Friday, June 29, 2018

Long week (well, nine days)? Yep... and that's putting it mildly.

Done yet? Not by a long shot.

This morning alone, the early news has made for a trip around the world, but only now does the "back" part begin...

...and given the bills already piled up on finally making it "home" – a grand-jury report and more en route – again, it bears reminding that these pages only keep coming your way by means of your support:

Even more than usual, thanks a million to everyone who's already lent a hand – given the ongoing ride on the Dad-coaster, your goodness through these weeks has especially meant the world (thanks be to God, he's still coming through wonderfully well). Along those lines, as the usual donors-only briefing has been held up amid the recent shape of things, once the July calm finally sets in, you're in for a treat.

All that said, even if the ride won't come to a complete stop for a bit longer, to one and all, every grace and joy of these summer days – especially for those of us who wait all year for this, may it go slow for a change.


In Melbourne, It's Peter's Day – Pope Turns Page For Aussie Mega-Fold

A year to the day since Cardinal George Pell became the highest-ranking cleric ever to face indictment on civil sex-abuse charges, with the Vatican's finance chief set for trial over the coming weeks, the Pope has taken advantage of the brief lull to recast the leadership of Australia's largest diocese.

At Roman Noon on this feast of Saints Peter and Paul – which, as a Curial holiday, doesn't normally see appointments – Francis named Bishop Peter Comensoli, 54 (above), as ninth archbishop of Melbourne: already a towering assignment as home to a broadly diverse fold of 1.1 million Catholics, yet even more of a challenge these days not merely given the national church's ongoing sex-abuse tumult, but as the site of Pell's court proceedings.

Head of the Broken Bay diocese encompassing Sydney's northern suburbs since 2013, the archbishop-elect succeeds Archbishop Denis Hart, who reached the retirement age of 75 in May 2016.

A native of Wollongong on Sydney's southern edge, Comensoli was named an auxiliary to Pell in 2011 – a choice that reportedly came as a surprise even to the now-embattled cardinal. On the broader scene, meanwhile, with the Australian church enduring the fallout of crises ranging from last year's legalization of same-sex marriage (following an advisory national referendum) to Pell's travails in the context of a five-year state inquiry on abuse that saw generations of the nation's hierarchy take the brunt of its critique, Francis' pick represents a mandate for a shift of era and fresh set of eyes, but with a premium on experience and consistency.

By contrast, had the pontiff been looking to fully shatter the mold, the Melbourne seat would've gone to Bishop Vincent Long, 56, the outspoken Franciscan friar and refugee from Vietnam currently leading the Parramatta diocese on Sydney's western front. Having become Australia's first Asian prelate on his appointment as an auxiliary to Hart in 2011, Long revealed that he was a survivor of abuse himself while testifying to the royal commission in early 2017. From another angle, another veteran of the Melbourne church – the native son Mark Coleridge, 69, now archbishop of Brisbane (and recently elected as president of the Oz bench) – was widely presumed to be the front-runner for the nod, yet the calculus ostensibly favored a candidate able to chart and carry out a long-term vision; by that standard, Comensoli won't reach the retirement age until 2039.

A veteran social-media hand – one set to take the Aussie bishops' lead role on communications and family life later this year – within minutes of the announcement, the archbishop-elect released this video-message to the Melbourne church....

In a printed statement from Broken Bay, meanwhile, the Pope's pick gave a deeper treatment on the church's ongoing state of crisis:
“I am deeply aware of the painful witness you bear because of the crimes committed in the Church against the most innocent, our children and the vulnerable. I share the bewilderment and anger you feel at the failure of Church leaders to believe victims and to respond to them with justice and compassion. This is not the way of Jesus Christ. It is our solemn shared duty to right the grievous wrongs of the past and ensure that the future is very different. I pledge myself without reserve to that task, and I ask you to join me in building on the work already underway in the Archdiocese to create safe communities of faith, where trust is earned and care is offered.

“Having been appointed by Pope Francis, I recognise the challenge he has placed before me to lead God’s people in Melbourne tenderly, mercifully and joyfully. As a shepherd after the heart of Jesus, the Lord expects me to reach out to all with a Gospel boldness. Therefore, I place my stewardship of the Archdiocese of Melbourne under the intercession of Ss Peter and Paul, on whose feast day this announcement is made.”
Likely in tandem with the thick of Pell's dual trials on historic sex crimes, Comensoli will be installed in relatively rapid order on August 1st – whether intentionally or not, the feast of St Peter in Chains.


On Peter and Paul, "Tradition," "Temptations"... and "Empty Triumphalism"

29 JUNE 2018
The readings we have just heard link us to the apostolic Tradition. That Tradition “is not the transmission of things or words, an assortment of lifeless objects; it is the living stream that links us to the origins, the living stream in which those origins are ever present” (BENEDICT XVI, Catechesis, 26 April 2006) and offer us the keys to the Kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt 16:19). A Tradition ancient yet ever new, that gives us life and renews the joy of the Gospel. It enables us to confess with our lips and our heart: “‘Jesus Christ is Lord’, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11).

The entire Gospel is an answer to the question present in the hearts of the People of Israel and today too dwells in the hearts of all those who thirst for life: “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Mt 11:3). Jesus takes up that question and asks it of his disciples: “But who do you say that I am?” (Mt 16:15).

Peter speaks up and calls Jesus by the greatest title he could possibly bestow: “You are the Christ” (cf. Mt 16:16), the Anointed, the Holy One of God. It is good to think that the Father inspired this answer because Peter had seen how Jesus “anointed” his people. Jesus, the Anointed One, walked from village to village with the sole aim of saving and helping those considered lost. He “anointed” the dead (cf. Mk 5:41-42; Lk 7:14-15), the sick (cf. Mk 6:13; Jas 5:14), the wounded (cf. Lk 10:34) and the repentant (cf. Mt 6:17). He anointed with hope (cf. Lk 7:38.46; 10:34; Jn 11:2; 12:3). By that anointing, every sinner – the downcast, the infirm, pagans, wherever they found themselves – could feel a beloved part of God’s family. By his actions, Jesus said in a very personal way: “You are mine”. Like Peter, we too can confess with our lips and our heart not only what we have heard, but also concretely experienced in our lives. We too have been brought back to life, healed, renewed and filled with hope by the anointing of the Holy One. Thanks to that anointing, every yoke of slavery has been shattered (cf. Is 10:27). How can we ever lose the joyful memory that we were ransomed and led to proclaim: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (cf. Mt 16:16).

