Friday, March 31, 2006

So This Is What Venezuela Does For Its Cardinals....

Arriving home last night, Venezuela gave a state ceremony to its new red hat, Cardinal Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino, the archbishop of Caracas.

Hugo Chavez and a veritable military tattoo showed up to greet the cardinal as he returned to the capital.

By the looks of it, you'd think Urosa was a head of state or something. Unreal.

Reuters/Miraflores Palace


Toward the Bicentennial

OK, friends, we're on the clock.

A week from tomorrow, 8 April, we'll be two years out from what better be a fitting celebration -- 200 years of the American hierarchy's first expansion. On that day in 1808, the diocese of Baltimore, founded twenty years earlier to serve the whole of the 13 original states, became an archdiocese as new local churches were founded at Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Bardstown (now Louisville).

And the divide between Tridentine and Enlightenment Catholics remains....

With an eye to the reopening of the restored Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore -- US Catholicism's mother church -- this coming November, the current holder of the Premier See, Cardinal William Keeler, gives an interview to 30 giorni on the basilica, the pioneer bishop John Carroll, and his see's place in the wider prism of the American tradition of religious freedom.
The reply that George Washington delivered to Pius VI about the freedom of the Pope to nominate the bishops in the newly born Confederation of the American States was surprising. The choice fell on the Jesuit John Carroll – who then became archbishop of Baltimore – who had greatly insisted that the first bishop be a native and not one sent from Rome…
KEELER: Carroll well understood that you need someone who understands the local situation. That’s why in more recent periods the popes have tried very hard to ensure that they have native bishops all around the world, aware of the local culture, the ways of the particular people, in the sole purpose of helping to advance the cause of the Church.
And the second American bishop was also a Jesuit, Leonard Neall [sic -- it's Neale]. When I was once ordaining some Jesuits, I told them that the decision of Clement XIV to abolish their order had been a blessing for us, because that made it possible for the Jesuits to come back from Rome and for two of them to be nominated the first two bishops in the United States.
For the bulk of its earlier years, to avoid a vacuum at the top, Baltimore had a constant stream of coadjutors. John Carroll was succeeded immediately on his 1815 death by Neale, who died two years later in a carriage accident and whose coadjutor, the Sulpician Ambrose Marechal, took over immediately....

Well, almost -- Marechal's appointment as coadjutor had been finalized in Rome, but the news hadn't arrived at Baltimore until after Neale's death. Same thing happened with Marechal's coadjutor-successor, James Whitfield. The last of the line was Samuel Eccleston, another Sulpician who rose to the US Church's top post at the age of 33, a month after he was ordained as coadjutor to Archbishop Whitfield.

Many of you are bored right now, I can tell....

Keeler on the Baltimore Catechism:
Baltimore hosted many Provincial and Plenary Councils, in which all the American Church was represented. What did they talk about?
KEELER: Particularly those topics that we are also concerned about today, that is to give young people a Christian education, pass on a living faith to the generation growing up. The first Plenary Councils established norms about this, before there were public schools on American soil. Those then existing were run by the different religious denominations: Catholics, Baptists, etc....

Your Eminence, what is the “Baltimore Catechism”?
KEELER: The third Plenary American Council decided on the composition of a catechism that would be valid throughout the United States given that there were so many different catechisms in use then. The Council set up a special committee and an Italian priest was chosen to draft the texts that were then reviewed by a committee of bishops. The Catechism was published around 1890.
If I were the interviewer, I'd immediately ask the archbishop of Baltimore "Why did God make me?" just to be sure he could answer the first question of the Catechism published by Gibbons verbatim.

Speaking of Q&A Catechism, word is that the Compendium is out today? I don't know, but while looking for the answer I did find a place where you can send birthday e-cards to Benedict XVI, who turns 79 on Easter Sunday....


Ask the Cardinal a Question

First off, good morning and greetings to anyone who may be reading from Anaheim and one of US Catholicism's annual mega-events, the 2006 LA Religious Education Conference. Drop me a line and let me know what's doin' out there....

Today is the first full day of the conference, which had its annual Youth Day yesterday. Later on, Cardinal Roger Mahony will have his internet chat with the world -- that takes place from 11.15 to noon local time, 2.15 to 3pm Eastern, so keep an eye for that.

And whatever else I hear or see from the REC will go up as it comes in.


File This One Under "Interesting"....

So a bit of a tempest has been raging in Boston this week over a photo of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia making an intriguing gesture....

The question became "Did he or didn't he?," all kinda of brouhaha broke out, and then the photo -- taken by a freelancer for the Pilot, the archdiocesan paper -- was aired in the Herald, and now the photog's been fired.

Peter Smith, who had freelanced for The Pilot newspaper for a decade, lost the job yesterday after the Herald ran his photo on its front page. Smith said he has no regrets about releasing it.
“I did the right thing. I did the ethical thing,” said Smith, 51, an assistant photojournalism professor at Boston University.
Smith snapped the photo of Scalia flicking his hand under his chin after a Herald reporter asked the conservative jurist his response to people who question his impartiality on matters of church and state.
Smith wouldn’t give up the photo earlier this week but chose to release it when he learned Scalia said his gesture had been incorrectly characterized by the Herald. Smith, who was standing in front of the judge, said the Herald “got the story right.”
Smith said the Pilot had an obligation at that point “to bring some clarity to it.”
“I felt that same obligation,” Smith said. “I had to say what I knew and come forward with it..”
The weekly Catholic newspaper made a “journalistic decision” not to run or release the photo, said Archdiocese spokesman Terry Donilon. “Because he breached that trust with the editor, we will no longer engage his services as a freelance photographer,” Donilon said.
“It’s nothing personal,” added Pilot editor Antonio Enrique. “I need to try and find people I can trust.”
While news outlets from across the country sought Smith’s photo yesterday, the archdiocese said there’s no proof that Scalia uttered an obsenity in the church. Smith said Scalia said, “To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’ ” while making the gesture. That’s Italian for (expletive) you.
Seems he was the only one who heard it.... Still reeks of bizarro, though, the whole thing.


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Wojtyla, A Year On

How do you sum up 27 remarkable years in 1,800 words?

That's the question I had to face after an All Saints Day phone call from Fr Bill Parker, editor of Liguorian, the venerable monthly published by the Redemptorist Fathers.

Pulled over in my car in front of a gas station, the editor offered me an opportunity which was both joy and challenge -- to write the magazine's retrospective on the first anniversary of the death of John Paul II, placing the voluminous achievements and events of the pontificate into a historical context.

Given the mountain of Wojtyla's writings, acts and travels, it wasn't easy. But it was great fun to return to the aspect of the late Pope's thought which has always intrigued me, that of the "sign of contradiction," and to use it as the launchpad for my humble take.

I can only hope the final product is a helpful reflection for the magazine's audience and anyone keen to look back as we enter this anniversary weekend.

The magazine usually places only its cover story on its website -- this month's featured piece is on the Triduum. However, and gratefully, Fr Bill & Co. have decided to publish the John Paul piece online as well. You can find it here.

More on the anniversary, and the worldwide celebrations which'll mark it, as it comes.


Fallout in Motor City

Announcing the archdiocese of Detroit's reconfiguration plans yesterday, Cardinal Adam Maida struck a tone more reminiscent of his recently-retired (and much more popular) auxiliary than someone with a penchant for being an ecclesiastical tycoon:
"I was born into a church where things were very centrally planned and things came down to us from on top," Maida, who turned 76 this month, said. "But through my years in ministry, I've learned that God works through all of us."
Proving yet again the ancient adage of episcopal management: when times are bad, we're all in this together. When times are good, bow down.

But of course, one Detroit priest has been able to see through all of the legalese and find the real culprit of the closings: a celibate, male-only priesthood.

Forgive me for feeling nauseous.
In Wyandotte, the Rev. Charles Morris, pastor of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church said he's frustrated Maida is allowing the priest shortage to drive the downsizing. Like Wasko, Morris said he wishes Maida would not insist that every parish be supervised by a priest.

