Monday, July 30, 2007

The Song of the Cross

After a delay of some days, Pope Benedict's message for next summer's World Youth Day in Sydney was released earlier this week.

Taken from the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, the theme of the 15-20 July gathering will be "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses."

Snips (emphases original):
Shortly before his Ascension, Jesus said to his disciples: "And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you" (Lk 24:49). This took place on the day of Pentecost when they were together in prayer in the Upper Room with the Virgin Mary. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the nascent Church was the fulfilment of a promise made much earlier by God, announced and prepared throughout the Old Testament.

In fact, right from its opening pages, the Bible presents the spirit of God as the wind that "was moving over the face of the waters" (cf. Gen 1:2). It says that God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7), thereby infusing him with life itself. After original sin, the life-giving spirit of God is seen several times in the history of humankind, calling forth prophets to exhort the chosen people to return to God and to observe his commandments faithfully. In the well-known vision of the prophet Ezekiel, God, with his spirit, restores to life the people of Israel, represented by the "dry bones" (cf. 37:1-14). Joel prophesied an "outpouring of the spirit" over all the people, excluding no one. The sacred author wrote: "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh ... Even upon the menservants and maidservants, in those days, I will pour out my spirit" (3:1-2)....

On the evening of the day of resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples, "he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’" (Jn 20:22). With even greater power the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. We read in the Acts of the Apostles: "And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them" (2:2-3).

The Holy Spirit renewed the Apostles from within, filling them with a power that would give them courage to go out and boldly proclaim that "Christ has died and is risen!" Freed from all fear, they began to speak openly with self-confidence (cf. Acts 2:29; 4:13; 4:29,31). These frightened fishermen had become courageous heralds of the Gospel. Even their enemies could not understand how "uneducated and ordinary men" (cf. Acts 4:13) could show such courage and endure difficulties, suffering and persecution with joy. Nothing could stop them. To those who tried to silence them they replied: "We cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20). This is how the Church was born, and from the day of Pentecost she has not ceased to spread the Good News "to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

If we are to understand the mission of the Church, we must go back to the Upper Room where the disciples remained together (cf. Lk 24:49), praying with Mary, the "Mother", awaiting the Spirit that had been promised. This icon of the nascent Church should be a constant source of inspiration for every Christian community. Apostolic and missionary fruitfulness is not principally due to programmes and pastoral methods that are cleverly drawn up and "efficient", but is the result of the community’s constant prayer (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 75). Moreover, for the mission to be effective, communities must be united, that is, they must be "of one heart and soul" (cf. Acts 4:32), and they must be ready to witness to the love and joy that the Holy Spirit instils in the hearts of the faithful (cf. Acts 2:42). The Servant of God John Paul II wrote that, even prior to action, the Church’s mission is to witness and to live in a way that shines out to others (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 26). Tertullian tells us that this is what happened in the early days of Christianity when pagans were converted on seeing the love that reigned among Christians: "See how they love one another" (cf. Apology, 39 § 7)....

Many young people view their lives with apprehension and raise many questions about their future. They anxiously ask: How can we fit into a world marked by so many grave injustices and so much suffering? How should we react to the selfishness and violence that sometimes seem to prevail? How can we give full meaning to life? How can we help to bring it about that the fruits of the Spirit mentioned above, "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (no. 6), can fill this scarred and fragile world, the world of young people most of all? On what conditions can the life-giving Spirit of the first creation and particularly of the second creation or redemption become the new soul of humanity? Let us not forget that the greater the gift of God - and the gift of the Spirit of Jesus is the greatest of all – so much the greater is the world’s need to receive it and therefore the greater and the more exciting is the Church’s mission to bear credible witness to it. You young people, through World Youth Day, are in a way manifesting your desire to participate in this mission. In this regard, my dear young friends, I want to remind you here of some key truths on which to meditate. Once again I repeat that only Christ can fulfil the most intimate aspirations that are in the heart of each person. Only Christ can humanize humanity and lead it to its "divinization". Through the power of his Spirit he instils divine charity within us, and this makes us capable of loving our neighbour and ready to be of service. The Holy Spirit enlightens us, revealing Christ crucified and risen, and shows us how to become more like Him so that we can be "the image and instrument of the love which flows from Christ" (Deus Caritas Est, 33). Those who allow themselves to be led by the Spirit understand that placing oneself at the service of the Gospel is not an optional extra, because they are aware of the urgency of transmitting this Good News to others. Nevertheless, we need to be reminded again that we can be witnesses of Christ only if we allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit who is "the principal agent of evangelization" (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 75) and "the principal agent of mission" (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 21). My dear young friends, as my venerable predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II said on several occasions, to proclaim the Gospel and bear witness to the faith is more necessary than ever today (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 1). There are those who think that to present the precious treasure of faith to people who do not share it means being intolerant towards them, but this is not the case, because to present Christ is not to impose Him (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80). Moreover, two thousand years ago twelve Apostles gave their lives to make Christ known and loved. Throughout the centuries since then, the Gospel has continued to spread by means of men and women inspired by that same missionary fervour. Today too there is a need for disciples of Christ who give unstintingly of their time and energy to serve the Gospel. There is a need for young people who will allow God’s love to burn within them and who will respond generously to his urgent call, just as many young blesseds and saints did in the past and also in more recent times. In particular, I assure you that the Spirit of Jesus today is inviting you young people to be bearers of the good news of Jesus to your contemporaries. The difficulty that adults undoubtedly find in approaching the sphere of youth in a comprehensible and convincing way could be a sign with which the Spirit is urging you young people to take this task upon yourselves. You know the ideals, the language, and also the wounds, the expectations, and at the same time the desire for goodness felt by your contemporaries. This opens up the vast world of young people’s emotions, work, education, expectations, and suffering ... Each one of you must have the courage to promise the Holy Spirit that you will bring one young person to Jesus Christ in the way you consider best, knowing how to "give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but [to] do it with gentleness and reverence" (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

In order to achieve this goal, my dear friends, you must be holy and you must be missionaries since we can never separate holiness from mission (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 90). Do not be afraid to become holy missionaries like Saint Francis Xavier who travelled through the Far East proclaiming the Good News until every ounce of his strength was used up, or like Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus who was a missionary even though she never left the Carmelite convent. Both of these are "Patrons of the Missions". Be prepared to put your life on the line in order to enlighten the world with the truth of Christ; to respond with love to hatred and disregard for life; to proclaim the hope of the risen Christ in every corner of the earth.
Earlier this month, the Australian Prime Minister John Howard helmed an official delegation to greet the World Youth Day Cross as it arrived in Sydney, beginning a yearlong trek across the continent-nation.

* * *

Away from the event that became the triennial centerpiece and greatest joy of his pontificate, WYD's founder -- i.e. the Servant of God John Paul II -- could be overheard saying that, while some thought "the purpose of World Youth Day is the salvation of the youth," in his mind, "è per la conversione dei Vescovi"...

...that is, it was meant even more "for the conversion of the bishops."

Five years ago this week, in his last Transatlantic journey, John Paul came to Toronto for the largest gathering in Canada's history, his final pilgrimage to the event that, over two decades, drew tens of millions of the church's rising generation to what the event's director, Basilian Fr Thomas Rosica, called "the new Mt Sinais" of Paris, Manila and Denver "to receive the new law of the Beatitudes."

John Paul chose the theme "You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world" for his final World Youth Day, and the flame ignited at Downsview Park and Exhibition Place remains alive both in the many veterans of the experience, who've taken it with them into countless forms of mission, and especially in the work of GMG'02's firstborn fruit, Salt + Light TV. To commemorate the fifth anniversary of its seminal event, the network has produced (and webstreamed) a moving retrospective of the days, The Song of the Cross.

