends to be by Plenary's end.

Along those lines, while this scribe has five days of catch-ups and notes to unwind and assemble for print, let's start with something apparently lost in the wider mix (even if this crowd was duly forewarned).

Building upon his historic message to open the 100th Plenary, as the bench's elections unfolded on Tuesday morning, the Cardinal-Secretary of State Pietro Parolin delivered an even more extensive – and, quite possibly, even more significant – word, appearing at the Catholic University of America in Washington to propose Pope Francis as the ultimate figure of continuity with Vatican II, citing how he's "taken up anew" the Council's teaching and rebooted model of church.

Especially given two of the examples cited by Papa Bergoglio's top deputy – episcopal collegiality and what Francis has termed the "poor Church for the poor" (with global Catholicism's first-ever Day of the Poor accordingly being marked this weekend) – the hourlong talk is as salient to the moment as the interest in it has been sparse.

While publication of Parolin's text has been prohibited – Lord only knows why – gratefully a fullvid of his Italian address is around, with a captioned translation in English....

And here it is:


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Naumann Wins – In Bench Shocker, Cardinal's Pro-Life Bid Combusts

BALTIMORE – Just as it did on another Tuesday seven years ago this week, the Floor shook a bit first thing this morning.

Upending the last ironclad tradition of the Stateside bench, the USCCB denied its most prominent chairmanship to a cardinal, choosing Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas as its next Pro-Life Czar in a 96-82 vote over Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago.

The result represents the most surprising major conference vote since this week in 2010, when the Kansas prelate's fellow St Louis native, then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, bested the sitting vice-president, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, to take the body's helm. Now, Naumann will succeed Dolan as chair of Pro-Life Activities in late 2018 after the usual yearlong transition. Having served as auxiliaries together in the "Rome of the West," in what was viewed as a stealth sign of support, Dolan tapped Naumann to fill in for him as the life committee's representative at yesterday's lunchtime press conference.

Aside from the conference president and his deputy, the Pro-Life chair is essentially the only prelate whose national duties require daily contact and coordination with the bench's Washington headquarters, reflecting the church's marquee public square concern in the era since abortion was legalized nationwide in 1973. While scores of advocacy letters, pastoral materials and action alerts are issued through the year in the chairman's name, the post's visibility reaches its annual peak on the eve of the January March for Life, when the chair leads hundreds of the US hierarchy in celebrating Vigil Mass in Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for tens of thousands of pilgrims on-site and a global TV audience.

Giving Naumann his first chairmanship after nearly two decades as a bishop, today's result flips that of 2008, when the archbishop lost the Pro-Life post to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo by a 165-59 vote. Long devoted to a robust defense of the unborn – to the point of publicly calling on Kansas' then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius (later an Obama administration Cabinet Secretary) to refrain from receiving the Eucharist due to her support for legal abortion – the incoming chair is the US church's first Pro-Life Czar to have pursued that degree of open friction with a pro-choice public official. As with the choice of a non-cardinal for the seat, this thread defies a long-standing history of relevant conference votes; in the most evocative example, after becoming the bench's most prominent advocate for sanctions, then-Archbishop Raymond Burke lost the chair of Canonical Affairs and Church Governance by a 60-40 margin in 2007. (Just over six months after that vote, the Wisconsin-born canonist was brought to Rome by Benedict XVI as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the church's "chief justice," then given the red hat.)

While rhetoric surrounding today's ballot portrayed the faceoff as a kind of Armageddon on the nature of the church's pro-life witness – which, by longstanding tradition, has placed the unborn at the center – with abortion policy currently at a de facto stalemate, the prime challenge arguably facing the national life-desk is a burgeoning push at the state level for the legalization of assisted suicide for the terminally ill, the practice now permitted in six US jurisdictions (led by California and the District of Columbia) and under consideration in several others. Backed by a well-funded lobbying effort with a formidable messaging component, the way the issue has begun to track has been compared to the gradual advance of same-sex marriage in the early to mid-2000s.