"A big question the church is going to have to address is: Is it more important to have male celibates but with less access to the Eucharist?" Morris asked. "What is the more central core of the Catholic faith?"
If every other denomination were ordaining droves and droves, or at least a significantly higher per capita, this argument might hold some weight in terms of, you know, the empirics.

But -- guess what -- it doesn't. And what's the one thing worse than a clericalized clergy, friends? That's right: clericalized laity.

So an administrative exigency is being exploited as an ideological battering ram.... Then again, what's new?


Happy Cardinal, Overlay Stole

Cardinal Joseph Zen SDB of Hong Kong -- the most joy-filled of the 15 new cardinals created last week -- celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving for his elevation upon his return home.... He also had a press conference, but nothing seems to have been translated from it yet.

And if you're one of those people who would hope that the Holy See would intervene on the question of the vestments... um... don't hold your breath.

Reuters/Bobby Yip


The Pope's Election Manifesto

As many of you know, Italy is in the midst of a heated general-election campaign in advance of the 9 April vote. As a consequence, politics has dominated the news, and the political activity of the Holy See and the Italian church have been under a microscope in recent weeks.

This morning, Benedict XVI received a group of European parliamentarians from the Popular Party, which has its roots in the Christian democratic movement. He used the occasion to offer his strongest political message to date.

From the text as delivered in English:

At present, Europe has to address complex issues of great importance, such as the growth and development of European integration, the increasingly precise definition of neighbourhood policy within the Union and the debate over its social model. In order to attain these goals, it will be important to draw inspiration, with creative fidelity, from the Christian heritage which has made such a particular contribution to forging the identity of this continent. By valuing its Christian roots, Europe will be able to give a secure direction to the choices of its citizens and peoples, it will strengthen their awareness of belonging to a common civilization and it will nourish the commitment of all to address the challenges of the present for the sake of a better future. I therefore appreciate your Group’s recognition of Europe’s Christian heritage, which offers valuable ethical guidelines in the search for a social model that responds adequately to the demands of an already globalized economy and to demographic changes, assuring growth and employment, protection of the family, equal opportunities for education of the young and solicitude for the poor.

Your support for the Christian heritage, moreover, can contribute significantly to the defeat of a culture that is now fairly widespread in Europe, which relegates to the private and subjective sphere the manifestation of one’s own religious convictions. Policies built on this foundation not only entail the repudiation of Christianity’s public role; more generally, they exclude engagement with Europe’s religious tradition, which is so clear, despite its denominational variations, thereby threatening democracy itself, whose strength depends on the values that it promotes (cf. Evangelium Vitae, 70). Given that this tradition, precisely in what might be called its polyphonic unity, conveys values that are fundamental for the good of society, the European Union can only be enriched by engaging with it. It would be a sign of immaturity, if not indeed weakness, to choose to oppose or ignore it, rather than to dialogue with it. In this context one has to recognize that a certain secular intransigence shows itself to be the enemy of tolerance and of a sound secular vision of state and society. I am pleased, therefore, that the European Union’s constitutional treaty envisages a structured and ongoing relationship with religious communities, recognizing their identity and their specific contribution. Above all, I trust that the effective and correct implementation of this relationship will start now, with the cooperation of all political movements irrespective of party alignments. It must not be forgotten that, when Churches or ecclesial communities intervene in public debate, expressing reservations or recalling various principles, this does not constitute a form of intolerance or an interference, since such interventions are aimed solely at enlightening consciences, enabling them to act freely and responsibly, according to the true demands of justice, even when this should conflict with situations of power and personal interest.

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge clearly today:

- protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death;

- recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family - as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage - and its defence from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role;

- the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.

These principles are not truths of faith, even though they receive further light and confirmation from faith; they are inscribed in human nature itself and therefore they are common to all humanity. The Church’s action in promoting them is therefore not confessional in character, but is addressed to all people, prescinding from any religious affiliation they may have. On the contrary, such action is all the more necessary the more these principles are denied or misunderstood, because this constitutes an offence against the truth of the human person, a grave wound inflicted onto justice itself.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

It Hurts Just Thinking About It....

BBC covers a story which music history buffs have long known about. Yes, the church's patronage of the arts benefited mightily from this....
In 17th and 18th Century Italy, about 4,000 boys were castrated each year, from the age of eight upwards, with the aim of making a fortune as opera singers and soloists with choirs in churches and royal palaces.

The castrato's voice was prized for its combination of high pitch and power - with the unbroken voice able to reach the high notes, but delivered with the strength of an adult male.

Composers were enthusiastic about the more complex musical possibilities of these voices - and music lovers turned these exotic figures into the pop idols of their day.

"The best castrati were superstars, adored by female fans. Their voices had a tremendous emotional impact on the audiences of the day," said Sarah Bardwell, director of the Handel House Museum, which is staging the exhibition.
Tip to Jimmy Mac and Don Biaggio, our resident scholar of the period.


The Piece That Rocked the Borgo

Forgive me for being in partial reruns this week.... To use TV-speak, last week was "Sweeps Week" (or the Olympics), and this week I'm just trying to catch a breather inbetween everything else going on. But this is something which newer readers, who haven't seen it previously, might enjoy.

One thing Catholic which continues to fascinate the wider audience -- always a surefire conversation-starter in church circles -- is the future of the Jesuits. And possibly my favorite piece of all of the 1,600 or so I've written for these pages was published at the end of January, as speculation surrounded the potential retirement of Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach as Superior of the Society of Jesus at a General Convention to be convoked in 2008.

The Jesuit General, often called the "Black Pope" has, with but one exception, served for life. Given that reality, talk of Kolvenbach's early departure stirred the pot among his confreres and in circles throughout the wider church.

Five days after the piece originally ran, the 35th General Congregation of the Society was called by the Jesuit Curia for January, 2008, and Kolvenbach announced that it would elect his successor.

This was the first airing of widely-speculated potential successors to the post seen as the most important job in the church after that of the Pope.

The piece's original title: "24 Months of Murmuratio," of course....


There's a great story in the modern lore of the Society of Jesus.

One day, the Society's head, Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, was walking in the Vatican Gardens when he happened upon the then-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, accompanied by his sister Maria. (Maria Ratzinger died in 1991 but served until her death as the manager of her brother's household.)

Seeing the Black Pope out of the corner of his eye, the Grand Inquisitor beckoned him -- "Father-General! Father-General! Come, come!"

Cardinal Ratzinger was indulging in his favored pastime: sharing a respite with his feline friends. Introducing the Dutchman to the bevy of streetcats which had gathered around their beloved curial patron, the prelate known as Panzerkardinal told the Jesuit, "You see, Father-General, this is the audience that listens to me."

The audience has since grown a bit for the man who became Benedict XVI. As for Kolvenbach, speculation has grown in recent weeks about whether the head of the church's largest order since 1983 will follow in the tradition of his predecessors extending back to Ignatius of Loyola and lead the Society until his death.

Until a 5 November audience the Pope granted to Fr Carlos Alfonso Azpiroz Costa, the Master of the Dominicans, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach was the only major superior to be received in audience by the new pontiff. (Benedict XVI has since received Fr José Rodríguez Carballo, the minister-general of the Observant Franciscans, on 26 January.) In fact, the Black Pope has met with his "White" counterpart on several occasions since Ratzinger's April election, the most recent of which took place last month.

Unlike practically every other religious community in the church, Ignatius designed his Society as a counterpoint to the capitular model; that is, it does not convene for plenary meetings on a fixed schedule.

The General Congregation, as the Jesuit convocation is known, is called either at the death of a Superior General to elect his successor, or at the discretion of a General who wishes to convoke the community to hear its mind on salient issues. For example, the 32nd General Congregation in 1975 was convoked to examine the Jesuit mission ten years following the Second Vatican Council -- its emphasis on social justice crystallized much of the initiative for which the Society was called to heel six years later. The last GC, also an extraordinary one, was held in 1995. Between the Provincials, who sit on it by virtue of their office, and elected delegates from the provinces, the total membership of a modern GC numbers around 200.

