Friday, June 29, 2007

Canada Day in Rome

As previously mentioned, a record five archbishops from Canada received their pallia this morning. Shown above following the Mass are (from left) Archbishops Terence Prendergast SJ of Ottawa, Brendan O'Brien of Kingston, Thomas Collins of Toronto, Gerard Pettipas C.SS.R of Grouard-McLennan and Richard Smith of Edmonton.

Prendergast departed for Rome hours following his Tuesday installation in the capital's Notre Dame Basilica, and O'Brien doesn't take the reins of Anglophone Canada's founding fold for another month. For three of the recipients, as CNS noted the other day, it's something of the deja vu kind -- Prendergast, Collins and O'Brien are each receiving the insignia for a second time, having headed other archdioceses prior to their transfers. Considering that there are only 17 Latin-rite provinces up north, that 30% of them have changed hands within six months is a rather unusual stat. And that's not counting the appointment of the Vatican's #2 man on Catholic Education, Archbishop Michael Miller, as coadjutor of Vancouver on the first of this month.

Then again, Luigi Ventura is no ordinary nuncio.

It's worthy of note, too, that the rapid cycle of transfers only began after Pope Benedict vetted the individual bishops following the Canadian hierarchy's yearlong set of ad limina visits (coming for the US all through 2009).

The States, meanwhile, had but one recipient this morning -- Archbishop-elect Joseph Kurtz, who doesn't take the reins in Louisville until 15 August.

Just before flying out for Rome earlier this week, Kurtz called into the home office to offer some reflections on the days ahead. Appointed to succeed Archbishop Thomas Kelly only 17 days ago, he's had quite the month, with the last-minute trip necessitating his absence from Wednesday's launch in Denver of the first stage of the US bishops' nationwide initiative geared toward strengthening and encouraging marriage. (More on that in a bit; Kurtz is chair of the USCCB's Committee for Marriage and the Family.)

Traveling with a delegation of just five, the incoming head of Louisville's 200,000 Catholics, shown here during his big moment earlier today, said he had never been to a Pallium Mass, let alone concelebrated one, let alone on such short notice.

Having met Benedict XVI in his time as prefect of the CDF, the archbishop waxed filial of his "great admiration" for the Pope; "I love his writings, his pastoral leadership," he said.

"I just think we're really blessed with this Holy Father."

As the incoming metropolitan over the province he's been a suffragan bishop of for the last seven years, the archbishop-elect said the in-house move had a deeper meaning to it as opposed to entering a province as a newcomer. He praised Kelly, who he singled out among the nation's 34 archbishops for having "really worked hard on bring together the bishops of our province for prayer, for support -- for unity, really."

Noting his happiness that "there are no strangers" among the bishops of Kentucky and Tennessee, Kurtz pledged to maintain the close ties. Continuing Kelly's work "is a great blessing," he said.

Saying he's spent the last few weeks boning up on the history of the pallium, the 60 year-old pilgrim prelate said he was expecting a "very moving" morning. He "didn't expect" to be making the trip this year, he said, noting that it was the nuncio to Washington, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who "urged" him not to delay his reception of the lambswool band until 2008.

Even so, Kurtz looked on the bright side, musing that "having such a small group might make me focus on the more spiritual aspects of this great event." Two Knoxvilleans with him in the Eternal City, and the outgoing head of its burgeoning local church said he "didn't think it'd be as emotional" to leave as it's proven itself to be.

"I've really felt a great bond with the people here," he said. Even though Louisville offers a wealth of opportunities for new bonds, he mused that missing the "great warmth" and "great unity" of Tennessee and his team there "would be the hard part.

"We have a wonderful diocese here," he said, "it's such a vibrant church.

"People really desire to live the faith and to be true to it.... Being bishop here is kind of like being pastor of a larger [parish] church."

While Kurtz's delegation includes two Tennesseans and two representatives from Louisville, it should come as no surprise that -- as with every ecclesiastical party worth its salt -- the group includes a Philadelphian: Kurtz's longtime friend and seminary classmate Msgr Herbert Bevard, who celebrates a new ministry of his own this weekend as he's installed as regional vicar of the city's northern half.

For those curious about the pins he'll need to keep his new garb weighed down, they're staying within the family -- Kurtz said his set of the traditional three gemmed spikes will be, at his precessor's insistence, a gift of Archbishop Kelly.

Elsewhere in the Basilica seats, the famous Frodo might've had to stay back in Guelph, but Toronto's archbishop got to bring both his sisters and a dozen friends to see him return for his pallium part deux.

It's something of an upgrade from 1999 -- when, receiving the band of wool as the new archbishop of Edmonton, TC recalled that his first pallium delegation numbered "zero, moi, just me."

For all your Petrine and Pauline needs -- and just in case anyone hasn't yet heard Vatican Radio call Collins a Peruvian -- Salt + Light is running this morning's Pallium Mass on a webstream.

And to all our readers up in the Great White North, all good wishes for a relaxing and enjoyable Canada Day this Sunday.

Fr Owen Keenan/Archdiocese of Toronto
PHOTO 2: Alessia Giuliani/CNS/CPP