It is interesting to see what follows this passage in the Gospel where Peter confesses his faith: “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16:21). God’s Anointed kept bringing the Father’s love and mercy to the very end. This merciful love demands that we too go forth to every corner of life, to reach out to everyone, even though this may cost us our “good name”, our comforts, our status… even martyrdom.

Peter reacts to this completely unexpected announcement by saying: “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you” (Mt 16:22). In this way, he immediately becomes a stumbling stone in the Messiah’s path. Thinking that he is defending God’s rights, Peter, without realizing it, becomes the Lord’s enemy; Jesus calls him “Satan”. To contemplate Peter’s life and his confession of faith also means learning to recognize the temptations that will accompany the life of every disciple. Like Peter, we as a Church will always be tempted to hear those “whisperings” of the evil One, which will become a stumbling stone for the mission. I speak of “whispering” because the devil seduces from hiding, lest his intentions be recognized. “He behaves like a hypocrite, wishing to stay hidden and not be discovered” (SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, n. 326).

To share in Christ’s anointing, on the other hand, means to share in his glory, which is his cross: Father, glorify your Son… “Father, glorify your name” (Jn 12:28). In Jesus, glory and the cross go together; they are inseparable. Once we turn our back on the cross, even though we may attain the heights of glory, we will be fooling ourselves, since it will not be God’s glory, but the snare of the enemy.

Often we feel the temptation to be Christians by keeping a prudent distance from the Lord’s wounds. Jesus touches human misery and he asks us to join him in touching the suffering flesh of others. To proclaim our faith with our lips and our heart demands that we – like Peter – learn to recognize the “whisperings” of the evil one. It demands learning to discern and recognize those personal and communitarian “pretexts” that keep us far from real human dramas, that preserve us from contact with other people’s concrete existence and, in the end, from knowing the revolutionary power of God’s tender love (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 270).

By not separating his glory from the cross, Jesus wants to liberate his disciples, his Church, from empty forms of triumphalism: forms empty of love, service, compassion, empty of people. He wants to set his Church free from grand illusions that fail to sink their roots in the life of God’s faithful people or, still worse, believe that service to the Lord means turning aside from the dusty roads of history. To contemplate and follow Christ requires that we open our hearts to the Father and to all those with whom he has wished to identify (cf. SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49), in the sure knowledge that he will never abandon his people.

Dear brothers and sisters, millions of people continue to ask the question: “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Mt 11:3). Let us confess with our lips and heart that Jesus Christ is Lord (cf Phil 2:11). This is the cantus firmus that we are called daily to intone. With the simplicity, the certainty and the joy of knowing that “the Church shines not with her own light, but with the light of Christ. Her light is drawn from the Sun of Justice, so that she can exclaim: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (Gal 2:20)” (SAINT AMBROSE, Hexaemeron, IV, 8, 32).
*  *  *
While this morning's Mass came in the context of yesterday's Consistory – its 14 new cardinals serving as the lead concelebrants – as it's been since 1984, today's focus nonetheless belonged to the newly-named archbishops from across the global church, who used to be invested with their Pallium by the Pope on this day, but now receive it in a small box, its contents conferred by the local Nuncio on their return home.

Numbering 30 in all, in a rarity, this year's metropolitan class includes no US prelates – among the 34 Stateside archdioceses, at present, the only one with an occupant over 75 is Washington (where, as previously reported, the succession to 77 year-old Cardinal Donald Wuerl remains to be broached).

Yet where the timetable or transfers haven't given Francis domestic openings to fill, he's made up for it on his own turf – no less than four of the new archbishops hail from the Pope's native Argentina, completing a wave that's allowed the pontiff to name new occupants to half his homeland's major posts over his first five years in office.

The quartet headlined by Francis' longtime confidant and ghostwriter Victor Manuel Fernández – who Francis rapidly promoted to the archdiocese of La Plata (on the outskirts of Buenos Aires) earlier this month, all of a week after the pontiff's longtime rival among the bench, the "polemical" Archbishop Hector Aguer, reached the retirement age – notably, the moves gave three of the four new metropolitans their first diocesan assignments. What's more, two of them were simple priests until the time of their appointments; among others in the group is the former Dominican Master-General Carlos Aspiroz Costa, who was named archbishop of Bahia Blanca.

In an interview on his transfer after a decade as head of Argentina's Catholic University, Fernández, 55 – known as "Tucho," the now-Pope's theological adviser who aided in crafting both the Aparecida Charter and its universal expansion, Evangelii Gaudium – noted that the aggregate effect of the personnel picks at home was an Argentine bench gradually coming to have "more 'feeling' with Francis." (The archbishop is seen above, arriving at his installation last week.)

Among other prominent figures in today's group were Archbishops Michel Aupetit, 66 – the onetime doctor and med-school professor sent to lead the church in Paris; Tarcisio Isau Kikuchi, the 59 year-old launched from a "peripheral" diocese of 7,000 Catholics to Japan's top post in Tokyo, and the head of the world's largest diocese, Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes of Mexico City, 68, who's embarked on an ambitious program of pastoral renewal and administrative overhaul since taking the reins of the 8 million-member juggernaut in February.


Thursday, June 28, 2018

"Our Only Credible Authority Is At the Feet of Others" – To Cardinals New and Old, Pope Pits "Church Reform" Against "Palace Intrigues"

At 4pm Rome – 10am Eastern in the States – the Consistory for the creation of 14 new cardinals gets underway in St Peter's.

Here's the live on-demand feed... follow along, meanwhile, the libretto/worship aid (with translations)...

And below, the official English text of Francis' homily – per usual on these occasions, a potent call to service in the face of what he termed "our useless wrangling about who is most important."

* * *
“They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them” (Mk 10:32) [1].

The beginning of this typical passage in Mark always helps us realize how the Lord cares for his people with a pedagogy all his own. Journeying to Jerusalem, Jesus is careful to walk ahead of his disciples.