At a private audience granted to Kolvenbach on 11 June 2005, sources within the Society tell Whispers that the Father-General requested Benedict XVI's input on consulting with the Jesuit provincials worldwide on the "possible" calling of a General Congregation in 2008, the business of which which would "possibly" include the election of his successor as Superior General.

This doesn't happen everyday. As one Roman illustrates the ideal, "There are two jobs in the church you don't give up -- the Pope and the Black Pope." The lone exception was Pedro Arrupe, who suffered a debilitating stroke in 1981 and resigned two years later, between which time the "imposition" of the papal delegates Paolo Dezza (later a cardinal) and Giuseppe Pittau (now an archbishop and the former secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education) had taken place.

The delegati were so loved that one novitiate named its pitbulls after them.

Benedict gave Kolvenbach the go-ahead to canvass his provincials, which happened in November at the opening of the Jesuit's Tri-Jubilee Year (the 450th anniversary of Ignatius of Loyola's death, the 500th birthday of Francis Xavier and the 500th birthday of Bl. Peter Favre) in Loyola. The consultation was carried out individually.

Alongside the discussion of principals, however, Kolvenbach's plan attracted resistance in the Curia, particularly in the Secretariat of State, fearful that a retirement at the helm of the Jesuits could establish a dangerous precedent and, in future, be forced on political grounds.

The Father-General returned to the Pope on 15 December in private audience to report on the soundings he had taken the month prior.

Still unclear, however, is whether Kolvenbach's resignation will definitely be on the table.

By the time the 35th General Congregation would be slated to meet in early 2008, the Father-General will be months away from his 80th birthday, and the battles of the years would make even the strongest of men weary.

If his retirement plan goes forward, however, a handful of names are being prominently mentioned in Jesuit circles, each in the "ideal" age range of late fifties to early sixties: the Australian Provincial, Fr Mark Raper; Fr Orlando Torres, a Puerto Rican currently at the Jesuit Curia's formation desk in Rome and the former Jesuit superior on Puerto Rico; and Italian Fr Franco Imoda, the former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, who is seen as a "dark horse." Each are said to be "Arrupe people," in one way or another.

Raper, who served through the 1990s as head of Jesuit Relief Services in Rome, is extremely well-regarded among his confreres for his faith and justice credentials, having championed refugee resettlement and reconciliation efforts on several continents. Combining what one well-placed Jesuit calls an "Australian, shoot from the hip instinct" with the refinement of Roman experience, Raper is a past recipient of the "Servant of Peace" Award given by the Path to Peace foundation in New York, and a member of the Order of Australia, the highest honor his home country can bestow.

Torres is a talented linguist, respected as a "Jesuit's Jesuit." In some quarters, however, he is said to be viewed as an "ideologue" -- a negative connotation in the Society -- and his background in the "protected world" of Jesuit formation might be viewed across a critical mass of the Society as a liability, as would his US passport.

As rector of the Gregorian, Imoda -- a psychiatrist who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago -- served in Rome's most prominent educational office, and is quite well-known and well-regarded around town.

Imoda also co-founded the Greg's Institute for Psychology, and in a 2002 interview with the National Catholic Reporter, as the issue of psychological screening and observation came to the forefront of the emerging abuse crisis in the United States, said that "“If we take secular psychology blindly, it’s inadequate. But if we believe [psychology] has nothing to say to us because we already have everything in our hands, we would be seriously mistaken.”

According to John Allen, Imoda's message was that "it’s a mistake to think you can bypass psychology in vocations work and skip directly to the spiritual level."

"'When you do spiritual direction, when you do training, you do some psychological work,' Imoda said. 'You cannot perform a spiritual intervention completely separated from the psychological or human aspect,'" NCR reported.

It's been said that, of the names mentioned here, Imoda's election as Father-General would receive the warmest reception at the Vatican.

A fourth name in circulation is that of Mexican Fr José Morales Orozco, Torres' predecessor as assistant to the General for formation and current rector of the Iberoamericana University in Mexico City, the crown jewel of the Jesuit establishment south of the border. As head of formation for the Mexican province before going to Rome, Morales' recruitment efforts were known for their success, which won him the posting to the Jesuit Curia. It is speculated that he could be Kolvenbach's favored candidate.

As a living General would wield significant clout in the election of his successor, and given the closness which has long marked Peter Hans Kolvenbach's relationship with Joseph Ratzinger, it could be said that allowing Kolvenbach to retire and preside over the process would give Benedict XVI his best possible hand in influencing the future of the Society.

Outlining the topics the next General Congregation will likely visit, a professed who knows the players tells me that, given Kolvenbach's "attenuated social justice leadership," the prime seems pumped for a reemphasis on the Jesuit model of "the service of the faith and the promotion of justice," the title of the keystone document of GC 32, which was passed on its final day of session.

As a reminder that 20 years is but a day to a community now in its 472nd year, I was also told that "the brutta figura way that Arrupe was treated by John Paul has not been forgotten."

Whatever happens, it will be interesting. Of course, this is an early riding, the exigencies of which are changing by the day and hour. But stay tuned and, as always, keep it here.


The Lists Roll Out

As planned, Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit makes his reconfiguration proposals public -- only five parishes to close at this point, but a broad clustering or merging of 86 parishes is on the table.

Full list and more coverage at the Freep
With his announcement, delivered at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Seminary, Maida capped an 18-month review of parish finances and demographics known as Together in Faith that will affect the churchgoing habits of an estimated 1.5 million Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

“Yes, we did have to cope with the declining numbers of priests and shifting population trends in southeast Michigan. … But from the very beginning, Together in Faith, was about making parishes and schools stronger and more responsive to the emerging needs of the church and world at the beginning of the Third Millenium,” Maida said....

The plan is to be implemented over the next five years, and whether some parishes survive will depend on whether their pastors choose to stay, and stay healthy, past the typical retirement age of 70 for priests.

The realignment was necessary to deal with a dwindling number of priests in the Detroit archdiocese. The number available to work in the Detroit area has declined 23 percent since 2000. The average age of priests working in the archdiocese is 56 and there are no priests currently under age 30.
So that's why they're talking about sending Bruzzy Bear to take Maida's place....

And in New York, 31 parishes and 14 schools face the axe. In the northern half of the archdiocese, however, some parishes have been tapped to expand
The closings would hit the archdiocese the hardest in its southern parts — the Bronx, Staten Island, Manhattan, Yonkers and central Westchester. The Bronx and Manhattan alone accounted for 17 of the 31 parishes that are to be closed....

Some parishes whose members were sure they would lose their churches were spared. In these pockets, there was a feeling of relief, even celebration.

"I'm having a cardiac arrest right here," said Msgr. Robert McCabe, who had been certain his parish, St. Mary in Haverstraw, Rockland County, would be closed because of dwindling attendance and other factors. "I was 99 percent sure I was going to be closed. Now I'm going to unpack my bags."

There was even greater relief in areas where parishes and churches were added.

At St. Joseph's Church in Croton Falls in northern Westchester, more than 2,800 attend Sunday Mass every weekend, according to archdiocesan figures, but the church has space for only 160 people. Church officials also use the school auditorium, which holds 325, but the result is eight different Masses on Sunday, three at the church and five in the auditorium, an organizational nightmare.

In the spring, 165 children in that parish are scheduled to receive their first communion, said Msgr. James R. Moore, and they will be split into eight different first communion services. "I knew the cardinal was looking at all of the different areas, so we feel very blessed to have been picked for expansion," he said.

The Times said that the decisions have the New York proposals have the potential of "convulsing" the archdiocese. But, unlike in other places, with Egan overseeing it all, it's a given that each piece and process is canonically airtight and, therefore, unassailable upon recourse.