All that said, as the run-up to today's election saw no shortage of invective and sensationalism hurled by activists and commentators across the ecclesial spectrum, finding one dominant thread in reading the result doesn't hold water. To recall the conference's time-honored moniker, a "flock of shepherds" might come to a shared conclusion, but in this case, 96 voters likely had just as many reasons for bucking a decades-old custom. In other words, with the ink still dry, parse the result at your own risk – at least, for now.

In that light, the pro-life vote was the most-watched of seven ballots for conference slots from which no overarching interpretations can be drawn – indeed, looking at each, the traditional key factors of seniority, prominence or geography went heeded in some races and dispensed in others, with little to no ideological pointers likewise to be found.

Even more than the respective national portfolios today's winners will take up in the leadership of the nation's largest religious body, with their selections, the incoming committee chairs will each have seats on the 30-man Administrative Committee – the USCCB's steering body, which meets four times a year to guide the conference's agenda and oversee its work outside of the June and November plenaries.

As previously reported, this meeting's major snapshot of the body's mind will come in Wednesday's closed-door executive session, when the bishops elect the four-man US delegation to next October's global Synod on Young People.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Our Egos, Our Worldliness, Our Desire For Respect Must Be Crushed" – On Bench's 100th, The Vice-Pope's Prayer For "Wisdom"

BALTIMORE – We've been building up to this for a good while... and now, you'll understand why.

Well, we can always hope.

Bringing the expected mix of affirmation and challenge to global Catholicism's oldest episcopal conference on its 100th anniversary – and in only the second appearance of its kind from the Pope's lead deputy over said century – Cardinal Pietro Parolin delivered a pointed, resonant homily at tonight's USCCB Centennial Mass in the Basilica of the Assumption, one of two major talks during his first solo trip to the country. (Above right, Parolin is seen before Mass in prayer at the tomb of John Carroll, the founding shepherd of the Stateside Church, in the crypt of the cathedral he envisioned.)

A rare turn in English by the Cardinal-Secretary of State, the 13-minute message delivered on Pope Francis' behalf effectively serves as a papal charter on the qualities that should mark the bench's "second century" of collegial governance... and those that shouldn't.

Here, fullvideo:

After an hour of regional meetings, the business piece of this 100th Plenary begins at 10am Eastern Monday with the usual formalities, headlined by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo's first annual address as conference president, and the customary speech from the Nuncio to Washington, Archbishop Christophe Pierre.

SVILUPPO: After a couple hours' delay due to the institutional convergences at hand, a text copy of the homily – which couldn't be heard in the Basilica due to acoustic hiccups – is now available as a pdf.


On Plenary Eve, Lockdowns and Ballots

BALTIMORE – In the life of a 1.2 billion-member church, there's no event quite like this.

Among global Catholicism's major outposts, the Italian bishops meet at the Vatican or their Roman headquarters, the Brazilians at the country's patronal shrine, the Mexicans in a hall that resembles a parliamentary chamber, all of them more or less behind closed doors.

For the US, however, the annual convening of some 450 prelates, staffers, press, observers and interest groups – and all of it in the glare of TV cameras – can only be compared to one thing: The Circus. And, this time, that's already more the case than usual.

A century since its inception in what's now called the "Gibbons Room" at the Archbishop's Residence here (above), while this 100th Plenary of the Stateside Bench had a quiet first lap in yesterday's opening round of committee meetings, last night brought a bit of panic to the harborside hotel which has now hosted a dozen of these mid-November weeks.

Amid the impending arrival of the Cardinal-Secretary of State Pietro Parolin – as the Pope's principal deputy, the Holy See's head of government – last-minute word spread quickly that the Secret Service would be swooping in for today's events commemorating the USCCB's centennial. And considering this crowd's experiences of hours-long sweeps during papal visits to these shores – not to mention the Federal squad's customary lack of specifics – the news didn't so much produce a sense of security as a siege mentality.

(SVILUPPO: Now on-site, the shot below of Parolin with the American cardinals and the conference's Administrative Committee was released this afternoon by the USCCB general secretary, Msgr Brian Bransfield, via his Twitter account; flanking the Cardinal-Secretary are the bench's president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, and the Nuncio to Washington Archbishop Christophe Pierre.)