To enter the network's studios on Richmond Street -- populated by many of the original WYD leadership team -- is to find that, just as with my beloved spiritual hometown in the Rockies, World Youth Day never really left Toronto. There, for all the chatter and conflict outside its walls over the church's direction, one finds the concrete realization of the future's best promise and highest hopes: a group whose faith is marked less by ideology than inspiration, its fervor advertised by the alluring light of that pure, uplifting joy possessed by those intrepid souls whose faith calls them, simply, to love and to work.

Then, as now, the director -- a university chaplain and lecturer in the Scriptures before being tapped to lead what became a planning team of almost 400 -- took a page from John Paul's playbook, ensuring that the work of an event for the young wouldn't be planned out by dispassionate, seasoned "pros," but by the core of its target.

"The risk of the World Youth Day," Rosica said at the time, "was that a number of adults would get together, who would be experts, who would put on an event for young people. And it's always a risk because there's a lot of goodwill and a great desire to do things -- [but] there's also a presumption that young people don't know what they're doing. I've never bought into that."

"The only way that we can make a difference," he said, "especially in the church, and work with young people, is by doing things with them and for them, together. And I believed from the beginning that if this event was going to be a success in Canada, it had to be an event where the young people were at the heart of the organization: to take ownership of it, to appropriate it, to lead it and to guide it. And I was criticized heavily for this: by the church, by people in the church and by people watching from outside saying, 'These young people will let you down -- they won't deliver, they won't be punctual, they won't take this seriously.' And I smiled each time I heard that, and I said, 'Watch!'"

The result: "This particular group," he said, "never let us down."

"The commitment, the generosity, the devotion, the faith, the love, the energy. And, see, the World Youth Day was the pretext -- these young people learned to become leaders in the church, in society, and how to transform culture."

It wasn't Rosica's only unconventional decision whose payoff was as great as the proposal was daring.

In a move unheard of for his 100-plus foreign trips -- Polish homecomings excepted -- John Paul's Canadian jaunt saw him take several days on vacation at the Basilian retreat of Strawberry Island. While the public record of the days is well-known and the papal speeches belong to posterity, many of the trip's most emotional moments took place north of the city, a chopper ride away from the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. For the rest of his life, the outdoorsman pontiff never failed to mention the island whenever a Canuck found their way to the papal apartment.

At one point during his stay, at the Pope's urging, John Paul's aides asked if a children's hospital were nearby for an impromptu papal visit. It happened to be mid-day, just as the young patients of one nearby facility would take their daily paddle-boat rides on Lake Simcoe.

Within minutes, a boat was secured for the Holy Father's use. As he sat on the deck and the kids noticed him, they came closer to the boat as John Paul's longtime secretary, then-Bishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, handed him rosaries to toss overboard to them.

The island retreat also hosted a papal lunch with representatives of the young pilgrims, a tradition begun in Rome in 2000 when John Paul hosted some of the attendees at the Pope's summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

Following the meal, a youth sing-along of Beatles' hits was all ready to go. The one person who could, however, put a stop to it did so, saying -- irrespective of the Fab Four's country of origin -- "Enough of this American music!"

Instead, he asked his guests to sing in their own languages.

Identifying a German pilgrim, the papal voice boomed, "You are German -- we sing Stille Nacht [Silent Night]!" And they all did. When a young woman from New York told the pontiff that she shared her 18 May birthday with John Paul, he replied, "Then we can sing 'Happy Birthday.'"

Again, they all did.

Returning to Toronto, the Pope -- for whom the young were said to be as strengthening as medicine -- told his crowd of 850,000 gathered on a military tarmac that "You are young, and the Pope is old.

"82 or 83 years of life is not the same as 22 or 23," he said. But even in the midst of his infirmities, "I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young."

"You are our hope," John Paul said, in what became his farewell message to the generation forever linked with him.

"[T]he young are our hope."

In his weekly op-ed column in yesterday's Toronto Sun, at the end of a weekend rich in memories whose seeds have borne great fruit, the event's director said that, while "the summer of 2002 woke up the country and the church in Canada, reminding us that the church is alive and young... one thing is clear" in its wake:

"We have much work to do in reaching out to young people across this vast land."

The "vast land" of that charge doesn't just lie north of the 49th Parallel, but to the whole mission field of a church in a world where crises of relationship, of self-worth, of intimacy and of truth have spread like weeds in every place where the message of faith, of love, of true freedom isn't presented with the conviction and the courage that allows it to be heard and heeded.

More often than not, other forces have been blamed for its lack of a captive audience. But this short-sighted and convenient way of thinking ignores the reality that any failure to reach out, to be credible, to be relevant in telling and living a story whose value has been proven by the experience of 2,000 years in every environment imaginable is firstly and foremostly our own, and no headway can be made without realizing that accomplishing the work begins not with words, but with witness.

This isn't to say that that's easy, but that's the point: it isn't, it's not supposed to be. And anyone who talks or acts otherwise isn't doing it right.

A couple months ago, I told a group of my peers that the way forward was keenly captured in a line from a more-recent song: "Turn on all the lights / Make it louder."

Lest there be any confusion, "make it louder" doesn't mean "make it jarring." Anyone who's ever heard a blown-out amplifier -- and, consequently, watched people trampling each other to run away from it -- knows how it perverts the beautiful sound it's meant to convey. "Make it louder" means nothing more than, simply, that nothing worth passing along should ever found in a barely-audible mumble; you see, not for nothing does "confidence" have at its root "fide" -- the Latin word for "faith."

The father who gave my generation the faith -- and the faith in itself -- to sing has since gone to the Father's house. He doesn't just see us, bless us and cheer us on still from its window, but his example and his call remains: "Sing louder."

As the next guardians of a flame first kindled not at the CN Tower, but in the Cenacle, may we always be given the courage, the support, and the space to keep it alight.


King in the Castel

Late last week, B16 left the relative seclusion of the Dolomites for the papal summer villa at Castel Gandolfo, where he'll remain until the end of September.

In this summer's first public appearance from the Alban Hills, the Pope returned to the theme of peace, highlighting Pope Benedict XV's "Peace Note" for the second week in a row and commemorating the 50th anniversary of the International Atomic Energy Association:
An end to nuclear proliferation, the promotion of nuclear disarmament and the peaceful use of atomic energy for economic progress, above all in favour of the poorest. These are the aims of the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose 50th anniversary was marked today by the Pope, when he underlined the fact that the Holy See is part of the UN organisation and shares in its objectives....

[Benedict] appealed for the release of the 22 South Korean hostages kidnapped in Afghanistan. In a short appeal launched after the recitation of the Marian prayer, the Pope neither named the hostage nor the Taliban kidnappers. “The exploitation of innocent people as a means to gaining partisan ends – noted the Pope – is becoming more widespread among armed groups. This – he continued – is a grave violation of human dignity, in stark opposition to every basic norm of a civilised society which also gravely offends divine law. I urge the authors of these criminal acts to desist from the evil they are doing and to release their victims safe and intact”....

“Last Sunday – he said – recalling the “Nota” of August 1st 90years ago addressed by Pope Benedict XV to the warring countries of the First World War, I dwelt on the theme of peace”.