D-Day in Detroit

So, faced with the meltdown of the JPII Center (i.e. $40 million pledged), speculation about his impending (i.e. late summer) retirement and as his archdiocese of Detroit fixes to unveil its sizable reconfiguration plan (i.e. parish closings and consolidations) later today, Cardinal Adam Maida had a Come-to-Jesus yesterday -- not with his own priests, of course (who are downright furious about the JPII Center boondoggle), but with the Baptist pastors of the inner city.

Hmm. Sure widens the tent of "collegiality," at least in its current understanding.
"It's because of you that Detroit holds together," Maida told about 100 pastors meeting on the city's west side Tuesday.

It was the first time in his 16 years in Detroit that Maida had addressed the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity. Most of his 1.5 million followers live in suburban and rural areas.

The Catholic Church, which helped to found Detroit 300 years ago, will not abandon the city now, Maida said during his emotionally charged, half-hour talk.

"I pledge we are not moving," he said. "We are going to remain here and be in partnership here with our neighbors."

OK, and...?
The cardinal, who turned 76 last month, also said he will not retire and has no plan to leave the city.

"I'm proud to be another voice blending with yours to help this city," Maida said.

Is that luxe (seven-figure) apartment the good cardinal's said to have prepared for his eventual retirement at the retreat center/golf course within the city limits?
Hardest hit with closings and mergers in the reorganization plan will be older suburbs where dwindling parishes were spared in the last major round of closings in the late 1980s.
Those closings were so "major" that Cardinal Szoka -- Maida's predecessor -- was made to wear a bulletproof vest when meeting with parishioners. He was called to Rome shortly afterward where, under his patronage, a thousand episcopal appointments bloomed. Or thereabout.

I don't know if this was the case everywhere, but here in Philadelphia some city pastors acted as real estate agents during the "white flight" of the past half-century so they could keep their fiefdo -- er, parishes, "Catholic" (i.e. white).

Given that tragic piece of history, it's good to see this bit -- something which hasn't yet been owned up to on a national level....

The cardinal also grew somber and apologized to the largely African-American council for a long history of racism among white churches. That bias was part of the fuel that drove the migration of Catholics away from Detroit in the 1950s and '60s.

"I feel sorry that, on my watch, I could not have done more to integrate our people," Maida said.

And as restitution....

The cardinal drew more applause as he said he's ready to throw the full weight of his church behind a political campaign this year to defeat a statewide ballot proposal that could outlaw affirmative action. He pledged that he and other Catholic leaders across the state would add their considerable financial and moral clout to pro-affirmative action forces.

"Not only I, as the archbishop of Detroit, but all the other bishops of Michigan are behind this," Maida said.

And, lastly, non rinuncio subito, he says.

At times, the cardinal sounded like he was summing up his record before bidding a fond farewell to the city. As he left the council, however, Maida said rumors about his retirement this year may be swirling around some Catholic Internet sites, but they are unfounded.

"I was just in Rome," he said, describing his attendance at a Vatican consistory for new cardinals. "I just talked to the pope last week, and he told me, 'You keep working there.' I have no plan to go anywhere."

Romanita', Romanita'.... And so it continues.


Anglican Feud-Watch

A senior church of England bishop has warned the hierarchs of the US Episcopal church that they're thisclose to detonating the whole enterprise.

"For the first time," Times (of London) religion writer Ruth Gledhill believes "that schism might actually be a possibility."
It seems to be that Anglican leaders are gearing up for possible schism, but also letting Ecusa [i.e. the Episcopal church] know this in what might be a game of ecclesiastical brinkmanship. Maybe, by spelling out how serious things have got, Ecusa might do more than 'regret' and rediscover what it means to 'repent.' It is the season for it, after all. So publicly, Lambeth Palace is playing down talk of schism, hence this comment, regarding the meeting of 24 April: “As you would expect, this meeting is by no means the only consultation that is happening; there is at the moment a considerable amount of thinking and talking, consulting and listening going on, with the emphasis firmly in favour of listening. The meetings that will be taking place over the next weeks and months are intended to provide as wide a range of views as possible in order to gain a proper perspective into the challenges and possibilities for the future of the Anglican Church here and elsewhere.” But maybe schism is the wrong word I am using here. If for example Ecusa as it presently is was expelled or invited to leave after the ACC amended its rules, presumably another body such as the ACN, held to be representative of orthodox Anglicanism in the US, could then be invited in. So that wouldn't really be schism, just 'realignment'...As for the material resources held by Ecusa, they don't count anyway, as they would all disappear in the ensuing court battles over pensions and property."
Keep an eye....


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Roasted Opus

Good Lord.

In its April issue, Harper's Magazine has delivered a review of John Allen's Opus Dei with a take so scathing it makes the (10 million strong, and growing) chorus of Whispers-haters seem like overzealous advocates for my living canonization.

If that analogy doesn't give you an idea of the sky-high acid factor in this review, nothing will.

An anti-Work bias is palpable throughout the Harper's piece, which portrays Allen as an apologist for the personal prelature.
Opus Dei is particularly keen on what it deviously calls “discretion,” which means that its members, in Masonic style, have been highly secretive over the years about their affiliation. Allen perversely interprets this secrecy as a refusal to brag. The movement still refuses to publish a directory of its members, and its recruits often refuse to tell their families of their allegiance to it. Its centers and headquarters go under names that conceal their true proprietorship. Allen sees very little wrong with all this, and produces one specious reason after another to justify it.
The book is then deemed "partisanship masquerading as objectivity," the magazine summarily judges Opus Dei Cardinal Juan Cipriani Thorne of Lima as a "repugnant autocrat" and the author is accused of "limp extenuations."

After comparing Allen's "good deal" of material culled from Opus Dei members and affiliates to "asking Tom Cruise to spill the beans on Scientology," Harper's opines that the book "is a masterpiece of disingenuousness, which is not to suggest that it is consciously deceitful.

"It seems, rather, an exercise in self-deception by a Catholic Vaticanologist who is loath to think badly of such a powerful arm of his church, and who consequently goes in for a scandalous amount of mental shuffling."


The best salvo, though, isn't directed at so much at Allen as some of the extra-Opus fold: "What, then, of sex, which tends to preoccupy right-wing Catholics almost as much as it does professional pornographers?"

Well, at least something in the savagery holds water....


The Word on Marini

Yesterday afternoon, I received an e.mail with a heads-up of "a high-profile admission to the Gemelli." No name was given and, as it was Rome dinnertime, it made finding anything out doubly difficult.

Hours later, Amy Welborn's Open Book reported as "rumor from across the sea" that Archbishop Piero Marini, the master of papal liturgical ceremonies, had been hospitalized after suffering a heart attack.

The speculation incited a wave of concern as friends and collaborators of the world's most famous MC, an academic liturgist known for his personal reserve, scrambled to find out if the rumor was, indeed, true. Marini, who turned 64 in mid-January, has been increasingly mindful of his health, keeping a strict diet regimen in recent years.

This morning, callers to the Office for Papal Liturgical Celebrations -- which Marini has headed since 1987 -- were being told that the master of ceremonies was out of the office. No report of a medical emergency has been published to date in the Italian press and, of course, there's been no statement from the Holy See.

Reports of a Marini health scare came to light on the same day that Liberta, a newspaper in his home-diocese of Piacenza, aired speculation that the lead ceremoniere was the in pectore cardinal named by John Paul II at the 2003 consistory but never published before the late pontiff's death.

Confronted with the question last week at the Milan presentation of his latest book, "Liturgia e bellezza," a study of the modern history of papal ritual, the publication said Marini seemed to be caught in "a moment of surprise."

"He smiled but, above all, he didn't deny it," Liberta reported.

A source in Rome related that the archbishop underwent an angioplasty which, so it's said, took place earlier today. The procedure is often employed where an arterial blockage exists, but is not at the point where bypass surgery is the sole feasible option. He is expected to return to work in a week or so.


Back to the Golden Gate

I've seen this ring before.... Being worn by someone other than the Grand Inquisitor.... Hmm. Wonder if it got passed through the family or something.