While Parolin's visit to mark the conference's milestone has been in the works for over a year, plans for an overarching protection effort have only transpired over the last 48 hours. Even so, the cardinal's diplomatic status as the #2 official of a sovereign state has made a Secret Service detail for him on American soil a given from the get-go.

As senior officials were still grappling with the shape of the Feds' security demands for the plenary's hotel-base and the Basilica of the Assumption – where Parolin will lead the bench in a 5pm Eastern Mass tonight – the full protection protocols remain unclear, but access to both an afternoon symposium on the conference's history and an evening dinner has been restricted to the bishops and closed to staff and press. Though the liturgy in the nation's first cathedral has been slated to be open to the public, lest anyone was planning on it, actually getting in will take a bit of jumping through hoops.

In any case, the Mass will be broadcast by the usual suspects, and live-streamed here at the hour. As for the rest, just pray that it won't be too tough for this scribe to make the rounds... gratefully, this ain't one's first rodeo.

Given the scenario here, it's apparently the case that a similar flurry will be descending Tuesday morning on the campus of the Catholic University of America, where Parolin will deliver a major lecture on Vatican II as "a prophecy that continues" under Francis.

As if the Floor needed another distraction – and just when the votes are being taken, no less.

Even before embarking on his first solo US trip, the Cardinal-Secretary previewed his message for the occasion in a significant written interview to Catholic News Service, the conference's official outlet.

*   *   *
Speaking of Tuesday's climactic round of elections and ballots, while no shortage of ink's been spilled to foment a showdown in the body's vote on the chairmanship of its most prominent and intensive portfolio – the formidable arm for Pro-Life Activities – a brief lesson on Episcopal Calculus 101 is in order.

To be sure, the matchup between Chicago's Cardinal Blase Cupich and Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas is like catnip for a chattering class divided along partisan lines – depending on how one views it, the choice between unusually contrasting figures is being portrayed as a "plebiscite" on either the definition and scope of the church's pro-life witness amid the current challenges to it, or on the soundness of calling public officials who support abortion laws to refrain from Communion. Yet between the dueling perceptions lie just as many simple facts: first, that since the Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide, the bishops' pro-life efforts have always been led by a cardinal to underscore their significance... and second, that long before he took the reins of the nation's third-largest diocese three years ago this week, no living prelate has so needled – and infuriated – this conference's rightward flank as the one who suddenly emerged as cardinal-archbishop of Chicago.

All that said, though, any sense that these votes take place in some sort of vacuum where ideology is the sole, or even prime criterion simply has no foundation in practice.

In reality, conference elections function more according to an algorithm of factors: a shifting mix of qualifications, geography, relationships and seniority, with just a pinch of ecclesiology – or, for lack of a better word, "political" leanings – thrown in. (As a corollary to this, strange as it may sound, you could take the same two people, run them against each other for two different posts, and end up with diverging results.)

As a case in point, for those who buy the narrative of a "conservative" Stateside bench, then logic would dictate that this scribe's archbishop would've been the top vote-getter among the committee chairs chosen here two years ago. The thing is, he wasn't – by three votes, 2015's most decisive pick was the then-archbishop of Indianapolis, his decade-plus bond with the Pope now in full light on his ascent as that most unprecedented of things: a Cardinal in Jersey.

That Joe Tobin took the post overseeing clergy, consecrated life and vocations by besting Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver – a favorite of the "orthodox" set and, indeed, the founding rector who built his hometown's seminary into one of the nation's largest formation houses – merely reinforces the principle.

Back to this week's voting, a factor which has gotten little attention is the ever-changing makeup of the electorate, which has been set into overdrive of late.

To be specific, at last year's annual Roman course for new bishops – widely known as "Baby Bishop School" – there were 15 new US prelates.

This past September (above), that figure was closer to 25.

Change forty slots within two years in a 230-member body – let alone one in which a 60-40 margin is akin to a "landslide" – and a wave is bound to be felt, especially considering the tweaked identikit Francis has sought for the candidates presented to him: one in which "pastoral" isn't a politicized euphemism for a progressive, but a descriptor of a life and ministry lived with a heart for people, albeit one in which its different exemplars won't always reach the same conclusions.