“Now – he continued – a new occasion invites me to reflect on another important argument linked to the theme. Today is the 50th anniversary of the passing of the IAEA statute, the International Atomic Energy Agency; founded on the mandate to “seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world” (art. II of the Statute). The Holy See, which fully approves the aims and objectives of the Organism, is a founding member and continues to support its work. The radical changes which have taken place in the past 50 years show that at the difficult crossroads facing humanity today, the commitment to encouraging the non proliferation of nuclear arms, the progressive and consensual promotion of disarmament in favour of a peaceful and safe use of nuclear technology for an authentic development which respects the environment and is always attentive to the worlds disadvantaged peoples, is urgent and necessary. I therefore hope – he added – that the efforts of all those who pursue with determination these three objectives, bear fruit, so they may censure that “the resources gained may be spent on development projects to the advantage of all citizens, first and foremost the poor”. (World Peace Day Message 2006, n. 13). It is timely to repeat on this occasion – he continued – that the arms race must be replaced by a common effort to mobilize resources towards objectives of moral, cultural and economic development, by redefining priorities and the hierarchies of values (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2438)”.

“Let us trust our prayers for peace to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary – he concluded – in particular our prayer that scientific and technological knowledge are applied with a sense of responsibility for the common good, in full respect of International law. Let us pray that mankind live in peace, as brothers, sons of the one Father: God”.

PHOTO: AP/Andrew Medichini


Benedict, Pope of Peace

Amidst a world veering toward war, in the late summer of 1914 the conclave chose a veteran diplomat, Cardinal Giacomo della Chiesa of Bologna, as the successor to St Pius X.

A member of the college for less than a year before his election, della Chiesa chose the name Benedict. His mission wasn't just to guide the church's response to secular divisions, but to create peace within its own walls; Pius' famous crusades against "modernism" had done their part to subvert Catholic unity, and Benedict's first encyclical -- eerily prophetic on its own -- lamented the "dwelling on profitless questions" by ad intra circles and stated his "will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another."

...sound familiar to anyone?

Such terms "are to be avoided," the Pope said, "not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanas. Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself."

While Ad beatissimi apostolorum remains largely confined to the province of church historians and others particularly keen on the wisdom of the ages, one of Benedict XV's more memorable interventions in the wider arena was his "Note to the belligerent powers" of World War I -- the "Peace Note," which marks its 90th anniversary this week.

In an impromptu discourse to his electors following his own ascent to Peter's chair, the newly-elected Papa Ratzinger said he chose to be called Benedict XVI both as an homage to the great saint of that name, but also evoking the legacy and work of his wartime precessor. Both in last week's Sunday Angelus talk and again yesterday, the reigning Benedict touched heavily on the "Note," with its memorable appeal to halt the "useless slaughter" of so many, and a timely piece in this week's edition of The Tablet provides a load of context:
From the beginning of the conflict he had called passionately for the warring nations to stop fighting and negotiate; in 1915 he wrote a special prayer for peace which he ordered to be used at special days of prayer throughout the world; he also tried unsuccessfully to stop Italy from entering the war and condemned German atrocities committed during the war, especially in Belgium. His efforts and even-handedness earned him obloquy on both sides of the conflict: in France he was called le pape Boche, in Italy Maledetto XV and in Germany Der Franzoische Papst.

By the summer of 1917 the combatant nations seemed weary of the slaughter. Pope Benedict rightly perceived that any initiative would succeed only if Germany were prepared to make concessions. He sent Mgr Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII) to Germany to see the Kaiser and his Chancellor. These meetings established the specific issues on which Germany would be prepared to negotiate peace: including the limitation of armaments, the setting up of international courts, negotiations about Alsace-Lorraine and, above all, the restoration of the independence of Belgium.

The note is sometimes known by its opening words in French, Des le Debut: “Since the beginning of our pontificate, in the midst of the horrors of the terrible war which has burst upon Europe, we have considered three things among others: to maintain an absolute impartiality towards all belligerents, as becomes him who is the common father, and who loves all his children with an equal affection; to endeavour continually to do the utmost good to all without distinctions of persons, nationality or religion, in accordance not only with the universal law of charity, but also with the supreme spiritual duty laid upon us by Christ; and finally, as is demanded by our pacific mission, to omit nothing, as far as it in our power lies, to contribute to hasten the end of this calamity by trying to bring the peoples and their leaders to more moderate resolutions in the discussion of means that will secure a ‘just and lasting peace’.” He proposed that the rule of law be restored and that the moral force of right replace the material force of arms. This needed to be done in three stages: first, fighting should be suspended; second, there should be a reduction in armaments “according to rules and guarantees to be established to the extent necessary and sufficient for the maintenance of public order in each State”; third, there should be international arbitration “on lines to be determined and with sanctions to be settled against any State that should refuse either to submit international questions to arbitration or to accept its awards”. He called for occupied territories to be restored, negotiations to settle territorial disputes, the free movement of peoples and common rights over the seas. Demands for reparations and indemnities should be renounced. In addition to the points already agreed in Germany, of note are the provisions for the renunciation of indemnities and the freedom and community of the seas; as can be seen Benedict set out detailed plans for negotiations in relation to Belgium, Poland, the Balkan states and Armenia.

The initiative failed: no one on the Entente side showed any interest. Britain, still a country in which much of the establishment was anti-Catholic, did not even show the Holy See the common courtesy of a proper reply. Much hostility to the pope’s initiative was shown in France and Italy, and the rejection on behalf of the alliance was made by United States President Woodrow Wilson, who had initially remarked of the pope: “What does he want to butt in for?"

There were also problems on the other side: in spite of the eagerness of the Habsburg Emperor Charles for peace, (he was beatified by John Paul II in 2004), by this time Austria-Hungary was almost entirely dependent on Germany and incapable of independent action. In Germany itself, by the time the note was issued there had been a change of government and the High Command were less interested in a negotiated peace and in giving up Belgium. Benedict said that its rejection was the bitterest moment of his life.

What is disturbing is the extent to which the Pope was not supported by those who would naturally be expected to be his closest collaborators: the bishops and other influential Catholics in the belligerent countries.
...sound familiar?
Pope Benedict simply did not accept that for either side the First World War could be justified in terms of traditional Christian teaching. The scale of the conflict and the enormity of suffering caused by modern methods of warfare showed that Christian approaches to war had to “move on”: he taught that the war was a “horrible carnage that dishonours Europe” and that because of it the world had become a “hospital and a charnel house”. He had no time for the ideologies that made this conflict noble and glorious.
...sound familiar?

You get the idea.

On his trip to Turkey late last year, Benedict XVI visited a statue of his predecessor erected in tribute outside the cathedral of the Saint-Esprit in Istanbul.

The inscription on its base reads: “To the great Pope of the world’s tragic hour, Benedict XV, benefactor of the people, without discrimination of nationality or religion, a token of gratitude from the Orient.”


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Carolina State Symbols: Tar Heels, Palmettos -- and Seminarians

Further evidencing the rise of the Southern states as American Catholicism's boomtown, Bishop Robert Baker of Charleston will ordain six new priests tomorrow night -- the largest crop for South Carolina's lone diocese (Catholic pop. 176,000) since 1956.

Due to the large number of candidates, the ordination Mass is being held in a convention center in the state capital of Columbia. In May, the historic local church (founded in 1820) welcomed 22 new permanent deacons; since 1990, its Catholic presence has more than doubled, now comprising 4% of the general population.

Just up I-95 in the diocese of Raleigh, eight "new men" are entering formation this fall, bringing its total number of seminarians to 21. The result of Bishop Michael Burbidge's full-court press for a heightened awareness of priestly vocations in the burgeoning diocese, in a stroke of pure coincidence, come September the Raleigh recruits will find themselves at St Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, where the bishop served as rector from 1999-2004.