Anyways, the San Franciscans have returned from Rome. The SF Sentinel -- the outlet that originally announced Gavin Newsom's U-turn on making the consistory trip -- provides full coverage
They arrived at an indelicate moment, representing world capitol of the vanguard transfigured... The man they came to honor had just acquiesced to Benedict XVI butching it up again with LGBT children of creation... Chief delegate Joe Alioto Veronese finessed the matter to City benefit while giving Cardinal Levada his due... Nodded in San Francisco nuance...

"We now have a friend in the Vatican who understands San Francisco's values that could help to break down the walls of disagreement and divisiveness by getting to know each other's points of view, and respecting those points of view based on mutual respect," Veronese told delegates... With Levada at his get-the-message side...

Photos, photos and more photos of a high-powered reception with the new Cardinal here....

Was Randy there?


Tuesday Morning Grab Bag

As the gutting of the apartment -- otherwise known as spring cleaning -- continues, just a couple quick notes....
  • First off, it's Tuesday, and not an appointment (American or otherwise) in sight -- at least, not for right now.... The count of vacant US dioceses stands at five: Lake Charles and Sioux Falls have been vacant for well over a year, Youngstown marks a year without a bishop this week, and Birmingham and Salt Lake await new shepherds as well. Throw in pending appointments of auxiliaries, coadjutors and those bishops who've passed the magic birthday of 75 -- not to mention a new nuncio who's putting his own stamp on the bishop-making apparatus -- and you've got a bit of a traffic jam of dossiers.
  • The Office for Papal Liturgical Celebrations announced this morning that the Mass for the first anniversary of the death of John Paul II, originally scheduled for Monday evening inside St. Peter's, has been moved to the steps of the Basilica to accomodate an expected overflow crowd. It's the third time in a week that a papal event has been transferred outside -- a sign of Benedict XVI's increasing comfort with handling the open-air stage Wojtyla adored. At a Sunday evening vigil to mark the actual moment of the late pontiff's death, the Rosary will be said in the Square and the Pope will greet the faithful from his study window. Italian television is planning a weekend-long bloc of documentaries, specials and liturgies, the bulk of which, however, are being broadcast "in diretta da Cracovia" -- "Live from Krakow."
  • On this side of the Pond, anyone in or near St Louis might want to head to its Cathedral-Basilica on Saturday as it hosts a rare event which is a real treat to witness: the consecration of a virgin living in the world. There are somewhere in the area of 150 consecrated virgins living and working in the United States, a number which has been increasing steadily in recent years. I've been so blessed to meet and know a few of these luminous souls from my travels, and such is the charism of their special calling that they just have the most resonant joy and an infectious spirit of vibrant life and gregarious giving of self. Especially in our time, consecrated virginity in the world not an easy vocation to fulfill, so a big turnout from the community at the consecration Mass is always a nice testament of the church's presence and support. Of course, St Louis is home to one of the movement's most zealous cheerleaders: Archbishop Raymond Burke, who'll be presiding over the rite and receiving the vows, is the national episcopal adviser to the group.
And with that, it's back to the salt mines....


Monday, March 27, 2006

Man on a Mission

Benedict XVI's February decision to send Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, previously president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, on a journey into Egypt as apostolic nuncio to Cairo, has let a thousand theories bloom....

The BBC revisits the story as Fitzgerald prepares to leave Rome to take on his new duties.
Pope Benedict has said that religious leaders have a responsibility to "work for reconciliation through genuine dialogue".

The Englishman now has a key role in that process in Cairo, where the 22 members of the Arab League meet.

Archbishop Fitzgerald has not commented on the speculation surrounding his move, simply telling reporters: "My background in Arabic and Islamic studies is probably considered useful at this moment for the development of relations with Egypt and the rest of the Islamic world."....

This may be more than just a streamlining of Vatican bureaucracy. Some observers believe the new Pope wants to take a tougher line on the issue of "reciprocity".

It means that if Muslims benefit from religious freedom in the West, then Christians should have an equal right to follow their faith in Islamic states.

But while there is speculation that Pope Benedict may be looking for changes in the Church's approach to Islam, it should not be assumed that the English archbishop has been sidelined.


Happy Birthday, Dear Neumann....

As I don't want to keep anyone hanging, here's one from the archives.... It's time-appropriate as tomorrow's the birthday (195th, to be precise) of the fourth bishop of our fair town, St. John Neumann.

This piece originally ran on Neumann's feast day, 5 January, and it seems a lot of readers enjoyed it then. Hope nobody minds the re-run....


Most people probably don't know what today is -- well, it's January 5 of course -- but here's a brief primer on something more.

Today is the feast of St. John Neumann, the fourth bishop of Philadelphia. The life of John Neumann, the first Redemptorist to be professed in America, continues to set the gold standard of "humble service," and it serves as a reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

John Nepoumecene Neumann -- the name is properly prounounced "NOY-man" but, ironically, the saint is still usually confused with the more-famous English cardinal of the Oxford movement -- was born in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in 1811. He was a simple man in a time of clerical decadence, and given that he came from no great fortune and wasn't seen to have any of the superficially desired qualities of a priest, he was turned down by bishops in his home country and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. So he came to America, where he studied for the diocese of New York, for which he was ordained. At his first Mass, he uttered a simple prayer which is still closely affiliated with him: "Dearest God, give me holiness."

Then as now, it was lonely on the road. Neumann had come across a band of Redemptorists and was attracted to their charism and community spirit, so he excardinated from the secular clergy into the order founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori. The Reds maintained a significant presence in Baltimore, and Fr Neumann was named pastor of St. Alphonsus church there, a position in which his fame spread as a solid confessor and a priest devoted to the welfare of the poor and the care of the sick. In time, he also became the American head of his Congregation.

Such was Neumann's reputation that one of his penitents was the city's new archbishop, Francis Patrick Kenrick, the Irish-born cleric who had arrived in the premier See 1851 after 21 years in charge of the diocese of Philadelphia. As the metropolitan of the province and Philadelphia's former bishop, one of Kenrick's first tasks was the selection of a suitable successor for the local church to his north, which spanned from the cosmopolitan See city through newly-inhabited coal regions, rural farmlands and was burgeoning both in population and demand for adequate pastoral care.

Kenrick had confided to Neumann that he had placed the confessor's name forward for the bishopric of Philadelphia, and Neumann refused, citing his own insufficiencies and begging to be taken out of contention. (How often do you see such a thing, again?) One night, on arriving back at his rectory, the pastor was informed that, while he was out, the archbishop had dropped by with "some papers," which he had placed in Fr Neumann's room.

Neumann, dreading what he perceived as the worst, walked in to see a glimmer reflecting off the candlelight. Kenrick's delivery wasn't "papers," but a pectoral cross and ring for his successor, and there was no way out -- the archbishop had the appointment documents rigged so that Bishop-elect Neumann was forced to accept the burden under obedience. On his 41st birthday, 28 March 1852, John Neumann was ordained to the episcopacy at St. Alphonsus, Baltimore.

Arriving in Philadelphia, Bishop Neumann was able to build on the fruits of his predecessor's stewardship -- Kenrick, coadjutor from 1830-42 and ordinary for the nine years following, had quelled a popular revolt in the city parishes in the 1830s, guided the Catholic community through the Know-Nothing spate of church-burnings in 1844, opened St. Charles Seminary in 1832 and selected the ground plot and begun work on a permanent cathedral for the Philadelphia diocese in 1846.

While Kenrick stabilized and built up the externals of the diocese -- which, in 1852, still comprised the Eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and the whole of Delaware (a separate See had been founded at Pittsburgh the decade before for Western Pennsylvania, and New Jersey would be handled two years later with the creation of the diocese of Newark) -- Neumann sought to tend to its spiritual needs. He brought the time-honored European custom of the Forty Hours to the United States, beginning it in Philadelphia's St. Philip Neri church not long after his installation. He founded the parochial school system in Philadelphia as an alternative to the Protestant-influenced public schools. And, never one for administration, the bishop spent the bulk of his time on the road, traveling by carriage to the obscure towns of the hinterlands to hear confessions, say Mass in homes and practice a ministry which led more by on-the-ground priestly example than by the stern, removed exercise of episcopal authority.