Jerusalem represents the defining and decisive moment of his life. All of us know that at important and crucial times in life, the heart can speak and reveal the intentions and tensions within us. These turning points in life challenge us; they bring out questions and desires not always evident to our human hearts. This is what is presented, with great simplicity and realism, in the Gospel passage we have just heard. At the third and most troubling announcement of the Lord’s passion, the Evangelist does not shrink from disclosing secrets present in the hearts of the disciples: their quest of honours, jealousy, envy, intrigue, accommodation and compromise. This kind of thinking not only wears and eats away at their relationship, but also imprisons them in useless and petty discussions. Yet Jesus is not concerned with this: he walks ahead of them and he keeps going. And he tells them forcefully: “But it shall not be so among you; whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Mk 10:43). In this way, the Lord tries to refocus the eyes and hearts of his disciples, so that there will be no fruitless and self-referential discussions in the community. What does it profit us to gain the whole world if we are corroded within? What does it profit us to gain the whole world if we are living in a stifling atmosphere of intrigues that dry up our hearts and impede our mission? Here, as someone has observed, we might think of all those palace intrigues that take place, even in curial offices.

“But it shall not be so among you”. The Lord’s response is above all an encouragement and a challenge to his disciples to recoup their better part, lest their hearts be spoiled and imprisoned by a worldly mentality blind to what is really important. “But it shall not be so among you”. The voice of the Lord saves the community from undue introspection and directs its vision, resources, aspirations and heart to the only thing that counts: the mission.

Jesus teaches us that conversion, change of heart and Church reform is and ever shall be in a missionary key, which demands an end to looking out for and protecting our own interests, in order to look out for and protect those of the Father. Conversion from our sins and from selfishness will never be an end in itself, but is always a means of growing in fidelity and willingness to embrace the mission. At the moment of truth, especially when we see the distress of our brothers and sisters, we will be completely prepared to accompany and embrace them, one and all. In this way, we avoid becoming effective “roadblocks”, whether because of our short-sightedness[2] or our useless wrangling about who is most important. When we forget the mission, when we lose sight of the real faces of our brothers and sisters, our life gets locked up in the pursuit of our own interests and securities. Resentment then begins to grow, together with sadness and revulsion. Gradually we have less and less room for others, for the Church community, for the poor, for hearing the Lord’s voice. Joy fades and the heart withers (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 2).

“But it shall not be so among you”. Jesus goes on to say. “Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (Mk 10:43.44). This is the Beatitude and the Magnificat that we are called to sing daily. It is the Lord’s invitation not to forget that the Church’s authority grows with this ability to defend the dignity of others, to anoint them and to heal their wounds and their frequently dashed hopes. It means remembering that we are here because we have been asked “to preach good news to the proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk 4:18-19).

Dear brother Cardinals and new Cardinals! In our journey towards Jerusalem, the Lord walks ahead of us, to keep reminding us that the only credible form of authority is born of sitting at the feet of others in order to serve Christ. It is the authority that comes from never forgetting that Jesus, before bowing his head on the cross, did not hesitate to bow down and wash the feet of the disciples. This is the highest honour that we can receive, the greatest promotion that can be awarded us: to serve Christ in God’s faithful people. In those who are hungry, neglected, imprisoned, sick, suffering, addicted to drugs, cast aside. In real people, each with his or her own life story and experiences, hopes and disappointments, hurts and wounds. Only in this way, can the authority of the Shepherd have the flavour of Gospel and not appear as “a noisy gong or a clanging symbol” (1 Cor 13:1). None of us must feel “superior” to anyone. None of us should look down at others from above. The only time we can look at a person in this way is when we are helping them to stand up.

I would like now to share with you a part of the spiritual testament of Saint John XXIII. Progressing in his own journey, he could say: “Born poor, but of humble and respectable folk, I am particularly happy to die poor, having distributed, in accordance with the various needs and circumstances of my simple and modest life in the service of the poor and of Holy Church which has nurtured me, whatever came into my hands – and it was very little – during the years of my priesthood and episcopate. Appearances of wealth have frequently disguised thorns of frustrating poverty, which prevented me from giving to others as generously as I would have wished. I thank God for this grace of poverty to which I vowed fidelity in my youth; poverty of spirit, as a priest of the Sacred Heart, and material poverty, which has strengthened me in my resolve never to ask for anything – money, positions or favours – never, either for myself, or for my relations and friends” (29 June 1954). 
[1] Jesus uses the same verb, proago, when he tells his disciples that he will “precede” them into Galilee (cf. Mk 10:32).
[2] Cf. JORGE MARIO BERGOGLIO, Ejercicios Espirituales a los Obispos españoles, 2006.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

"The Long Arms of the Pope" – On Scarlet Eve, It's Now Francis' College

Even if every new intake to the Pope's "Senate" is significant, some Consistories nonetheless have more meaning than others – and as Francis' fifth class of new cardinals, 14 in all, receive the red hat Thursday afternoon, the group represents a critical tipping-point.

Once the designates take their gilded red silk seats among their elders in the College, for the first time, Papa Bergoglio's appointees will hold a solid plurality of the electors in a hypothetical Conclave, his 59 creations younger than 80 comprising just shy of half the now-traditional maximum electorate of 120. members. Yet while prior pontiffs have passed that milestone in turn – in the case of John Paul II, so overwhelmingly that he died with all of three voting members chosen by his predecessors – Francis' shattering of norms in the identikit of his picks makes his contributions to the scarlet ranks all the more impactful, above all as it's one of the few aspects of ecclesial life and the charting of the church's future course that no successor can alter... at least, not overnight.

Of course, one facet of the shift has been completing the project undertaken by Paul VI and duly burnished by John Paul – the broad-scale internationalization of the College, with a dozen countries long on the Catholic "peripheries" either receiving their first-ever cardinal or the first in quite some time under Francis; among other examples, in the case of Scandinavia, a situation unknown since before the Reformation.

But given the reality that the cardinals don't merely elect the next Pope – one of them will be the next Pope – what's arguably the bigger element of the change is the lone quality that links this pontificate's kaleidoscope of choices across the board: their collective embodiment (at least, in Francis' judgment) of the "pastoral conversion" he sees as the sine qua non of ministry in the modern church.

What that entails for the future will only fully reveal itself with time. For now, though, the degree to which it's already prepared a "reset button" extending beyond Bergoglio's reign – in some cases, one that'll stretch for decades – is a remarkable feat all its own.