The chair-elect of the USCCB's Committee on Vocations, Burbidge marks his first anniversary in North Carolina next weekend, and one of the incoming class was profiled in the local News & Observer last weekend.

Clearly, the ref's jersey (with coat of arms patch) paid off.

Joe Benton/The New Catholic Miscellany


"And, Yea, Though I Walk..."

Once upon a time, on my first night in Eternal City, on a bus with some friends to dinner, the dome of St Peter's came into view for the first time.

Across the aisle, as I was straining to catch a glimpse of it, between my eyes and Michelangelo's masterpiece -- illumined for the Jubilee Year -- one of my childhood mentors looked over and said, "I know you've waited a long time for this, and I'm not going to get in your way."

With that, he began to push his seat back, giving your narrator a clear shot of the dome.

It was Fr Ed Hallinan's first trip to Rome, too. But the selfless act was just another of the thousands he's racked up over his 24 years of an exemplary priesthood.

For the last 11 years, Fr Ed -- a deli-owner's son from suburban Drexel Hill -- has served as pastor of St Martin de Porres, a consolidated parish comprising the territory of what once was 16 parishes in the heart of poverty and crime-stricken North Philadelphia. A tireless worker, his priesthood's niche has been the survival of the church in the inner city for the people who need it the most -- a charge that goes well beyond the welfare of the parish plant, extending itself into massive fundraising efforts to keep his school running and its tuition accessible, and even doing what he can to aid parishioners in danger of losing their gas or electricity.

No one ever said that the Lord's mission -- "that they might have life, and to the full" -- was ever easy.

Keeping the church alive at 24th and Lehigh is a tall order, but the results speak for themselves. He would -- and does -- shirk the credit for it, but I've never known a more heroic, harder-working priest, and his example in life and ministry is the priesthood at its self-giving, life-giving best.

As if it wasn't already clear, it's the kind of work the rest of us can't ever encourage or support enough.

As the parish finds itself the midst of a resurgent murder wave here in the River City, an Inquirer columnist trailed Hallinan -- joined, as usual, by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph McFadden -- on one of his evening walks through his turf.
Girls playing on a broken sidewalk near trash broiling in the heat greet the priest warmly, in spite of their surroundings.

A young mother sitting on her front steps scowls, as if to say she long ago succumbed to hers.

On these steps, in this African American neighborhood, a white stranger bearing blessings had best keep walking.

That - the anger, suspicion, and resignation that no one, not even men claiming to be sent by God, can change anything - is why Hallinan keeps showing up uninvited.

Yes, some neighbors are dying in the gunfights in the 22d Police District, home of some of the highest shooting rates in the city.

But what about all the people who are alive, if not entirely well?

"We need to be present," says Hallinan, the longtime pastor at St. Martin de Porres Roman Catholic Church at 24th and Lehigh.

"It's easy to be overwhelmed by the problems and withdraw, but in withdrawing, you take away people's human dignity and worth," adds Bishop Joseph McFadden, who likes to join Hallinan for the weekly walks.

One priest and a bishop know they're powerless to stop the shooting and reverse decades of job loss, family dysfunction and poverty.

Men who pray for a living prefer to focus on the "deprivation of spirit" that cloaks their community.

"Laws can help. Police can help," McFadden says. "But peace only comes when you open your heart."

"Do you think young guys equate faith with weakness?"

Hallinan puts the question to his fellow walkers: McFadden; Msgr. Joe Shields, the archdiocese's vicar for Hispanics; a young deacon; a seminary student; and a parish employee.

The men nod as they pair off and fan out. St. Martin de Porres' boundaries are so wide as a result of controversial church closings in the 1990s, and Hallinan has 72,000 souls on his mind as he drives to the point where he'll begin walking.

Around the corner from the sweet girls and their sour mom, he and Dan Kredensor, the deacon preparing to be ordained, meet a middle-age homeowner tending a community garden bursting with collards and string beans.

"Watering's been a problem," the gardener tells his guests, "because they won't let us use the hydrant anymore."

They meaning the city. Another slight, amid all this blight....

Block after block, the encounters are brief and seemingly meaningless. Until one isn't.

"Would you come in and bless John?" Sally Hart asks the men she just met outside her house on Ringgold Street.

John is her big brother. He's dying of cancer in her living room.

"I know I smell a little bit of beer," she admits, looking away.

"We were up all night, and it's been a rough day. But then you all were just walking up the street out of nowhere. . . . It's like the Lord knew I needed it."

Hallinan smiles. "The Holy Spirit blew us over here tonight."

He asks the frail, heavily medicated 57-year-old man on the hospital bed if it's OK to touch him.

John nods. They pray.

Sally exhales. "We're just fighting this battle."

She isn't specific, and doesn't need to be. Outside, inside, struggle surrounds.

Up the street, a pair of preteen girls perk up when they see the men in Roman collars approach.

One wants to talk about exorcisms. The other has a more pressing personal question.

"If you have a lot of Jesus pictures in your house," she asks, urgently, "can the devil still come in?"

Hallinan answers them both.

"Sometimes," he says, "evil is one person. But evil is in a society, too.

"We're all a little evil. That's why you have to hold on to your faith."
SVILUPPO: Further underscoring that the epidemic of violence finds itself, literally, right off St Martin's doorstep, a shootout last night in front of the church left one victim dead, another wounded.

Pray for the pastor, pray for the parish, pray for peace.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ed On Evil

Fresh off his appointment as the US' Archbishop-in-Chief (per the provisions of an 1858 Roman decree which has never been abrogated), incoming archbishop of Baltimore Edwin O'Brien delivered last night's Theology on Tap in the diocese of Arlington.

For a taste of Pope Benedict's low-key choice to head the nation's Premier See, an mp3 feed of his take on "The Mystery of Evil" is up. Enjoy.

A native New Yorker, O'Brien's selection earlier this month to succeed Cardinal William Keeler takes him out of the running for the leadership of his native diocese, where he served in a host of capacities for more than three decades before heading to the archdiocese for the Military Services in 1997.

Three months past Cardinal Edward Egan's 75th birthday, however, word from the wires says that another former Gotham auxiliary -- Archbishop Henry Mansell of Hartford -- is more than just the hometown favorite to come back with the keys to 452 Madison and the top suite in the Powerhouse, which he once oversaw as chancellor and vicar-general to John Cardinal O'Connor.

Approaching his 70th birthday in October, Mansell was ordained an auxiliary of New York by John Paul II in 1993 and promoted to the bishopric of Buffalo two years later. His mentor's emphatic choice to take the throne of St Patrick's Cathedral before O'Connor's 2000 death (a succession that prompted a transcontinental War of the Prelates), the Bronx-born cleric, famous for his impeccably jet-black hair, ended up instead in the Connecticut post, where he was installed in 2003.

Viewed by a wide swath of the New York clergy as an "ideal" choice to take the reins of the nation's marquee diocese, Mansell would fit the office's traditional profile (broken but once since 1902) of a familiar hand already well-versed in the ways of one of the global church's most complex diocesan operations. As an added bonus, given tensions among its presbyterate over Egan's leadership style, the native son's familiarity and regard among the local crowd would represent Rome's bid to soothe the nerves of a clergy which has, in parts, become restive in recent years.

Never one to be slowed, the cardinal last week completed a significant reshuffle of the archdiocese's top posts, including the appointment of Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Walsh as rector of St Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie, a new chancellor, director of priest personnel and superintendent of schools. 1011 confirmed last week that Pope Benedict will visit New York and the United Nations (among other parts yet unknown) next spring, coinciding with the bicentennial of the archdiocese's erection as part of the American hierarchy's first expansion.