Of course, something had to give due to Bishop Neumann's emphasis on one-on-one ministry, and he was more than willing to sacrifice the temporal and administrative end of things. Construction on Kenrick's grand cathedral, designed in the Romanesque style by Napoleon LeBrun, the architect of the United States Capitol, practically languished as Neumann divested its share of the diocesan budget to the care of the poor and the indigent. Decisions were spun off to the vicars-general and, given his travels, the chances for his curia to correspond with the traveling bishop were few and far-between.

Not long after his arrival, recognizing what he saw as his insufficiencies, Neumann requested a coadjutor from Rome to handle the administrative affairs of the diocese. In 1856, the Holy See answered in the person of James Frederic Wood, a priest of Cincinatti who had been a convert from Unitarianism and received into the church by the city's legendary archbishop, John Baptist Purcell. Wood, a native Philadelphian, had been a successful banker before his ordination, so he was particularly well-suited to deal with the financial situation of the diocese, a burden Bishop Neumann was relieved to delegate.

Once Wood arrived, Neumann -- who maintained his punishing schedule of pastoral visitations -- began agitating Rome to be relieved of the bishopric of Philadelphia altogether, seeking to escape its glamour in light of where he felt he could best be of service. Recognizing the needs of the upstate coal regions, whose inhabitants caused him to learn Gaelic so he could hear their confessions (one woman is said to have exclaimed, "Thank God we've got an Irish bishop!), he petitioned that a diocese be formed to cover the new settlements far from the city, and posited that he would wish to have it, gladly leaving Philadelphia to the more cosmopolitan Bishop Wood. "I am prepared without any hesitation to leave the episcopacy. I have taken this burden out of obedience, and I have labored with all my powers to fulfill the duties of my office, and with God's help, as I hope, not without fruit," Neumann wrote in an 1858 letter to the prefect of the Propaganda Fide in Rome. (As the United States was still considered mission territory at the time, Propaganda was charged with the supervision of the American church.)

Citing Wood's preparedness to assume the reins of the Philadelphia diocese, Neumann continued that he was fully prepared "to resign from the episcopate [altogether] and to go where I may more securely prepare myself for death and for the account which must be rendered to the Divine Justice."

He never had the chance. Walking down Vine Street in Philadelphia to hand-deliver a package to a poor family, John Neumann collapsed on the sidewalk and died on 5 January 1860. He was 48.

Philadelphia's fourth bishop was beatified by Paul VI in 1963 and canonized by Paul in 1977. In accordance with Neumann's wishes, his remains were buried not with the bishops of Philadelphia (who were then laid to rest in the Bishops' Cemetery, which is now a Rite-Aid pharmacy), but at the Redemptorist home-base at St. Peter's church north of downtown, where they remain on public view for the pilgrims who continue to flock, seeking the help of the simple man who, though slight on the scale of history and in the eyes of men, was nothing short of exemplary in the eyes of God.


And Now, The Cleanup

With the consistory behind, the Pope received the new cardinals and their guests for an audience this morning in the Nervi. He's shown here embracing the always-smiling Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong.

Benedict XVI greeted the delegations in Italian, English, French, Spanish, Polish and Slovenian. He made special note of the elderly mother of the Venezuelan Neo-Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino and thanked Stanislaw Dziwisz for "all [his] years past at the side of John Paul II and for all which that service made possible for the universal Church," praying that the Krakow cardinal's "future ministry may be equally fruitful."

The Pope also hinted that meetings of the "entire" College of Cardinals will become more routine and hold a "privileged" place in his mind and the vision of his pontificate.

So with it all over, I'll be spending the next few days taking care of everything I didn't get to last week. We're six days from the first anniversary of l'amato Papa Giovanni Paolo's journey to the Father's house, so the end of the week and weekend will be taken up with that.

But, in the meantime, I just need to clean my bedroom and office which, despite being 4,000 miles away from the action, look like they've been stampeded through by consistory pilgrims. One project I'm eager to get to is piecing apart my library, most of which I don't need anymore and will probably end up divesting in one form or another. I don't have Papa Ratzi's 20,000 books (arranged meticulously) but I've still got enough that my nightstand acts as a tertiary bookshelf. It's such a mess and it needs to get taken care of.

I'll still be here, but just posting the "need-to-post" things. As for everything else, well, it's Lent and I need to refocus on that.... News may come and go, but Easter remains ahead, and I'm nowhere near prepared.

And now, off to my penitential cleaning. Happy Monday.

AP/Plinio Lepri


Seeing Reds

No, this has nothing to do with the cardinals.

As we prepare for the first anniversary of Benedict XVI's election and the requisite flood of analyses chronicling what has been, as his first cardinal-creation termed it, a "serene and luminous" year, one thread is already quite clear: Papa loves the Redemptorists.

To date, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer -- a venerable group usually keen on shirking the spotlight -- has, by far, run the table among religious communities in receiving episcopal appointments from the hands of the German Pope. Since December alone, the Redemptorists have gotten five more, as Redemptorist priests have been named to dioceses in Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe.

Archeparch Ivor Vozniak, the new Metropolitan of Lviv (of the Ukrainians) is a Redemptorist, as are two other new hierarchs in the Ukrainian church who are among the world's youngest bishops: 43 year-old Auxiliary Bishop-elect Yaroslav Pryriz of Sambir and 39 year-old Auxiliary Bishop Bohdan Dzyurakh of Kiev, who was ordained to the episcopacy last month.

Forty-nine year-old Redemptorist José Luiz Ferreira was ordained an auxiliary in the Brazilian mega-see of Fortaleza two weeks ago, and an American-educated member, Philip Banchong Chaiyara, who was ordained to the priesthood in New York in 1975, was named on Saturday to the diocese of Ubon Ratchathani in the Philippines.

I was chatting with a Redemptorist friend a couple days ago and joked that I really do have to return their calls now. Apparently, this glut of papal benevolence is the talk of the order, and who knows when it'll be coming Stateside.

Don't say you weren't forewarned.

Congrats to (Detroit-born) Superior General Fr Joe Tobin and all his good confreres. Somewhere up there, St. Alphonsus is smiling....


Sunday, March 26, 2006

One Last Consistory Surprise

William Cardinal Levada took possession of his diaconal church, S. Maria in Dominica, earlier today... wearing a fiddle-back....

Good God. It really is the world turned upside-down, isn't it?

No Tridentine jamboree broke out, however, so don't get too excited.

Cardinal Mahony was senior concelebrant. Archbishop Niederauer, Bishops Brown, Wester, et al. were also alongside, of course. MC on duty was Mons. William Millea of the diocese of Bridgeport, a veteran papal ceremoniere whose day job is in the good offices of the Secretariat of State.

This closes Whispers' coverage of (Roman) Spring Break 2006 and Consistory Week. Hope you've had as much fun reading it all as I've had putting it together. Thanks for sharing the awe, the joy, the fun.


AP/Plinio Lepri


More Photos!

Grazie tante to all the natives who've been sending back photos from the consistory events. Believe me, I'd post 'em all if I could.

I got a note from a friend yesterday who said he was jealous that I was there.... Well, I wasn't -- I'm in Philly, where I always am. But it's good to know that it didn't seem like it. As always, you can thank the ops on the ground for conveying the feel and background of everything which has crossed these pages in the last few days.

As you see here, Cardinal O'Malley celebrated a Mass for the Boston pilgrims this morning at the North American College.

And, by the way, a friend keeping an eye on the Pope at this morning's Mass at Dio Padre Misericordioso said that the music, provided by the parish children's choir, sounded like the "The Italian Haugen and Haas," noting that "the hymnal must've been called 'Insieme'" -- that's Italian for "Together" for our American readers.