* * *
By centuries-old tradition, the Popes have considered the cardinals "Pars corporis nostri" – "Part of our body" – the concept fleshed out both in the ancient role of the College's members as legates to places the pontiffs couldn't personally go, and the "body" from which a new Bishop of Rome is generated. Yet just as creating new cardinals "expands the body" as well as reshaping it, together with tomorrow's new class, Francis has taken a deeper added step at forming the College in his own image and likeness with an enduring effect.

In a formal rescript issued yesterday, the Pope made the biggest change to the structure of his "Senate" since the post-Conciliar reforms of Paul VI, adding the Curia's top four current cardinals to the Order of Bishops.

Historically the heads of the six suffragan dioceses of Rome, until the 1960s the cardinal-bishops – led by the College's dean – didn't merely hold the titles to the posts but were literally expected to oversee their respective outlying churches; in the decades since, full-time bishops have been named to do the work. At that same time, Eastern patriarchs given the red hat were added to the rank.

By adding four more Latin cardinals to the College's front row – the Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, and the prefects of the Eastern Churches (Leonardo Sandri), Bishops (Marc Ouellet) and Propaganda Fide (Fernando Filoni) – the move's real significance again lies beyond this pontificate. Had a Conclave convened without the additions, as all the current cardinal-bishops are aged out of the election, the senior voter presiding over a papal election would've been the Maronite Patriarch, Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Raï, now 78. With the change, Parolin, 63 – a figure who's increasingly consolidated his clout as Francis' indispensable, near-omnipresent top deputy – now takes precedence and will oversee the voting process.

What's more, however, the change paves the way to another key aspect of succession-planning. As the cardinal-dean regardless of his electoral status leads the general congregations preceding a Conclave and, all told, effectively serves as the "administrator" of the Roman church during a papal vacancy, the new cardinal-bishops join the pool which'll elect a new dean and from which he will be chosen once the office falls vacant.

Though that process is always significant with an eye to an interregnum, it's increasingly so under current circumstances given the controversy surrounding the current dean, 90 year-old Cardinal Angelo Sodano – John Paul's heavily influential Secretary of State – who's endured years of blistering criticism over his treatment of high-profile sex abuse cases, most recently in Chile, where he served as Nuncio before returning to the Curia in 1990 and has maintained an outsize profile given his closeness to the country's embattled hierarchy. Along these lines, then, with the new cardinal-bishops Francis has sped up the clock on what happens in his wake, likely with an eye to having one of his own appointees take complete control of his succession.

Again, it'll be a while yet before that storyline comes to full light, but yesterday's step makes for a major building-block toward it.

In the meantime, the elevation of Cardinal-designate Angelo Becciu alongside his new post as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints means that one major puzzle-piece for the present remains to be filled: Francis' choice of the Sardinian's successor as Sostituto of the Secretariat of State – essentially the Vatican equivalent of the White House Chief of Staff.

A lifelong diplomat who most notably served as Nuncio to Cuba before taking up the Curia's "nerve-center" post under Benedict XVI, as Becciu ceases as Parolin's deputy upon his receipt of the red hat, the choice of his replacement in the all-important role is expected within very short order.

* * *
Simply because not each of its picks can be covered equally, every Consistory has its "star" – the new cardinal who, whether by historic novelty or personal attributes, becomes the center of gravity around which the story of the moment is viewed by the wider world.

In this case, that's a particular fait accompli – and, unusually, one which belongs to the intake's Curial contingent: given his already high profile as Francis' "man in the street," this time around the spotlight belongs to "Don Corrado," Polish Cardinal-designate Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner who becomes that office's first modern head to don the red hat.

A Vatican lifer from his early recruitment under John Paul II – notably brought to Rome by the saint's polarizing MC, now-Archbishop Piero Marini – Francis made clear his affection for and confidence in Krajewski (pron. "Cro-YEV-ski") from the very outset, bucking protocol to crash the latter's 2013 ordination as archbishop wearing just his white cassock and a stole, sitting among the concelebrants so he could join in for the laying on of hands (above).

More recently, in his latest interview – last week with Reuters, the first English-language wire service to land a papal sit-down – Papa Bergoglio raised the stakes even further, describing the Almoner's office as being on a par with the CDF (for centuries, the Curia's "supreme" organ), depicting the duo's respective works of teaching and charity as "the two long arms of the pope." (Of course, tomorrow will likewise see the elevation of the new CDF prefect, the Jesuit Luis Ladaria.)

For his part, in a distinct rarity among Francis' choices, Don Corrado received a heads-up that he "should listen to the Regina Caeli" at which his name would be announced among the new cardinals; at the time, the 55 year-old – by far this crop's youngest member – was riding his bike to his ground-floor Vatican office to prepare a food delivery later that Sunday to the poor on the edges of Rome.

Since learning that he'd be joining the College, and thus completing one of the hierarchy's most meteoric ascents in recent times, Krajewski has admitted to interviewers that the Pope's decision has come as a frustration, fearing that the "complications" of being a cardinal could prove an obstacle to his work, much of it spent directly aiding the homeless on the city's streets under cover of night – many, if not most of whom, he knows by name.

Yet at the same time, talking with La Stampa's Andrea Tornielli as the reality began to sink in, the Pope's lead field-marshal against a "throwaway culture" hit on the significance of his place in the mix... one which extends well beyond himself:
"It's almost as if Francis is wanting to say [that] those who take seriously the words of Jesus in the Gospel – feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit the prisoner, receive the stranger – these are my principal collaborators."
And if that doesn't put Francis' "revolution" of governance in remaking the role of cardinals in its fullest light, then nothing ever will.


Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Fallout, Part One

Later this week, nine days after a historic storm cloud broke over the Stateside church, Catholic Washington will gather for the ordination of a new auxiliary of the capital's 750,000-member fold.

The rites coming all of three weeks since Bishop-elect Mike Fisher's appointment – an unusually quick timeframe – while the longtime DC Chancery personnel chief is widely well-regarded as a gentle, low-profile operator, the whole tenor of the moment has changed, the joy of the occasion now overtaken by the sudden elephant in the room.

To be sure, Cardinal Donald Wuerl has known for several months that a judgment of some kind was at hand on an allegation of abuse against his predecessor, but whether the rapid scheduling of Fisher's elevation was intended to get ahead of the findings on Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's case or circle the wagons in its wake is unclear.