It's still early in the game, but -- as with all things -- stay tuned.

In other A-list episcopal forays into ToT, as the daily readings continue their chronicle of Israel's flight from Egypt, the Most High Pharaoh will lead his young through the White Sea on Thursday night here in the River City, speaking on the golden topic of (and we're paraphrasing here, but not by much) "Popes I Have Known."

If this isn't slam-dunk "appointment Catholicism," then nothing is. And for one who spent 34 years in the company of the pontiffs, the pittance of an hour and a half to tackle the subject matter is far too short.

As (at least, for a good many of us here) Finnigan's falls within the definition of "some sacred place" (and quite so, at that) it's unclear as to whether the Penitentiary's bicentennial gift to the faithful will apply to the event.

Even so, consider it a plenary indulgence anyway -- for your mind.


The Running of the Maniples

There'll be fewer unadorned clerical forearms come mid-September as the provisions of B16's Summorum Pontificum come into effect.

The decree liberalizing use of the 1962 Missal of Blessed John XXIII, however, hasn't come without a boon for, among other elements, the ecclesiastical fashion industry.

From Rome, Reuters' Phil Pulella takes a closer look:
The old rite also includes hair-splitting specifics on which vestments can be used, what material they must be made of, where the candles should be placed on the altar, and the precise position of the priest's hands at various points in the liturgy.

The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales (LMSEW) is planning a three-day "major training conference" at Merton College at Oxford University in late August: "There has been an explosion of interest," its general manager John Medlin said.

"The aim is to give a firmly grounded taster in how to celebrate the traditional mass and the background information you need to do it with knowledge and devotion," he said by phone.

For those unable to travel, the Society of Saint Pius X, the traditionalist group whose leaders excommunicated themselves from the church after they disobeyed the late Pope John Paul II, has a self-teach option.

It has produced a slick DVD in eight languages showing a priest celebrating the old rite with a running commentary on everything including the precise position -- down to centimeters -- of the priest's hands, altar cloths, chalices and candles.

It tells the priests the exact order in which to don the several layers of vestments. An X for "no" suddenly appears on the screen when the priest makes a false move.

And Siffi plans to expand his Web site,, to help priests find the right equipment. He may also offer courses, which will be charged at cost. "I'm not in this to make money," he said. "This is a labor of love."

Indeed, Siffi recently took on the task of updating the so-called "Trimelloni Guide," an 850-page compendium of liturgical rules and regulations governing all aspects of the old rite.

Medlin, Soffi and others say there is today a growing interest in the old rite from young people disaffected with a superficial, consumerist world and looking for something sacred.

After the old rite was phased out to be replaced in some churches by sing-along hymns and guitar music, many people missed the Latin rite's sense of mystery and awe and the centuries-old Gregorian chant that went with it.

"It's because young people no longer buy the claim that the supernatural is dead. They have discovered the opposite is true, that the supernatural is alive and the existential was a mere time-bound way of looking at the world that was in its heyday in the 1960s and is now well past its 'sell by' date," Medlin said.

Those who favor the old rite Latin mass realize they will always be a minority in the church, but they are content that now there is a choice for young and old.

"We must understand that most people are happy with the new rite and it's not for us to make them feel like second-class citizens in the way that we were made to feel for so many years," Medlin said.

But finding equipment remains a challenge. Some is so specific to the traditional rite it is out of production.

Both Siffi and Medlin are involved in de facto traditionalist "matchmaking," linking people who have old vestments or other paraphernalia with those seeking them.

After the changes in the 1960s and 1970s much of the material was thrown out, sold to antiquarians or stashed away in dusty cupboards of rectories or church attics.

"Gradually, these objects are being made available for use again," said Medlin.

One hard-to-find item is the "burse": a stiff, cardboard pocket between nine and twelve inches square. It must be covered in silk and of a color to match the mass vestments.

The burse, which fell out of use after the Second Vatican Council, is effectively a pouch which holds the "corporal," a square piece of white linen cloth on which the chalice is placed during the mass.

Another piece of paraphernalia now being sought is the "maniple," a napkin-like vestment which hangs from the priest's left forearm during mass.

The black biretta, a square cap worn by the priest celebrating the old rite as he approaches the altar before mass and on leaving at the end, also fell into disuse. did?

Suffice it to say, that's news to some of us.


St Pat's, Advanced

The greening of the Chicago River -- and every other tradition of St Paddy's Day -- will be coming early in 2008; due to a rare scheduling conflict with Holy Week, the Holy See has green-lighted the liturgical celebration of Ireland's Apostle for next 15 March:
When the conflict became apparent, officials from the Irish bishops' conference wrote the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. The congregation approved the move earlier this year, but it only was made public in mid-July.

A source at the Irish bishops' conference who did not wish to be named told Catholic News Service that the bishops were "keen to keep a link with the civic celebrations by moving the feast to the nearest Saturday, in this case March 15."

"We hope that this will facilitate the religious celebration of the holy day while not interfering too much with people who wish to celebrate the importance of St. Patrick's Day as a symbol of all things Irish," he said.

It is the first time in almost 100 years that the feast of St Patrick will not be celebrated March 17. In 1913, the same conflict occurred, and in that case the church marked the feast April 1.

According to historians, March 17 is the traditional date given for the death of St. Patrick, and his feast has been celebrated on this day since the seventh century....

The next time St. Patrick's Day will fall during Holy Week will be 2160.
Not as fun as covering Corned Beef Indults, but much more significant.

SVILUPPO: OK, habemus chaos....

So it appears that -- as next 19 March is the Wednesday of Holy Week -- the Holy See has universally moved the Solemnity of St Joseph to the aforementioned 15th. Since the 25's Solemnity of the Annunciation falls on Easter Tuesday, that'll be observed on 31 March.

Given the St Joe's judgment, as two feasts can't be celebrated concurrently, some dioceses have reported moving the observance of St Pat's to Friday, the 14th. Which means, gratefully, that the specter of the Corned Beef Indult returns....

And in some places, it's already been granted -- eight months in advance.

Mark your calendars.


Ode to the Corps

From the latest Economist, an appreciation of some of the hardest-working men in the business: the diplomatic corps of the Holy See.
Over the past century—despite the march of secularism—the Vatican's role in world affairs has expanded. In 1890 a famous English Catholic, Cardinal Manning, said the Holy See's diplomatic activities were “a mere pageant”, a medieval relic. He would be amazed to find that in 2007 papal diplomacy is more active than ever.

The real explosion came under John Paul II. When he was elected in 1978, the Holy See had full ties with 85 states. When he died, the figure was 174. Among states that dropped their misgivings were Margaret Thatcher's Britain, Ronald Reagan's America and Mikhail Gorbachev's Soviet Union. The Holy See now has full diplomatic relations with 176 states. Vietnam, China and Saudi Arabia are among the few without formal links. Recent years have also seen an expansion in the See's multilateral diplomacy. It sits in on the deliberations of 16 inter-governmental bodies, including the United Nations, the African Union and the Organisation of American States....

The pope's “diplomatic service” is a reminder of his unique and ambiguous status as both a religious and temporal leader. Formally, the pope's diplomats represent the Holy See—not the Vatican state which, under a 1929 accord with Italy, is the sovereign power in part of Rome. But in years past, some states (such as America in the 19th century) would deal with the pope only as head of a sovereign state. The fact that pontiffs wear two hats, temporal and spiritual, gives them, and their interlocutors, a certain flexibility. In 2001, when Greece's Orthodox clergy grumbled over a visit by Pope John Paul II, the government in Athens could retort that it was merely receiving him as a head of state.