How that mass infusion of new blood will impact the shape of things – not just votes, but the tenor of the debates – is a key focus of the week ahead. Along the way, though, what's arguably this coming week's most significant ballot isn't the Pro-Life chair, but one being reported here for the first time.

In its executive session on Wednesday, the bench will select the US' usual complement of four delegates (and alternates) to next year's Synod on Young People. Yet at least in a few cases, the voters didn't get the memo – literally: while requests for nominations were sent to each bishop by mail early in the fall, several told Whispers over the last week that they had never seen the letter.

Per custom, the 12 most-cited names submitted from that consultation form the first round of a Synod ballot. On a related note, meanwhile, as the Synod Secretariat has made an unprecedented effort to seek direct consultation from young people on the Vatican summit's topics via an online survey, the deadline for responses to it comes at the end of this month.

Long story short, given Francis' super-emphasis on an increased synodality – and with it, the monthlong meeting's evolution from rubber-stamp Roman junket to an intensely collaborative, even contentious process – once it emerges, the makeup of the US delegation to next October's gathering won't just serve as a snapshot of the bench's state of mind on its 100th anniversary, but where a new generation is taking the project for the road ahead.

And to think, this is just the start of what's always a long, full week.

As ever, more to come... yet since pulling off this kind of coverage has its (boatload of) costs, it bears recalling that all this comes your way solely by means of your support.


Friday, November 03, 2017

For USCCB's 100th, "Peter" Takes the Wheel

Ten days from now, it's showtime again in Baltimore, as the nation's bishops return to American Catholicism's birthplace for another edition of the Fall Classic – and, this time, a week with history at the forefront even more than usual.

As this plenary marks the centenary of what's now known as the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, in just the second such instance through the years, the gathering will be presided over by the Pope's top deputy – the Cardinal-Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, who'll lead the bench in an Opening Eve Mass in the Basilica of the Assumption (above), the nation's mother-church.

Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli (who represented John Paul II in the same place to mark the American hierarchy's bicentennial in 1989), the presence of the Vatican's "prime minister" in the chair of John Carroll highlights the moment's extraordinary significance, all the more as the trip represents Parolin's first US visit that isn't at Francis' side or to lead the Holy See's delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

At the same time, however, there's more to it than just the keen symbolism: as the milestone commemorates the global church's first modern effort of collegial governance by a national body of bishops – and with it, the inception of the church's return toward a spirit of synodality which the pontiff has aimed to turbo-charge – between Parolin's current role and his personal history as a doctoral student of the Synod of Bishops, the message the Cardinal-Secretary delivers with his master's voice is likely to have a resonance far beyond these States. (Adding to the context, while the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, was initially slated to preach the Centennial Mass, the Canadian hatmaker-in-chief suddenly evaporated from the plans over the last year, with Parolin taking the homily for himself.)

Indeed, the scene is bigger than the moment: after decades of Curial attempts to crack down on the purview of the conferences, Francis' new norms on liturgical translations (and the pontiff's subsequent doubling-down on them) are just the latest proof of how dramatically the pendulum has shifted back in the benches' direction. And considering the historic tension in which the oldest conference has been perhaps the ultimate pawn – namely, in the age-old battle between Rome and America for the soul of the Stateside Church – amid its 100th anniversary, the state of affairs today almost couldn't be more poetic.

Accorded abroad with the rank of a head of government – that is, of the Holy See (the church's central authority), not the Vatican City-State – Parolin's only known public event apart from the centenary will be a visit to the Catholic University of America in Washington, the specifics of which remain to emerge.

*   *   *
As a well-timed primer for the moment ahead, yesterday Francis' designated hand in the States – the Nuncio to Washington, Archbishop Christophe Pierre – traded his usual easy humor for the role of a professor, giving one of the year's key lectures for the canon law faculty at CUA, and choosing Francis' synodality push as his focus.

Much as the topic has become increasingly worthy of attention, in the wake of Magnum Principium, that the lecture serves as the university's annual memorial to Msgr Fred McManus – the legendary Catholic dean in the canons, who played an instrumental role in the founding of ICEL – became all the more fitting over recent weeks.