In any event, with the now-removed iconic figure likely never to be seen at a major liturgy again, and a full turnout of the capital's laity and clerics, the Mid-Atlantic hierarchy and the Nuncio all to converge in the Basilica of the National Shrine for the non-ticketed Mass, the stage is set for one of the more daunting moments of Wuerl's three decades as a diocesan bishop...

...yet as if the aftershocks of last week weren't palpable enough, Friday's ordination will take place on the anniversary of another notable entrance into the episcopate: McCarrick's own, 41 years to the day, at the hands of his mentor, Cardinal Terence Cooke.

*  *  *
In the modern era of the church's sex-abuse crises – usually defined as 2002 onward – for everything the period has seen across the globe, Wednesday's announcement from the New York Chancery was genuinely uncharted territory on a number of levels.

For starters, it's been nearly a quarter-century since a cardinal has left the public stage amid substantiated charges of abusing a minor – and the last time it happened, Vienna's Cardinal Hans Hermann Gröer was already 75 and merely retired from the Austrian church's lead post, slipping off to a secluded monastery of his Benedictine community with no process to determine the veracity of the multiple claims, nor public penalties beyond disgrace.

Here, by contrast, what hasn't been sufficiently absorbed yet is how a system often – and, at least sometimes, rightly – criticized or not trusted for being a stacked clerical deck has effectively been upended: for the first time in memory, an ecclesial process saw laypeople sit in judgment of a cardinal, and the Pope enforce their conclusion.

By no means did things need to happen that way – if anything, it defies practically every classic argument in the canons. But if you're looking for evidence that a cultural shift has broadly, consequentially taken hold, even as a hypothetical, it would be difficult to find a clearer example than this. That it came to pass within the same week as the anniversary of the passage of the Dallas Charter is merely coincidental, but it underscores the point.

At the same time, correcting an element in Wednesday's first story, given the sole accountability of cardinals to the Pope himself, with the suspension in place imposed as a temporary remedial act, the final determination of McCarrick's sentence is pending before Francis alone, unless – as happened with the preliminary investigation in New York – the pontiff delegates the CDF to conduct a process of its own, whether administratively through its staff or a full tribunal.

As previously noted, while the since-deceased Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien was made to resign the rights and privileges of the red hat in 2015 over admitted sexual misconduct with adults, to repeat, an instance of a cardinal facing a substantiated report of abuse against a minor hasn't occurred since Groer. What's more, though, among the College, never before have both degrees of scandal converged at once – that is, until now.

Again, this is simply uncharted territory... and given the other shoe to come, it seems the summer ahead won't be as quiet as one might've hoped.

*   *   *
Among other cobbled notes, two aspects from the process' "ground zero" stick out.

First, it bears recalling that the abuse allegation against McCarrick came in the context of one of the more underreported stories in the recent trajectory of the scandals. Amid ongoing fears among the New York bishops that the state assembly in Albany will eventually pass a "window" law suspending the statute of limitations on civil abuse suits for a year or two – a move which has sent roughly a dozen dioceses in other states into Chapter 11 bankruptcy – in late 2016 the Gotham archdiocese initiated the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program: an in-house effort to resolve reports of past abuse out of court, with settlements determined by mediators retained by the church.

While the strategy has since been echoed by other Chanceries upstate, in the nation's third-largest diocese, the first phase reported payments of $40 million to some 200 survivors late last year. Including the accusation against the cardinal (filed in January), the process' second round closed in April; last week, the lawyer representing McCarrick's victim told New York outlets that his client's compensation offer had not yet been conveyed.

In total, the program's costs are being drawn from a $100 million loan on the archdiocese's considerable real-estate holdings.

On another front, meanwhile, Wednesday's development might just have ramifications in terms of the still-active American hierarchy. For starters, even if late-2017 expectations pegging Wuerl's retirement and successor in Washington to come right within these weeks had suddenly dwindled earlier this year – in hindsight, perhaps in light of the unexpected abuse case which would impact the 750,000-member capital church – though the process' opening stage hasn't begun as of this writing, once it does get underway, in one form or another the fallout of the removal is likely to figure into the calculus that produces DC's next archbishop.

Yet even more to the point, ever since Easter, ranking ops both in Rome and the States have focused to an unusual degree on an even stranger prospect: with Cardinal Edwin O'Brien said to be "feeling his age" at 79 amid a constant slate of heavy travel as Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, a remarkably prominent and consistent buzz through the spring has tipped Cardinal Timothy Dolan as O'Brien's potential successor again, repeating a handover first seen in 1994, when Dolan replaced the Bronx-born Army chaplain as rector of the Pontifical North American College, the start of a staggeringly rapid ascent through the hierarchy's ranks.

Of course, the kicker would be seismic – the chair of St Patrick's being held until death by each of its occupants from John Hughes in 1850 until the last one "got out alive" on his 2009 retirement, a Dolan return to Rome would vacate the archbishopric of New York for a man of Francis' choosing in the place the Vatican still sees as the "capital of the world," still by far the most prominent office in the American church. As for who could take it, well, the thousand year-old order would've had to lend this scribe some body armor to survive what would easily shape up as the most significant and contentious US selection process of this pontificate.

Clearly, a rumor of the kind is normally the type of thing that'd instinctively be tagged as beyond far-fetched and promptly howled down... yet given where it was coming from, it couldn't be in this case. And all that said, prevalent as it had been for a good while, the trail has suddenly halted in the wake of McCarrick's removal amid an early sense of two things: either that a move to open New York would inevitably be viewed as a papal commentary on the case... or, indeed, that further related developments would dictate a need for stability at the helm in 1011.

Whatever happens, the report is placed here for the sake of the historic record – if nothing else, far too many scribe-hours have gone into tracking it lo these many weeks.

*  *  *
And, lastly... well, that can wait.

For now, it's been a long four days and a good bit else to put together. Just in the last two hours, several sudden blips have made for shifts of focus; along the way, there's a Consistory on Thursday, the usual wrap-up announcements before the Vatican's summer exodus begins next weekend, and perhaps another curveball or two, to boot.