But more and more governments have in recent years seemed happy to deal with the Holy See on its own terms, especially after John Paul II boosted its global profile. For any state, an embassy to the See offers attractions. For poor ones, it is a chance to garner information from one of the world's best-informed chancelleries. For powerful ones, it offers a way to influence the Vatican and seek papal approval. Napoleon told his man in Rome: “Deal with the pope as if he had 200,000 men at his command.” After some years in Rome, the envoy said 500,000 was nearer the mark.

The real extent of the Vatican's power is hard to compute. One in every six human beings was baptised into the pope's church. Of course, many quit the faith, but he remains a global opinion-former. His views can sway Catholic votes—a point not lost on American presidents, who rarely miss a chance to visit the Vatican. In Burundi all top politicians and expatriates flock to Archbishop Gallagher's residence for the papal feast day. Cutting a lower profile than his predecessor, the 53-year-old Englishman reports only “occasional” contacts with Burundi's rebel factions, the last of which signed a ceasefire agreement in September 2006. In the rich world one respecter of papal clout is Britain's new prime minister, Gordon Brown. Three years ago this son of a Presbyterian minister went to seek Vatican endorsement of a proposal to boost aid to poor nations. This year he returned to co-launch a plan to bring new vaccines to poor states.

Papal diplomacy is almost as old as the papacy. But it was not until 1500 that a permanent nunciature, or diplomatic service, was established, in Venice. The earliest Protestant state to send an ambassador was Prussia in 1805: its envoy was Baron Wilhelm von Humboldt, a philosopher and linguist. The first non-Christian state to establish relations was Japan, in 1942.

Of the countries with links today, only 78 keep missions in Rome—and they form one of the world's odder diplomatic corps. The embassy with the biggest staff, along with that of Germany, is the Dominican Republic's. Iran has a large mission, with as many diplomats as America. (“Who knows what other duties they have?” sighs a senior Vatican official.)...

Papal diplomats, all priests nowadays, are trained at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome. The academy has had a colourful history, once losing its assets to a rogue administrator. Its graduates do two jobs: representing the Holy See to the local government and keeping a vigilant eye on national churches. Vatican envoys usually stay longer en poste than secular ones (one nuncio was in Dublin for 26 years). Some cover vast cultural distances: the nuncio in Algeria was born in Taiwan.

Conventional diplomacy is a small part of what they do. “In most places, 95% of our work relates to the life of the church,” says a former nuncio. “The overwhelming bulk of the correspondence has to do with the appointment of bishops.”

Another big difference between papal and ordinary diplomats is that the former have little protection—and never pull out of dangerous situations. “The pope leaves his representatives to suffer with the people of the country to which they are accredited,” says a Vatican official.
That latter component of the corps' unique espirit is underscored by two high-profile departures from North American nunciatures this month, as Monsignors Michael Crotty and Matteo De Mori leave their posts in Ottawa and Washington, respectively, to take up assignments at the Vatican outpost in Baghdad.

The Iraq mission -- whose former head, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, is settling into the Sostituto's office in San Damaso -- also represents the Holy See in Jordan.


Abuse Docket, Canonical Desk

In only the second known ecclesiastical tribunal for a clergy sex-abuse case in the US, a three-judge panel dismissed an Oklahoma priest from the clerical state:
Ken Lewis, 49, is the only priest in the history of the Diocese of Tulsa to be "laicized," or dismissed from the clerical state. Lewis worked at St. Mary's Catholic Church and Holy Family Cathedral in Tulsa and other churches around the state before he resigned in 2002.

The decision of the ecclesiastical trial, the first ever held by the diocese, to strip Lewis of his status as a cleric was not official until the pope affirmed it. The Rev. Michael Knipe, canon lawyer and spokesman for the diocese, said word was received from Rome on July 5.

Lewis faced allegations that he had improper physical contact with boys. Knipe said details of the trial and the case against Lewis will not be made public.

Lewis has never been charged with a crime related to sexual abuse of a minor but has faced accusations since the early 1990s....

Bishop Edward Slattery, in a statement to be made public in the diocesan publication, The Eastern Oklahoma Catholic, expressed his "profound regret" that any cleric in the diocese would abuse those entrusted to his care and offered his deepest apology to anyone who may have been harmed by a priest or deacon in the diocese.

"I deplore the grave evil of sexual abuse of children and young people, and I want to reiterate my concern and the Church's commitment to protect our children," he said.

Lewis, who was ordained a priest in 1991 at Holy Family Cathedral in Tulsa, faced accusations of inappropriate behavior with boys in 1993.

Those allegations involved physical contact with boys while he was associate pastor at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Tulsa. Slattery investigated at that time and removed Lewis from his position at St. Mary's.

Lewis was sent to a psychiatric treatment facility but returned to active ministry in Tulsa in 1995 under the condition that he not be alone with minors.
The first of the tribunals -- which can only proceed with permission from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- was held late last year; to date, its verdict has not been made public.

To ensure the fairness of the process and tamp down on local exposure, past and future canonical trials are more likely to sit away from their place of origin. Amid criticism that the US church's post-2002 protocols on abuse cases have jeopardized the canonical premiums on due process and the rights of the accused, the tribunal proceedings have generated a significant amount of interest among rank-and-file priests.

More are slated for the fall, including a priest v. bishop case from a Southern diocese which, reportedly, will be argued here in Philadelphia.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Peace in the "Garden"

Departing again from his traditional Angelus practice of some words on the Sunday readings, near his respite in Lorenzago the Pope today issued an impassioned cry for an end to war.

The English translation:

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In these restful days that, thank God, I'm spending here in Cadore, I feel even more intensely the sorrowful impact of the news reaching me on the bloody conflicts and episodes of violence that are playing themselves out in many parts of the world. This leads me to reflect once again on the drama of human liberty in the world. The beauty of nature recalls for us that we're placed by God to "cultivate and care for" this "garden" that is the Earth (cf Gen 2:8-17). If men wish to live in peace with God and among themselves, the Earth would truly resemble "paradise." Unfortunately, sin has ruined this divine project, generating divisions and entering death into the world. And so, it comes with that that men give in to the temptations of Evil and make war against each other. The consequence is that, in this stupendous "garden" that is the world, the space of the "inferno" has opened itself.

With its trail of mourning and destruction, war is always rightly considered a calamity that contrasts with the project of God, who has created all things for survival and, in particular, wants to make a family of the whole human race. I cannot, in this moment, go forward without the thought of a significant date: the 1st of August 1917 -- now 90 years ago -- my venerated predecessor, Pope Benedict XV, released his celebrated Note to the belligerent powers [the "Peace Note"], asking that they might bring an end to the first World War. While this immense conflict raged, the Pope had the courage of affirming that it turned itself into a "useless slaughter." This expression of his engraved itself in history. It justified itself in the actual situation of that 1917 summer, especially on this Venetian front. But those words, "useless slaughter," contain also a larger value, a more prophetic one, and might be able to apply themselves to the many other conflicts that have taken down innumerable human lives.