While the hourlong talk makes for a sound primer on the Pope's concept of shifting the church's balance of deliberation back to the local churches, what might be its most brow-raising line was one of Pierre's trademark unscripted asides.

"We are still far away in this church from receiving Evangelii Gaudium – maybe in a few years," the Nuncio mused on Francis' "blueprint" for his papacy. "But we could accelerate the process."

And as the principal architect of the US bench's next generation, he's aiming to do just that.

That said, here's video of the complete lecture....


Wednesday, November 01, 2017

"The Pain Is Very Real" – In Major Pastoral, Wuerl Tackles Racism

In the Stateside Church's first major text of its kind in nearly two decades, the cardinal-archbishop of the nation's capital has called the church to "be alert to addressing racism wherever we meet it," rapping a current context in which "the persistent evil" of discrimination has been treated with either "selective outrage" or "silent support... by some political forces, some faith-based and church entities, and some media."

Ostensibly galvanized by the August events in Charlottesville, at which a white supremacist demonstration saw a counter-protestor killed as a car tore through the crowd, Cardinal Donald Wuerl's 3,000-word pastoral letter on "The Challenge of Racism Today" is being released this All Saints' Day to the 700,000-member archdiocese of Washington, but is bound to echo far afield in light of the charged state of the discourse, not to mention the DC prelate's double profile of the capital post and as a top American adviser to Pope Francis through his seats on the Congregations for Bishops and the Doctrine of the Faith.

The first racism pastoral from a top US prelate since the late Cardinal Francis George's "Dwell In My Love" was penned for the Chicago archdiocese in 2001, Wuerl's letter comes amid a fresh push on the issue from the US bishops, an effort headlined by a new ad hoc committee chartered in Charlottesville's wake and chaired by Bishop George Murry SJ, the African-American head of Ohio's Youngstown diocese, an academic by trade with a specialization in American society and culture.

Recently bolstered by the unveiling of an A-list membership, while the ad hoc's three-year mandate was launched two years into the planning for the bench's first major document on race relations since 1979's Brothers and Sisters to Us, over recent weeks two Whispers ops have relayed that, amid significant criticism of the new national document's current draft, that product – previously slated for a final vote and publication in November 2018 – has been nixed, with the document to be restarted from scratch. The new committee will deliver its first report at the bishops' mid-month plenary in Baltimore.

Though the racial history of the Washington church has been dominated by the capital's segregationist past and the city's massive African-American community – including one of the nation's largest populations of Black Catholics – it bears noting that the archdiocese's extraordinary growth over the last two decades has come in tandem with a rapidly diversifying population in its pews, a shift signified by major increases of both Hispanics and Asians within the archdiocese, which comprises the District and its five suburban Maryland counties. Yet even as the DC church has doubled in size from the days of Cardinal James Hickey, both Cardinals Theodore McCarrick and Wuerl have maintained the practice begun by their 1980s-era predecessor, who divided Washington's traditional complement of three auxiliary bishops between an African-American, a Latino and an Anglo.

An unusually controversial topic for the famously-guarded cardinal to address at length, Wuerl's racism letter arrives amid what are widely expected to be the cardinal's final months as archbishop of Washington. Soon to turn 77 – and having met with Francis in another private audience last week – Wuerl's December 8th dedication of the gargantuan Trinity Dome, marking the symbolic completion of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, has come to be perceived as a valedictory celebration of sorts, coming on the heels of the Pittsburgh native's 32nd anniversary of his appointment as a bishop. Underscoring the reach of the cardinal's 11 years in the capital, Cardinal Kevin Farrell – the vicar-general Wuerl inherited on his arrival, now his peer in the Pope's "Senate" as head of the new Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life – has been tapped as papal legate for next month's event.

With all that as the context, here below is the fulltext of today's pastoral.

* * *


His Eminence
Donald Cardinal Wuerl
Archbishop of Washington

To the Clergy, Religious and Laity
of the
Church of Washington

Grace and peace to all in Christ.