As it's quite the mix to trudge through, the one thing this scribe doesn't need to sweat about is being able to pay the bills that keep this shop running... ergo, lest anybody forgot, these pages only keep coming your way thanks to your support:


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

With A Cardinal's Fall, The Crisis Returns Home

With the specter of sex-abuse returned to the fore with a vengeance across the Catholic world, the story's mounting American angle has suddenly yielded a historic, shocking development: early Wednesday, the archdiocese of New York announced that the Holy See had removed Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from all public ministry following a 47 year-old allegation of abusing a minor during his days as a priest in the city.

By far, the 87 year-old retired archbishop of Washington – who marked his 60th anniversary of ordination last month – becomes the highest-ranking US cleric to be suspended due to a report deemed credible and substantiated, and the third member of the global College of Cardinals to face a founded allegation of sexual misconduct. A fourth, Cardinal George Pell – the Australian tapped by Pope Francis as the founding head of the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy – will face a double trial in his home country over the coming weeks on two charges of historic sex crimes; since becoming the first cardinal to be criminally charged on abuse counts a year ago next week, Pell has been on a voluntary leave from public ministry and his Roman role pending the outcome of the court process in Melbourne, where the 77 year-old served as archbishop through the 1990s.

Having remained one of American Catholicism's most influential prelates despite being well over a decade into retirement, McCarrick – who recently moved to a Washington nursing home – said in a statement this morning that he was "shocked by the report" and was "maintaining my innocence."

"In obedience I accept the decision of The Holy See, that I no longer exercise any public ministry," he said.

"I realize this painful development will shock my many friends, family members, and people I have been honored to serve in my sixty-years as a priest.

"While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people."

The cardinal is reportedly planning to appeal the finding to Rome; while a canonical recourse of the kind would normally be judged by the Congregation for the Clergy in the case of a priest, here it would ostensibly fall under the purview of the Congregation for Bishops, whose membership includes his successor in the capital, Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

Together with the announcement of the abuse finding, the current holders of the cardinal's first two diocesan assignments – northern New Jersey's archdiocese of Newark and diocese of Metuchen – made the joint revelation that their Chanceries had "received three allegations of sexual misconduct [by McCarrick] with adults decades ago; two of these allegations resulted in settlements." The cardinal's response made no mention of this aspect of the announcement.

On the historical front, in the lone prior case of similarly established misconduct with adults by a cardinal, in 2015 Francis "accepted the resignation of the rights and privileges" of membership in the College – an exceedingly rare act – submitted by the Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who forfeited his participation in the 2013 Conclave as the allegations surfaced. Following his renunciation, O'Brien lived in exiled obscurity in England until his death at 80 in March.

According to the New York statement, the finding of the abuse report as credible came by means of the standard process to which all allegations against priests, deacons and lay employees are submitted in the wake of the US bishops' 2002 "Dallas Charter" and Norms, which are particular law for the national church. As bishops are exempt from the remit of the Charter, the archdiocese said that the Holy See – which enjoys exclusive competence in matters pertaining to prelates – directed that the protocols applying to any other case be maintained, a decision without precedent in the case of a high-ranking cleric.

In itself, that context is extraordinary given the process' central role of a diocesan review board comprised exclusively of independent lay experts, which deemed the allegation credible and provided the basis for McCarrick's removal from ministry, a judgment carried out by the Pope's top deputy, the Cardinal-Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, on Francis' behalf.

Given the allegation's cited timeframe of 47 years, in 1971 then-Msgr McCarrick would have been freshly named as priest-secretary to New York's Cardinal Terence Cooke after a stint as rector of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico.

By tradition the most powerful post in the Gotham Chancery after the archbishop himself, the future cardinal remained at the helm of Cooke's office even after his appointment as an auxiliary bishop in 1977 at the age of 46.

Notably, while a push for the beatification of Cooke has been a passionate cause among many since the cardinal's death from leukemia in 1983, the momentum for the project has stalled in recent years amid reports that Cardinal Timothy Dolan was concerned over his late predecessor's perceived mishandling of abuse cases during his 15-year tenure, fearing that the Roman investigation into Cooke's life would resurface the issue. At the time, a source close to McCarrick relayed to Whispers that the DC cardinal was irate over the blocking of his mentor's cause.

*   *   *
All that said, while a development of this sort would be seismic regardless of which cardinal it involved, that sense is exponentially amplified given the outsize role McCarrick has held both on the national and global stage for more than three decades.

Even before he transformed the role of Washington's archbishop into a formidable pulpit far beyond its own turf, from his days in Newark, the slight figure in a threadbare jacket universally known as "Ted" has been and remained one of the Stateside leadership's principal forces of nature, carving out a massive profile that's extended from raising untold millions of dollars for church causes of every stripe to serving as the American church's de facto goodwill ambassador to the wider world and parachuting into more humanitarian emergencies than most folks knew existed, so much so that the long-standing quip among his priests was that "his official portrait should be taken through the window of an airplane."

Along the way, his fan-base transcended borders – when George W. Bush came to the White House in 2001, his first dinner party in Washington was at the cardinal's Chancery apartment; to the expletive-laden fury of his then-counterpart across the Hudson, McCarrick prodded John Paul II to land instead in New Jersey on the now-saint's last US tour in 1995 (with then-President Bill Clinton waiting on the tarmac); as the cardinal was being treated at a Roman hospital shortly after the 2013 Conclave, the newly-elected Francis rang his cellphone to check up on him, and last summer, before a crowd of 90,000 at the capital's FedEx Field, U2's Bono dedicated "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" to "our old friend."

At the church's topmost levels, meanwhile, the legacy is no less widespread: now the senior of McCarrick's "sons," his vicar-general in Washington has joined him in the Pope's "Senate" on becoming the cardinal-head of the Vatican's organ for the laity and family life, while in his beloved Newark, it was a "Ted talk" to Francis that saw New Jersey score a red hat of its own in the form of the Pope's closest Stateside friend...

...and for now, shattering and simply unreal as all this is, it's to that "adopted son," Cardinal Joe Tobin, that the last word belongs:
Cardinal McCarrick served this Archdiocese for almost fifteen years. No doubt many of you developed strong relationships with him and appreciate the impact of his service. Those feelings are likely hard to reconcile with the news of a credible and substantiated claim of abuse of a minor. While Cardinal McCarrick maintains his innocence and the canonical process continues, we must put first the serious nature of this matter with respect and support for the process aimed at hearing victims and finding truth.