These very places in which we find ourselves, which themselves speak of peace and harmony, were a theatre of the first World War, as they also reinvoke many stories and moving songs of the Alps. They are events not to be forgotten! We need to make a treasury of the negative experiences that our fathers sadly suffered, that they might not be repeated. The Note of Pope Benedict XV didn't limit itself to condemning war; it marked out, on a juridical plain, ways to build a full and lastin peace: the moral force of law, bilateral and monitored disarmament, arbitration in controversies, the freedom of the sea, the reciprocal forgiveness of war funds, the restitution of occupied territories and other acts to settle the questions. The proposal of the Holy See was oriented to the future of Europe and the world, seconding a Christian project in inspiration, but one shared by all as the foundation of the peoples' right. It's the same appeal that the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II followed in their memorable speeches to the Assembly of the United Nations, repeating, in the name of the Church: "Never again war!" From this place of peace, which also warns of how unacceptable are the horrors of "useless slaughter," I renew the appeal to follow with tenacity the way of law, to refuse with determination the course of arms, to reject ever more widely the temptation of confronting new situations with old systems.

With these thoughts and ends at heart, let us now lift a special prayer for peace in the world, entrusting it to Mary Most Holy, Queen of Peace.

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae....

AP/Antonio Calanni


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

From the Mothership

Hot off the presses -- delegation of US bishops to meet with Catholic House Dems on Iraq "in response to a June 28 request for a meeting on Iraq from Rep. Tim Ryan (D/Ohio) and 13 other House Democrats":
“Our Conference hopes to work with the Congress and the Administration to forge bipartisan policies on ways to bring about a responsible transition and an end to the war,” Bishop [Thomas] Wenski [of Orlando; USCCB foreign policy czar] said in a July 17 letter [to Ryan et al.]. He pointed to numerous church statements that the bishops have made about the Iraqi situation.

“Too many Iraqi and American lives have been lost. Too many Iraqi communities have been shattered. Too many civilians have been driven from their homes. The human and financial costs of the war are staggering. Representatives of our Conference welcome the opportunity to meet with you and other policy makers to discuss ways to pursue the goal of a ‘responsible transition’ to bring an end to the war in Iraq,” Bishop Wenski said.

“The current situation in Iraq is unacceptable and unsustainable, as is the policy and political stalemate among decision makers in Washington,” Bishop Wenski said.

“Our shared moral tradition can guide this effort and inform our dialogue with other leaders as we seek a way to bring about a morally responsible end to the war in Iraq,” he added.
...and the church in the US lost one of its exemplary builders far too soon last weekend; Most Precious Blood (of Fallon) Sr Andrée Fries died on Saturday at 65 from complications of knee surgery:
Sister Fries, a native of Quincy, Illinois, had been a member of her religious order for 48 years and headed the National Retirement Office in Washington since 2000.

Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Washington, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed his sympathy to her religious community and those with whom she worked.

“Sister Andrée brought a wonderful religious vision to her work for the extraordinary men and women religious who have done so much to make the church in our country a major source of education, health care and social services,” he said. “Not only priests, brothers and sisters but also the bishops of this country owe her their gratitude for her inspirational leadership. She brought not only financial acumen but also wisdom, creativity and awareness of the Gospel to the tasks before her. I am sure she will continue to work for the church in this country from her position in heaven.”

The NRRO is headquartered at the USCCB, and sponsored by the USCCB, Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) and Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR). It is responsible for the annual Retirement Fund for Religious Collection, which is taken up in parishes nationwide in December.

Sister Fries had been the NRRO Project Director for Retirement Services, 1998-2000, before becoming director of the office. Previously she had worked for the NRRO as Associate Director/Director of Allocations, TriConference Retirement Project [now (NRRO)], 1987-91.

Sister Fries held a master of business administration degree from Southern Illinois University, a bachelor's degree in business from Quincy College, and had extensive related continuing education, and strong finance and management background. In 2002, Quincy University awarded her an honorary doctor of ministry degree.

She brought both financial skill and compassion to her work, which involved helping men and women religious face a daunting retirement crisis without losing sight of their mission to serve people all their lives.

For more than 35 years she brought to many of the nation’s religious orders and other non-profit groups the benefit of her in-depth financial planning, management, consulting and training experience

She worked in leadership in her own religious order, where she was superior general, for two terms, 1980-86, 1992-98; and vicar general/member of the institute’s administrative council, 1974-80. In addition she was Director of Financial Planning for the order, 1970-74.

Sister Fries served in leadership in several national and archdiocesan offices. She was past president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and was a member of the Archdiocese of St. Louis Finance Council, 1995-1998, its Cemetery Board & Finance Committee and Trustees, 1993-1998, and its Strategic Pastoral Planning Committee, 1995-1998.

From 1995-1998, she was one of three elected U.S. representatives to the International Union of Superiors General, in Rome.

Sister Fries was a member of the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators (NACPA), and served on its Executive Committee, 1985-88; National Board, 1985-88; Finance Committee, 1982-90.

She co-founded the National Association of Treasurers of Religious Institutes (NATRI) and served as its Vice-President 1979-81, and a member of its national board, 1977-81.

The national Religious Retirement Collection stands as one of the most successful fund raising efforts of the Church in the United States and draws about $30 million annually to offset a religious retirement shortfall estimated to be about $9 billion. Each year the bulk of the collection proceeds goes directly to orders in need throughout the United States.
A funeral liturgy for Fries will be held tonight in Washington, followed by final services at her community's motherhouse in Missouri at week's close.


Long Day Gets Longer

Apparently, the bishop-elect of Pittsburgh wants to savor every last morsel of his appointment day: David Zubik's schedule isn't ending with the previously-announced 7pm Vespers service for clergy and seminarians at St Paul's Seminary, but he'll be out and about almost 'til the witching hour, doing a live sit-down on the 11pm newscast of the Steel City's ABC affiliate, WTAE.

Viewers of both 'TAE and KDKA woke this morning to the phoned-in analysis of your (exhausted, unshaven, running on adrenaline) narrator on the happy news.... Napping as possible; fun working with everyone in the 'Burgh on this very happy occasion; our inner Philadelphian is impelled to remind the Westerners that no Purple Rain has fallen on their turf since 1968....

Now to the next stop on the Appointment Express....


"With My Heart Racing and My Knees Knocking"

It's family reunion at the announcement press conference in Pittsburgh: Zubik calls his four most recent predecessors -- Wuerl, Bevilacqua, Leonard and Wright -- "four pillars of the church"; emotionally praises his late mother as his "guardian angel."

Appointee "stunned and excited" -- crying, laughing, comfortable among his own, reminiscing and joking with packed crowd in chancery basement auditorium. Hugs and ovations everywhere.

The newly-returned prelate said he never realized before that the Pittsburgh media were "spiritual directors" -- while, he said, he never thought he had a shot at his native diocese, thanks to his continued presence on the pre-appointment press shortlists "all of you must be in contact with God... so I will listen real carefully to all that you write and say," he said.

Call of appointment received at 3.35pm, Monday 9 July; "I still have to pinch myself to believe that this is happening".... Arrived last night from a half-vacation in Florida, says he's running through the day on 90 minutes' sleep -- "I will be on the streets of Pittsburgh today, so don't worry" -- a day that will end with Vespers with the presbyterate tonight...

...that was quick, eh?

Money quote, responding to question: "The role of the church in politics is not to get involved.

"The responsibility we face as church is to raise issues of what we believe in... it is totally inappropriate and out of line for me to suggest what candidates people would vote for."

Last in town as their #2 boss, Zubik closed presser by telling diocesan employees they had to get back to work...

...and so, on the Boulevard of the Allies, Rome's blessing in hand, the vaunted Wuerl Machine hums securely into the future.


Man of Steel (City) Returns

As a young priest, David Zubik was personal secretary to the tenth bishop of Pittsburgh.

After a decade in the official ranks, the eleventh bishop tapped him as vicar-general, ordaining him to the episcopacy and seeing him off to a diocese of his own.