The sight from the sanctuary of many a church in our archdiocese offers a glimpse of the face of the world. On almost any Sunday, we can join neighbors and newcomers from varied backgrounds. We take great pride in the coming together for Mass of women and men, young and old, from so many lands, ethnic heritages and cultural traditions. Often we can point to this unity as a sign of the power of grace to bring people together.

But we also know that we still have a long way to go to realize the harmony to which we are called as a human family. One wound to that unity is the persistent evil of racism. Tragically, the divisive force of this sin continues to be felt across our land and in our society. It is our faith that calls us to see each other as members of God’s family. It is our faith that calls us to confront and overcome racism.

This challenge is rooted in our Christian identity as sisters and brothers, redeemed by the blood of Christ. Because God has reconciled us to himself through Christ, we have received the ministry of reconciliation. Saint Paul tells us, “God has reconciled the world to himself in Christ… entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

The mission of reconciliation takes on fresh emphasis today as racism continues to manifest itself in our country, requiring us to strengthen our efforts. We are all aware of incidents both national and closer to home that call attention to the continuing racial tensions in our society. In spite of numerous positive advances and the goodwill of many, many people, too many of our brothers and sisters continue to experience racism. So much is this true that our United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has established an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism made up of clergy, laywomen and laymen to speak out on this divisive evil that leaves great harm in its wake.

This is not the first time that we bishops have spoken out against racism. We raised our collective voice in the pastoral reflection, Brothers and Sisters to Us (1979). Here in our own archdiocese, we have the edifying example of Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle and his actions to desegregate our Catholic schools years before the Supreme Court moved on this issue. We have also his letter to all of the Catholic faithful reminding them that his actions and his teaching were rooted in the Gospel and “the teachings of the Church on what Catholics must believe and do.” It is in continuity with that same teaching, shared and expressed by every Archbishop of Washington, that I ask us to reflect on and emphasize anew the importance of dialogue on how we can confront racism today.

To address racism, we need to recognize two things: that it exists in a variety of forms, some more subtle and others more obvious; and that there is something we can do about it even if we realize that what we say and the steps we take will not result in an immediate solution to a problem that spans generations. We must, however, confront this issue with the conviction that in some personal ways we can help to resolve it.

Where do we start? Before we turn our attention to some forms of action, we need to reaffirm that what we are doing is not only good but necessary because it is willed by God.

The divisions we face today that are based on the color of one’s skin or ethnic background are obviously not a part of God’s plan. In the first chapter of the book of Genesis we read at the beginning of the story of humanity, "God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen. 1.27).

This teaching is applied to our day with clarity in The Catechism of the Catholic Church. “Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone… called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead” (357).

This is the starting point for our reflection. The human race is rooted in the loving, creative act of God, who made us and called us to be a family – all God’s children – made in God’s image and likeness. There is no basis to sustain that some are made more in the image of God than others.

In whatever form, intolerance of other people because of their race, religion or national origin is ultimately a denial of human dignity. No one is better than another person because of the color of their skin or the place of their birth. What makes us equal before God and what should make us equal in dignity before each other is that we are all sisters and brothers of one another, because we are all children of the same loving God who brought us into being.

Racism denies the basic equality and dignity of all people before God and one another. It is for this reason that the United States bishops in the November 1979 pastoral letter on racism, Brothers and Sisters to Us, clearly state: “Racism is a sin.” It is a sin because “it divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.” The letter goes on to remind us that “Racism is the sin that says some human beings are inherently superior and others essentially inferior because of race.”

Racism is defined as a sin because it offends God by a denial of the goodness of creation. It is a sin against our neighbor, particularly when it is manifested in support of systemic social, economic and political structures of sin. It is also a sin against the unity of the Body of Christ by undermining that solidarity by personal sins of prejudice, discrimination and violence.

Tragically, the stain of racism has revealed itself through the course of human history, touching seemingly every continent as migration and trade, exploration and colonial expansion created environments for prejudice, denigration, marginalization, discrimination and oppression, whether to indigenous peoples or newcomers.