The abuse crisis in our Church has been devastating. We cannot undo the actions of the past, but we must continue to act with vigilance today. I renew my commitment to seek forgiveness and healing, while ensuring a safe environment for children in this Archdiocese. I will continue to report immediately to civil authorities any accusation of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy and will cooperate fully in the investigation and adjudication. I continue to urge anyone who was abused by clergy to come forward, as brave survivors before you have done. To the priests, religious and all other members of this community, I join you in continued prayer that God carry us together in his love with commitment to our faith and each other.
*   *   *
Even as today's news represents a watershed moment in the US church's three-decade journey through the scandals, McCarrick's removal nonetheless heightens the epochal nature of the days at hand.

Sometime next week, the Pennsylvania attorney general, Josh Shapiro, is expected to release the most extensive civil report to date on the US church's response to abuse, the result of a two-year grand jury that's probed six of the state's eight Latin-church dioceses (Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton).

As first reported by the British daily The Guardian, the findings – drawn from extensive testimony and subpoenaed personnel-files dating back to the late 1940s – are expected to fill nearly 900 pages.

Though the sprawling text is tipped to make for an explicit drubbing of the handling of cases by prelates long since retired or deceased, Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer reported that no criminal charges will be recommended by the panel, ostensibly against neither alleged abusers nor diocesan officials.

The nation's first civil investigation of abuse to stretch beyond a single diocese, the six local churches will respond individually to the report upon its release.

SVILUPPO (4.40pm): In an unexpected ruling late Wednesday afternoon, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a stay preventing the publication of the grand jury report amid unspecified "legal challenges" to its release.

According to the two-paragraph ruling, the report's issuance has been halted "pending further order" of the seven-member court – all its members elected on party lines, currently a Democratic majority of 5-2.

No timeframe for a potential order to publish was given, and the breakdown of the justices' vote was not disclosed.


Monday, June 11, 2018

With Prime Target's Ouster, Pope's Chilean Cleanout Begins

Three weeks since the bishops of Chile offered their joint resignation to the Pope in an unprecedented response to a deepening abuse crisis, Francis' concrete moves to right the ship have begun precisely as the victims would've hoped.

At Roman Noon this Monday – all of five months since the pontiff's last public defense of Bishop Juan Barros – Francis' stunning turnabout came full circle as he accepted the 61 year-old prelate's resignation from the helm of the diocese of Osorno, ending a three-year tenure marked on the ground by protests and resistance from its outset. (Above, Barros is seen caught in the midst of demonstrators at his 2015 installation.)

On his transfer to the remote, southern church from Chile's military ordinariate, Barros was implicated by the victims of the country's most notorious predator, Fr Fernando Karadima, of having witnessed their abuse as a young priest in Santiago in the 1980s. Over the last six weeks, the Pope has invited groups of Karadima survivors for two weekends' worth of talks at the Domus.

Having previously submitted his resignation twice only for it to be declined by Francis, while Barros had become the most prominent target of calls for his removal – all as the Osorno cathedral has been occupied by "sit-in" vigils since his arrival – today's departures did not extend to the handful of other Karadima proteges who've since become diocesan bishops. Then again, the trio of moves announced today are only expected to be the first strike of an ongoing clearout that, according to some projections, will eventually see roughly half of the nation's 33-man active bench leave office.

Alongside Barros, the two other prelates relieved of their posts – Archbishop Christián Caro Cordero of Puerto Montt and Bishop Gonzalo Duarte García de Cortazar of Valparaiso, the country's second-largest diocese – are both over the retirement age of 75, thus rendering their participation in the en bloc resignation a purely symbolic act.

While a Chilean priest recently said he had lodged an allegation of Duarte's complicity in "sexual abuse, abuse of conscience and power" with the country's Nuncio in 2008 and never received a response, the Pope's move to include Caro in the first wave of the ousters is especially notable on two fronts: first, as metropolitan of the province which includes Osorno, the archbishop has had a degree of supervisory authority over Barros and the suffragan diocese. In the face of the protests, Caro proved one of Barros' most resolute defenders in the hierarchy, openly attacking the Osorno demonstrators and maintaining as recently as last month that, although the scandals presented a serious issue for the Chilean church, the ongoing tide of revelations and outrage was not to be considered "a crisis."

On another significant front, today's announcements come as the Pope's special investigators for the Chilean church, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and the CDF staffer Msgr Jordi Bertomeu, are slated to return tomorrow for a week of further interviews with victims and other impacted parties, only now shifting their focus from Santiago to Osorno itself.

Given both the delicate situation and the separate need to reconstruct the country's apparatus for episcopal appointments in light of the implication of the current Nuncio, Archbishop Ivo Scapolo, in the handling of events, alongside today's resignations Francis named apostolic administrators for the three vacant dioceses. As two of the temporary picks are auxiliaries of Santiago, the choices further indicate that not all of the bishops' resignations will be accepted, not to mention that it will almost certainly be a long wait until permanent successors are appointed. (Unlike elected diocesan administrators, as an apostolic administrator's mandate derives from papal appointment, the latter may exercise the full authority of a diocesan bishop for the duration of their mission.)

As previously noted, even with Barros' departure from center stage, the Chilean church's three most critical personnel decisions remain pending before Francis: a new archbishop of Santiago, the country's most senior post, where Cardinal Riccardo Ezzati is well over a year past 75; a new Nuncio to replace the tainted Scapolo and manage the bench's rebuilding, and perhaps most prominently, the fate of the retired Santiago Cardinal Francisco Errazuriz Ossa – long an outspoken opponent of Karadima's victims – who maintains his seat on the Pope's "C9" group of lead advisers.

On the latter piece, the 25th meeting of the "Gang of Nine" began today at the Domus. Whether Errazuriz was in attendance won't be disclosed by the Vatican until the gathering's close on Wednesday.

Among other recent developments, following the bishops' return from their three-day May summit with Francis, the local landscape was further roiled by the suspension of 15 priests amid fresh allegations in the diocese of Rancagua, whose ordinary, Bishop Alejandro Goic, happens to be the chairman of the Chilean church's commission on sexual abuse.

While Barros issued a statement seeking forgiveness for his "limitations" and "what I couldn't accomplish," the de facto face of Karadima's victims, Juan Carlos Cruz, issued the following response shortly after the resignations were announced:
Having been among the first group of survivors to meet with Francis in late April, in other statements Cruz has used the phrase "Que se vayan todos" in reference to the bishops – that is, "They all should go."