The Pope, however, seemed altogether quite pleased.

Enough, however, of the blather....

We don't need to play "Where's Marini?" for this one. And thank God it was sunny.

There goes that rainbow flag again -- and Cardinal Dery, all chilled out....

I told you it was empty.... This vantage is only about 1/3 of the way from the Sagrato to the end of the Piazza... Why'd they have it outside, again?

More as I rifle through 'em.


The Silver Rose

Happy Laetare Sunday.

This morning, the Pope went to the church of "God the Merciful Father," which has become something of a modern architectural landmark on the outskirts of Rome.

In his homily, Benedict XVI recalled that the church "was desired by my beloved predecessor John Paul II in remembrance of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, as it condenses in an efficient way the significance of that extraordinary spiritual event. Meditating on the mercy of the Lord, which revealed itself in a total and definitive way in the mystery of the Cross, my mind turns to the text which John Paul II had prepared for his appointment with the faithful on Sunday, 3 April, Low Sunday. In the designs of the divine it was written that he left us on the vigil of that day, Saturday 2 April, and for this he could not pronounce his words, which I'm pleased to repeat for you, dear brothers and sisters. He wrote this: 'To humanity, which seems at times to have gotten lost and dominated by the power of evil, by egotism and by fear, the Risen Lord offers as a gift his love which pardons, reconciles and opens the soul to hope. It's the love that converts hearts and gives peace.' And he added: 'What need the world has to understand and to welcome the Divine Mercy!'"

(That was the Whispers translation, of course.)

Notably, while John Paul's successor invoked the late pontiff's use of the term "Divine Mercy," he did not do so on his own.....

AP/Plinio Lepri


Saturday, March 25, 2006

"Receive the Ring...."

A reader wrote in earlier asking for a close-up of the ring. Well, you asked for it, you got it.... Toyota.

Yet again, the photo comes from the superlative David Ryan of the Boston Globe, whose images have tag-teamed with Michael Paulson's words to provide a chronicle of these blessed days which have been, to a post, simply superb. Kudos to them both for un lavoro belissimo fatto!

As you can see, the bas-relief of the crucifixion used for cardinalatial rings in the pontificate of John Paul II has been retained... for now.

David Ryan/Boston Globe


A Laetare Take Five

Every year, on this Fourth Sunday of Lent known as "Laetare Sunday" -- possibly coming to your parish tomorrow: Rose Vestments -- the University of Notre Dame awards what is traditionally recognized as US Catholicism's most prestigious honor: the Laetare Medal, which has been bestowed annually since 1883 and intended as the American counterpart to the Golden Rose (which is, of course, in the gift of the Pope and hasn't been given in a very. long. while.).

Past winners of the Medal include JFK, prolife activist Sr Helen Prejean, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Dorothy Day, Peter and Peggy Steinfels and the noted labor activist Msgr. George Higgins. Last year's went to Joseph Murray, who performed the first successful organ transplant in 1954 and won the 1990 Nobel Prize for Medicine, and the 2004 honoree was Fr J. Bryan Hehir, now president of Catholic Charities of the archdiocese of Boston.

This year, however -- the first year of the Presidency of Fr John Jenkins -- South Bend has taken a different route in awarding the Laetare, naming as its 2006 recipient the jazz musician Dave Brubeck.

Just last week, Brubeck, 85, was announced as the 10th-ever recipient of the Christophers' Life Achievement Award. Alongside his notable contributions to jazz, he's also taken a keen interest in sacred music, having written 45 works for church use over the decades. He received an honorary doctorate in Sacred Theology from the University of Fribourg last year.

In accord with the university's tradition, Brubeck will be awarded the 2006 Laetare Medal at Notre Dame's commencement in May.


Hong Kong Gets Another Gong

"Your Eminence, congratulations! I'm from the Walt Disney Company, and we'd like for you to star in one of our 'I'm Going to Disney World' advertisements... Would you be interested?"

There you have Cardinal Zen's reaction.

You know, if we were giving out awards for "Happiest New Cardinal," Zen and Nicky Cheong (that's what they call Seoul's new red hat at home) would win by miles....

Thomas, take a poll.

Reuters/Chris Helgren


A Change Gonna Come....

Michael Paulson confirms -- from the horse's mouth -- a long-buzzed about bit of info: Uncle Ted is "expecting to retire" this summer as archbishop of Washington....

However, like St. Therese, who promised to spend her heaven doing good on earth, McCarrick -- a Stakanovista if ever there were one -- will likely spend his retirement doing good for anyone who needs some good-doing, and using his considerable gifts for the benefit of the wider church.

Paulson gets in an interview with the dear Porporato:

Q. How does being a cardinal change one's life?
A. All of it becomes more intense. You have to participate in some of the Roman entities. And you do play a stronger role at times. The cardinal's voice in the media is heard, usually, more readily, and I think that that's going to happen to Cardinal O'Malley in a very special way. He's a very wise and articulate man, a very eloquent spokesman.

Q. Do you have any advice for him?
A. Keep doing what you're doing. Keep healthy. And take a day off.

David Ryan/
Boston Globe


The Beautiful Hands of a Priest

Another keeper -- add this to the beautiful shot collection....

Reuters/Chris Helgren


Next Up: The Dicasteries

On 7 April, Pope Benedict will hold a second meeting with his dicastery heads -- the Prefects and Presidents of the bodies which comprise the Roman Curia.

At that time, so it's said, we might know a bit more about his plans for the "renovation" of the church's central administrative apparatus, which the Pope has been tinkering with for the bulk of his first year in office. About that date as well, we'll also know who's filling the memberships of these offices among the new class of cardinals.

Along with the red hat and a titular church, each Porporato is given three or four curial assignments. While the staffs of the Congregations and Councils perform each office's daily work, the body proper is technically comprised of somewhere between 20 and 30 prelates who meet regularly to think through policy changes and innovations. In other words, the membership is where the dicastery's decisions come from.

This is most-especially the case at the Congregation of Bishops, which meets bi-monthly to vote on the world's episcopal appointments, sending one name from the shortlist of three -- the famous terna -- to the Pope. (When he couldn't make meetings, the late John Cardinal O'Connor of New York was known for phoning in his votes.)

The Pope will also use the occasion of giving the new cardinals their assignments to plug some of the elder members of the College into dicasteries which, in his mind, could benefit well from their expertise. The day after he was elected, Benedict XVI confirmed the cardinal-members of the dicasteries for the remainders of their respective quinquennia -- that is, the five-year terms for which they are appointed. All memberships cease, however, when a cardinal reaches his 80th birthday, so the ranks have been depleted since the 2003 consistory due to superannuations.

As the shape of the the curial "tsunami," as it has been dubbed by the Italian press, becomes clearer, it could well result in some deck-changes beyond just the staffing of the respective offices.

As always, stay tuned.

AP/Plinio Lepri


Under New Management

With the Mass of the Rings concluded and as the pilgrims prepare for their trips home, the festivities of this Consistory Week will now scatter across the next few months as the new cardinals take possession of their proper titular and diaconal churches.

The possession-taking has a series of rituals all its own. And it allows each cardinal to have an impressive Roman ceremony all his own for his friends, colleagues, and anyone else who wishes to show up.

The new cardinal, wearing his choir dress (the red cassock, mozzetta, rochet and biretta) is received at the door of the church, where he is given a Crucifix to kiss and the aspergium to bless himself and those around him with holy water. By custom, the cross is always offered on a red silk pillow. He then processes up the aisle toward the altar of reservation, at which is a predieu which, again, is swathed in red silk.

After spending some time before the Blessed Sacrament, he goes to vest and Mass proceeds. After its conclusion, he signs the requisite documents which confirm his reception of the church.

The bulk of the possession-takings usually take place on Consistory Weekend -- i.e. they would be happening tomorrow.