Our own country’s history has seen exploitation and oppression of indigenous peoples, Asians, Latinos, Japanese-Americans and others, including people from various parts of Europe. But in our homeland, the most profound and extensive evidence of racism lies in the sin of centuries of human trafficking, enslavement, segregation and the lingering effects experienced by African-American men, women and children.

We are called to recognize today that racism continues to manifest itself in many ways. It can be personal, institutional, or social. Often racism is both learned from others and born of ignorance from not interacting with people who are from a different culture and ethnic heritage. This historic experience has been aggravated by the selective outrage at some forms of discrimination and the silent support of other expressions of discrimination by some political forces, some faith-based and church entities, and some media. What should be a blessing – the diversity of our backgrounds, experiences and cultures – is turned into a hindrance to unity and a heavy burden for some to bear. The pain it causes in people’s lives is very real.

As we struggle to remove the attitudes that nurture racism and the actions that express it, we must show how the differences we find in skin color, national origin or cultural diversity are enriching. Differences mean diversity, not being better or worse. Equality among all men and women does not mean that they must all look, talk, think alike and act in an identical manner. Equality does not mean uniformity. Rather each person should be seen in his or her uniqueness as a reflection of the glory of God and a full, complete member of the human family.

Among Christians the call to unity is greater because it is rooted in grace and, therefore, racism merits even stronger condemnation. Everyone who is baptized into Christ Jesus is called to new life in the Lord. Baptism unites us with the Risen Lord and through him with every person who sacramentally has died and risen to new life in Christ. This unity, sacramental and real, brings us together on a level above and beyond the purely physical. It carries that oneness we all share through the natural reality of creation to a higher level -- the realm of grace.

In Christ we live in the same Spirit, we share the same new life and are members of one spiritual body. As members of the Church we are called to be witnesses to the unity of God’s family and, therefore, to be a living testimony to the inclusiveness that is a graced sign of our oneness.

The call to a unity that transcends ethnic ties and racial differences is a hard one for some people to accept. We can become comfortable in the enclave of our own familiar world and even view others who are different from us, ethnically or because of the color of their skin, with suspicion. Nonetheless, to be truly faithful to Christ we must respond to his teaching that we are one in him and, therefore, one with each other. “Through Christ we are one family” (Lumen Gentium 51).

Intolerance and racism will not go away without a concerted awareness and effort on everyone’s part. Regularly we must renew the commitment to drive it out of our hearts, our lives and our community. While we may devise all types of politically correct statements to proclaim racial equality, without a change in the basic attitude of the human heart we will never move to that level of oneness that accepts each other for who we are and the likeness we share as images of God.

Saint John Paul II in the Great Jubilee Year asked for the recognition of sins committed by members of the Church during its history. He called for reconciliation through recalling the faults of the past in a spirit of prayerful repentance that leads to healing of the wounds of sin.

Today we need to acknowledge past sins of racism and, in a spirit of reconciliation, move towards a Church and society where the wounds of racism are healed. In this process, we need to go forward in the light of faith, embracing all of those around us, realizing that those wounded by the sin of racism should never be forgotten.

At the same time, we acknowledge the witness of African-American Catholics who through eras of enslavement, segregation and societal racism have remained steadfastly faithful. We also recognize the enduring faith of immigrants who have not always felt welcome in the communities they now call home.

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to work together for a present and future rooted in the commitment that Pope Francis described in his October 2013 address to the delegation of the Simon Wiesenthal Center: “Let us combine our efforts in promoting a culture of encounter, respect, understanding and mutual forgiveness.”

Responding to Christ’s love calls us to action. We need to move to the level of Christian solidarity. The term, often spoken of by a succession of popes as a virtue, touches the practical implications of what it means to recognize our unity with others. There is a sense in which solidarity is our commitment to oneness at work in the practical order.

Within the archdiocese, we have sought to make our commitment to oneness concrete, and the fight against racism a priority. Recognizing that we are a Church that is universal and composed of people from all lands, races, ethnicities, languages, and socio-economic backgrounds, each of our parishes and schools in this archdiocese accepts the challenge to provide a welcoming and inclusive home for all. We must all seek to affirm and rejoice in the gift of our diversity. Such a task is underscored in our archdiocesan-wide trainings in intercultural competency for parishes, schools, programs for our seminarians, and newly ordained priests to be better able to serve culturally and ethnically diverse communities.