Sunday, June 03, 2018

"In This Way, We Live 'Eucharistically'" – On Corpus Christi, Today's "Abandoned Tabernacles"

For the first time since John Paul II came to Peter's Chair, a Pope took the traditional Corpus Christi Mass and procession outside the majestic heart of Rome....

That Francis did it, however, should surprise no one – yet again, the inspiration came from Paul VI, who led the rite in the same ancient port of Ostia fifty years ago.

Whether this year's departure from the customary site at St John Lateran is a one-off remains to be seen. But in a reinforcement of Papa Bergoglio's intent in moving the event to the "peripheries" of Rome's eldest suffragan church, his homily tonight offered a potent reflection on what the reception and veneration of Christ's Body and Blood entails....
The Gospel we just heard speaks of the Last Supper, but surprisingly, pays more attention to the preparations than to the dinner itself. We keep hearing the word “prepare”. For example, the disciples ask: “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” (Mk 14:12). Jesus sends them off with clear instructions to make the necessary preparations and they find “a large room… furnished and ready” (v. 15). The disciples went off to prepare, but the Lord had already made his own preparations.

Something similar occurs after the resurrection when Jesus appears to the disciples for the third time. While they are fishing, he waits for them on the shore, where he has already prepared bread and fish for them. Even so, he tells the disciples to bring some of the fish that they have just caught, which he himself had shown them how to catch (cf. Jn 21:6.9-10). Jesus has already made preparations and he asks his disciples to cooperate. Once again, just before the Passover meal, Jesus tells the disciples: “I go to prepare a place for you… so that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn 14:2.3). Jesus is the one who prepares, yet before his own Passover, he also asks us urgently, with exhortations and parables, to be prepared, to remain ever ready (cf. Mt 24:44; Lk 12:40).

Jesus, then, prepares for us and asks us to be prepared. What does he prepare for us? A place and a meal. A place much more worthy than the “large furnished room” of the Gospel. It is our spacious and vast home here below, the Church, where there is, and must be, room for everyone. But he has also reserved a place for us on high, in heaven, so that we can be with him and with one another forever. In addition to a place, he prepares a meal, the Bread in which he gives himself: “Take; this is my body” (Mk 14:22). These two gifts, a place, and a meal are what we need to live. They are our ultimate “room and board”. Both are bestowed upon us in the Eucharist.

Jesus prepares a place for us here below because the Eucharist is the beating heart of the Church. It gives her birth and rebirth; it gathers her together and gives her strength. But the Eucharist also prepares for us a place on high, in eternity, for it is the Bread of heaven. It comes down from heaven – it is the only matter on earth that savors of eternity. It is the bread of things to come; even now, it grants us a foretaste of a future infinitely greater than all we can hope for or imagine. It is the bread that sates our greatest expectations and feeds our finest dreams. It is, in a word, the pledge of eternal life – not simply a promise but a pledge, a concrete anticipation of what awaits us there. The Eucharist is our “reservation” for the heavenly banquet; it is Jesus himself, as food for our journey towards eternal life and happiness.

In the consecrated host, together with a place, Jesus prepares for us a meal, food for our nourishment. In life, we constantly need to be fed: nourished not only with food but also with plans and affection, hopes and desires. We hunger to be loved. But the most pleasing compliments, the finest gifts, and the most advanced technologies are not enough; they never completely satisfy us. The Eucharist is simple food, like bread, yet it is the only food that satisfies, for there is no greater love. There we encounter Jesus really; we share his life and we feel his love. There you can realize that his death and resurrection are for you. And when you worship Jesus in the Eucharist, you receive from him the Holy Spirit and you find peace and joy. Dear brothers and sisters, let us choose this food of life! Let us make Mass our priority! Let us rediscover Eucharistic adoration in our communities! Let us implore the grace to hunger for God, with an insatiable desire to receive what he has prepared for us.

As he did with his disciples, so too today Jesus asks us, today, to prepare. Like the disciples, let us ask him: “Lord, where do you want us to go to prepare?” Where: Jesus does not prefer exclusive, selective places. He looks for places untouched by love, untouched by hope. Those uncomfortable places are where he wants to go and he asks us to prepare his way. How many persons lack dignified housing or food to eat! All of us know people who are lonely, troubled and in need: they are abandoned tabernacles. We, who receive from Jesus our own room and board, are here to prepare a place and a meal for these, our brothers and sisters in need. Jesus became bread broken for our sake; in turn, he asks us to give ourselves to others, to live no longer for ourselves but for one another. In this way, we live “eucharistically”, pouring out upon the world the love we draw from the Lord’s flesh. The Eucharist is translated into life when we pass beyond ourselves to those all around us.

The Gospel tells us that the disciples made their preparations once they “set out and went to the city” (v. 16). The Lord calls us also today to prepare for his coming not by keeping our distance but by entering our cities. That includes this city, whose very name – Ostia – means entrance, doorway. Lord, how many doors do you want us to open for you here? How many gates do you call us to unbar, how many walls must we tear down? Jesus wants the walls of indifference and silent collusion to be breached, iron bars of oppression and arrogance torn asunder, and paths cleared for justice, civility and legality. The vast beachfront of this city speaks to us of how beautiful it is to open our hearts and to set out in new directions in life. But this requires loosening the knots that keep us bound to the moorings of fear and depression. The Eucharist invites to let ourselves be carried along by the wave of Jesus, to not remain grounded on the beach in the hope that something may come along, but to cast into the deep, free, courageous and united.

The Gospel ends by telling us that the disciples, “after singing a hymn, went out” (v. 26). At the end of Mass, we too will go out; we will go forth with Jesus, who will pass through the streets of this city. Jesus wants to dwell among you. He wants to be part of your lives, to enter your houses and to offer his liberating mercy, his blessing and his consolation. You have experienced painful situations; the Lord wants to be close to you. Let us open our doors to him and say:

Come, Lord, and visit us.
We welcome you into our hearts,
our families and our city.
We thank you because you have prepared for us
the food of life and a place in your Kingdom.
Make us active in preparing your way,
joyous in bringing you, who are the Way, to others,
and thus to bring fraternity, justice, and peace
to our streets. Amen.