Sometimes, extenuating circumstances block this: in 1991, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua could not hold a Sunday Possession Mass at SS. Redentore e San Alfonso on Via Merulana as John Paul II had previously scheduled a visit to the church, so Bevilacqua got to concelebrate alongside him. In 2001, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's titular, Ss. Nereus and Achilleus (which also belonged to Dennis Dougherty, the first Pharaoh of Philadelphia) was under renovation, so his possession-taking had to be pushed back. Others just delay it -- a luxury particularly open to the Curial cardinals, who are always in town and don't need to make a special trip solely for that purpose.

However, as of this morning, only two possession Masses have been announced by the Office for Papal Liturgical Celebrations, which handles the arrangements. Tomorrow evening, William Cardinal Levada will have his Mass at S. Maria in Dominica at 5pm. And on Tuesday, Peter Poreku Cardinal Dery will take possession of Sant’Elena Outside the Porta Prenestina at a 6pm liturgy.

My dear friends at Catholic Press Photo -- who always do remarkable work -- will cover all the possession-takings, so keep a close eye there....

And why was Cardinal Stasiu wearing two pectoral crosses last night? We know he's special, but still -- there is such a thing as a bling limit....

Reuters/Tony Gentile


"Che Gioia -- You're Back!"

Cardinal Dery -- whose presence provided yesterday's most touching moment -- receives his ring.

And Cardinal Ratzinger's coat of arms still adorn Benedict XVI's favorite mitre....

Reuters/Tony Gentile


Along the Processional Route

One of the nice things about having a mobile Pope is the return, as shown here, to the practice of liturgical processions which leave from the Bronze Door (at the edge of Bracchio Charlemagne, midway through the Piazza) and wend their way to the Sagrato, the steps of St. Peter's.

And, thanks to that resurrection, we get fun shots like this.

Check out the shades on Levada. Even now, he's so California.

(Before anyone gets the vapors, it's a peace flag.... Caption and another photo.)

AP/Plinio Lepri


Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!

There's something about that red that has the magical ability to lift a sagging spirit.... Look at 'im! (So happy he forgot to lose the mozzetta.)

Somewhere in the background, the Dancing Bear (who's been missing Rome quite a bit) was probably doing his thing, too...

The Globe's RomeBlog continues apace, with more great stories and shots -- like the one you see here.

(Note: Word's come back that Dancing Bear is not -- repeat, NOT -- in Rome.... Pity.)

David Ryan/Boston Globe


Lord of the Rings

The Mass of the Rings is at post-Communion right now -- but yet again, the Pope's homily has been immediately released in English alongside the Italian.

Benedict XVI primarily spoke to the Annunciation and, returning in many ways to his 8 December homily marking the 40th anniversary of the close of Vatican II, he employed the dichotomy of a "Marian" principle and a "Petrine" principle in the life of the church -- noting that the Marian one was "even more fundamental" than the Petrine.

And, two months after the release of the pontificate's first Encyclical, the Pope did make clear that Deus Est Still Caritas.

Here's the link, and some snips for the lazy:
In the Incarnation of the Son of God, in fact, we recognize the origins of the Church. Everything began from there. Every historical realization of the Church and every one of her institutions must be shaped by that primordial wellspring. They must be shaped by Christ, the incarnate Word of God. It is he that we are constantly celebrating: Emmanuel, God-with-us, through whom the saving will of God the Father has been accomplished. And yet - today of all days we contemplate this aspect of the Mystery - the divine wellspring flows through a privileged channel: the Virgin Mary. Saint Bernard speaks of this using the eloquent image of aquaeductus (Cf. Sermo in Nativitate B.V. Mariae: PL 183, 437-448). In celebrating the Incarnation of the Son, therefore, we cannot fail to honour his Mother. The angel’s proclamation was addressed to her; she accepted it, and when she responded from the depths of her heart: "Here I am . . . let it be done to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38), the eternal Word began to exist as a human being in time.

From generation to generation, the wonder evoked by this ineffable mystery never ceases. Saint Augustine imagines a dialogue between himself and the Angel of the Annunciation, in which he asks: "Tell me, O Angel, why did this happen in Mary?" The answer, says the Messenger, is contained in the very words of the greeting: "Hail, full of grace" (cf. Sermo 291:6). In fact, the Angel, "appearing to her", does not call her by her earthly name, Mary, but by her divine name, as she has always been seen and characterized by God: "Full of grace - gratia plena", which in the original Greek is 6,P"D4JTµXv0, "beloved" (cf. Lk 1:28). Origen observes that no such title had ever been given to a human being, and that it is unparalleled in all of Sacred Scripture (cf. In Lucam 6:7). It is a title expressed in passive form, but this "passivity" of Mary, who has always been and is for ever "loved" by the Lord, implies her free consent, her personal and original response: in being loved, Mary is fully active, because she accepts with personal generosity the wave of God’s love poured out upon her. In this too, she is the perfect disciple of her Son, who realizes the fullness of his freedom through obedience to the Father. In the second reading, we heard the wonderful passage in which the author of the Letter to the Hebrews interprets Psalm 39 in the light of Christ’s Incarnation: "When Christ came into the world, he said: . . . ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will, O God’" (Heb 10:5-7). Before the mystery of these two "Here I am" statements from Christ and from the Virgin, each of which is reflected in the other, forming a single Amen to God’s loving will, we are filled with wonder and thanksgiving, and we bow down in adoration....

The importance of the Marian principle in the Church was particularly highlighted, after the Council, by my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II, in harmony with his motto Totus tuus. In his spirituality and in his tireless ministry, the presence of Mary as Mother and Queen of the Church was made manifest to the eyes of all. More than ever he adverted to her maternal presence in the assassination attempt of 13 May 1981 in Saint Peter’s Square. In memory of that tragic event, he had a mosaic of the Virgin placed high up in the Apostolic Palace, looking down over Saint Peter’s Square, so as to accompany the key moments and the daily unfolding of his long reign. It is just one year since his pontificate entered its final phase, full of suffering and yet triumphant and truly paschal....

The theme of the relationship between the Petrine principle and the Marian principle is also found in the symbol of the ring which I am about to consign to you. The ring is always a nuptial sign. Almost all of you have already received one, on the day of your episcopal ordination, as an expression of your fidelity and your commitment to watch over the holy Church, the bride of Christ (cf. Rite of Ordination of Bishops). The ring which I confer upon you today, proper to the cardinalatial dignity, is intended to confirm and strengthen that commitment, arising once more from a nuptial gift, a reminder to you that first and foremost you are intimately united with Christ so as to accomplish your mission as bridegrooms of the Church. May your acceptance of the ring be for you a renewal of your "yes", your "here I am", addressed both to the Lord Jesus who chose you and constituted you, and to his holy Church, which you are called to serve with the love of a spouse. So the two dimensions of the Church, Marian and Petrine, come together in the supreme value of charity, which constitutes the fulfilment of each. As Saint Paul says, charity is the "greatest" charism, the "most excellent way" (1 Cor 12:31; 13:13).
Yet again with the singing of the Alma Redemptoris Mater, the Ring Mass ends.... And more Bach in the postlude.

Reuters/Tony Gentile


Friday, March 24, 2006

OK, But Do They Still Call Him "Hollywood"?

There's Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, showing off what John Paul gave him.... Looks like he thinks he's John Wayne or something. Or just a "We don't take shots of our own" glance. You never know.

Prominent backs of heads featured: Norberto Rivera Carrera (Mexico City), Tettamanzi (Milan), Polycarp Pengo (Dar es Salaam), Schonborn (you know him), Gulbinowicz (emeritus of Wroclaw; the fella whose age was confused)....

And here we have the hardest- working octogenarian in the College -- possibly the hardest- working of them all -- the venerable Avery Dulles, S.J., with the back-head of the noble Jean-Louis Tauran, currently the Archivist and Librarian of the church.

I'm told Dulles has worked a full schedule of speaking engagements and other academic commitments into his time in Italy.... He just doesn't stop and his pace routinely tests the vigor of those much younger than he who try and keep up.

God love 'im.

PHOTOS: Loggiarazzi