In a particular way, the Office of Cultural Diversity and Outreach provides resources and serves a significant role in our efforts to draw together all of the faithful of this Church in order that we might rejoice in the ethnic and cultural heritage of each of our sisters and brothers. To name just a few, these initiatives involve our celebration of Black Catholic History Month including a Mass featuring the Archdiocese of Washington’s Gospel Choir, and in January at the annual Mass honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we gather as an archdiocesan family to prayerfully celebrate Dr. King’s march for freedom and to resolve to continue that march together.

Our Walk with Mary annually commemorates Our Lady of Guadalupe and we invite local Catholics from all backgrounds to walk and pray together at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in recognition of Mary’s role as our spiritual mother and as patroness of the Americas. Our Church of Washington also joins the Church in the United States in celebrating National Migration Week and encourages Catholics at our local parishes to reflect on the challenges faced by immigrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking.

Our efforts also extend beyond our parishes. Through our Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington and the Spanish Catholic Center, we extend a helping and welcoming hand to all who need it, particularly those newcomers regardless of race or creed. Housing and family assistance, medical and dental care, legal services and job training are all available to men, women, and children from all communities across the archdiocese.

In the area of education, our archdiocesan schools strive to provide students from African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native Indian American families with an accessible, affordable education that is academically excellent and marked by a strong Catholic identity centered on the life-transforming encounter with Jesus Christ. Catholic schools in this archdiocese continue to be places where students learn to grow in the Gospel virtues of respect for the dignity of the “other,” justice, solidarity and unity.

The archdiocese also expands educational opportunities and a brighter future for all children through archdiocesan and parish tuition assistance so students from more families across our community can benefit from the gift of a Catholic education. We also recognize the importance of promoting federal efforts, such as the Opportunity Scholarship Program for the District of Columbia, and Maryland’s state effort, the BOOST scholarship program.

Through these and many other programs in this archdiocese, I invite all of us to a more profound awareness of our obligations to embrace one another truly as sisters and brothers in Christ, in one human family created by a loving God.

Our parishes can take positive steps to promote unity and understanding among all members of our family of faith. The Sunday Eucharist offers a wealth of opportunities to reflect on this issue. The prayers of the faithful can promote social justice and urge the elimination of racism. Homilies can deal with the implications of the Christian faith for prejudice and racist behavior. Parishes can provide opportunities and catechetical material for adults to begin a dialogue about how to address the issues raised here. Parish efforts at evangelization ought to welcome and reach out to people of every race, culture and nationality. In these ways, we can follow Pope Francis’s example in promoting a spirit of dialogue and encounter with others.

We also must be alert to addressing racism wherever we meet it in our communities. In housing, citizens need to insist that the government enforce fair- housing statutes. In the workplace, recruitment, hiring, and promotion policies need to reflect true opportunity. In public education, we can support the teaching of tolerance and appreciation for each culture as we try to do in our own Catholic schools.

In our criminal justice system, we need to insist on fair treatment of all those accused of wrongdoing, and also promote opportunities for rehabilitation for those suffering from substance abuse, and to rebuild the lives for those being released from correctional facilities. In the public debate on the challenges of our age, we need to stand for the dignity of all human life and we ought also to insist on the place of religious faith. Without God and the sense of right and wrong that religious convictions engender, we will never adequately confront racism.

The elimination of racism may seem too great a task for any one of us or even for the whole Church. Yet we place our confidence in the Lord. In Christ, we are brothers and sisters to one another. With Christ, we stand in the Spirit of justice, love and peace. Through Christ, we envision the new city of God, not built by human hands, but by the love of God poured out in Jesus Christ. On the journey to that "new heaven and new earth," we make our way with faith in God’s grace, with hope in our own determination, and above all with love for each other as children of God.

Faithfully in Christ,

Donald Cardinal Wuerl
Archbishop of Washington

November 1, 2017
All Saints Day