And now, a decade later, the native son is heading home as the twelfth bishop.

This morning, Pope Benedict appointed Zubik, 57, to the Steel City after a charged 14-month vacancy created by the promotion of his mentor, Donald Wuerl, to the archdiocese of Washington in May 2006.

The fulfillment of his now-predecessor's much-desired -- and much-advocated -- outcome, Zubik's return to his hometown's top ecclesiastical post indicates Rome's firm placet in the administration whose day-to-day operations he ran for seven years before heading to Green Bay in 2003, besides further evidencing the kingmaking clout the DC prelate, a Vatican veteran, wields in its halls.

Born in the working-class steel town of Ambridge, near Sewickley, Zubik attended Pittsburgh's St Paul (College) Seminary and Duquesne University before heading to Baltimore's St Mary's Seminary, from which he was ordained in 1975. After serving in parishes, Catholic education and picking up a Master's in Educational Administration from Duquesne, he became administrative secretary to then-Bishop Anthony Bevilacqua in 1987, continuing in the post when then-Bishop Donald Wuerl arrived the following year.

In 1991, the eleventh bishop gave his eventual successor the Clergy Personnel brief; five years later, after a brief period as chancellor, he became vicar-general and General Secretary, rising to the top administrative post of the diocese of 820,000.

Described as a "workhorse" in Wuerl's scrupulously organized, detail-rich mould, Pope John Paul II appointed Zubik auxiliary bishop in 1997; until his episcopal elevation, he served as a spiritual director at St Vincent's Seminary in Latrobe alongside his diocesan duties. In 2003, the late pontiff promoted him to Green Bay to succeed the retiring Bishop Robert Banks.

In the Wisconsin diocese, Zubik honed in characteristic style on its pressing challenges, working particularly toward ensuring a sound future in the areas of Catholic education and priestly vocations. As with other prelates nationwide who've been successful in recruiting more men for formation, the bishop's intense personal investment in the latter has resulted in an increase of seminary candidates for Green Bay's flock of 350,000. The vocation question is particularly crucial to Pittsburgh's outlook -- a declining number of priests has resulted in pastors now being split between multiple parishes, and a religious sister was installed as the diocese's first "parish life collaborator" last weekend.

Of the eight names floated for the vacant bishopric by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette a year ago this week, four (including Zubik) have since gone on to new assignments.

While strong pushes by influential parties were made to advance others among the listed for the Western Pennsylvania post, then-Bishop John Niendstedt was instead sent to the archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis and then-Bishop Joseph Kurtz to the archdiocese of Louisville. In an indicator of the maneuvering of the process over the months leading to this morning's appointment, what the casual observer could've viewed as unrelated moves on the national chessboard were not insignificant contributions toward clearing Zubik's path back home. The appointment also adds further burnish to the longstanding reports that, especially in cases of prominent posts, Benedict XVI is significantly more inclined to give near-decisive weight to the leanings of the office's prior occupant.

On the recent release of Pope Benedict's motu proprio on the pre-Conciliar celebration of the liturgy, Zubik told his Green Bay fold that while he "wish[ed] to state emphatically that the Mass is not changing," adherents of the newly-termed "extraordinary" use of the Roman rite "have been given and have found a place to worship suitably in our own diocese," specifically through the ministry there of the 1962-exclusive Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest. Earlier this year, Zubik administered Confirmation to the group's parishioners according to the pontifical of Bl John XXIII.

According to the provisions of Canon Law, Zubik's installation as bishop of Pittsburgh must take place within two months of this morning's appointment. Along these lines, a late September installation date has already been foreseen.

Founded in 1843, when it encompassed the western half of Pennsylvania, the diocese of Pittsburgh's recent history has proven it a training-ground for senior leadership in the church both in the States and beyond. Since 1950, when then-Bishop John Dearden became its eighth ordinary, four of St Paul's Cathedral's five occupants have gone on to receive the cardinal's red hat -- or, in the case of Wuerl, are primed to maintain the precedent within a short space of time. Also uniquely, since the 1969 appointment of Bishop Vincent Leonard (the last ordinary to not leave the post by promotion), Zubik's appointment makes three of four Pittsburgh ordinaries who have been native sons of the diocese.

Elsewhere on the map, another Pittsburgh priest who, like Zubik, went on to become bishop of Green Bay currently has a red hat of his own. Others may be expecting his successor quickly, but word from those close to Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit says "enjoy your summer -- and don't hold your breath."

Then again, these days -- as the rapidly-collapsed timetable on today's appointment proves -- anything is possible... and at any time.

SVILUPPO: Homecoming/installation date announced for 28 September in St Paul's Cathedral; press conference confirmed for 10am at Chancery, noon Mass at adjoining St Mary of Mercy church.

And now, the statements....

Zubik: “I was truly honored to serve the wonderful people of Green Bay. Green Bay became my new home. Now Pittsburgh is my home again. I love the Church of Pittsburgh. I love being a part of the presbyterate of Pittsburgh once again. I love the people of Pittsburgh. It is a wonderful church – very much alive in Christ."

Wuerl: "Personally, I rejoice with the news of this appointment. I am very pleased for what it will mean to the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Bishop Zubik knows, loves and has served the Church of Pittsburgh, and has walked with it through all of its many moments of challenge and development for the past 20 years. My prayer is that God will bless him and his ministry and of course the Church of Pittsburgh."

Constant updates on the P-G's morning piece.



P-Day Dawns?

The Steel City is abuzz....

Ann Rodgers, take it away:
A new bishop for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is expected to be named this week, possibly as early as today, according to sources outside the diocese.

In addition to those sources, Rocco Palmo, whose blog, "Whispers in the Loggia," often accurately predicts bishop appointments, said yesterday he was hearing reports that the announcement was coming within "days, if not hours."

The name he is hearing most often is that of Bishop David Zubik 57, of Green Bay, Wis., a former auxiliary bishop of Pittsburgh.

"It's hard to tell where the line between sentiment and reality is right now. Obviously there is a lot of local affection and hope that it will be Bishop Zubik. And I have also heard his name from outside the diocese. But, in the words of a Vatican official I spoke with a couple of weeks ago, I won't believe it until it's on the Vatican Web site," said Mr. Palmo, who is also the U.S. correspondent for the London-based Catholic weekly, The Tablet.
...meanwhile, the confirmations just keep rollin' in.

See you at 6.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Three (Old) Rivers, One (New) Bishop

Multiple sources in the Steel City report that a 10am "meeting" has been called at ecclesiastical Ground Zero there -- seminarians advised to gather in full-dress for event and subsequent festivities... whatever it might bring.

Hint, hint: they're not just celebrating the Wednesday of the 15th Week.

Already away from his current charge, The Winner is believed to already be on home-turf.


LA's Deal: Words from Near and Far

In a rare Vatican reaction to a diocesan move -- in this case, yesterday's $660 million abuse settlement by the archdiocese of Los Angeles -- the director of the Holy See Press Office Fr Federico Lombardi SJ delivered a statement this morning on Vatican Radio.

Following is an English translation:
The agreement reached by the archdiocese of Los Angeles for the compensation of a great number of cases of sexual abuse on the part of priests, religious and laity of the archdiocese in the course of decades past is news that, understandably, has garnered much attention, whether for the number of cases, or for the [financial] terms of the payment.

But, as stated by Cardinal Mahony -- along the lines of what John Paul II and Benedict XVI have stated on many occasions -- the church is evidently, above all, aggrieved by the suffering of the victims and their families, for the profound injuries caused by the grave and inexcusable behavior of its different members, and has pledged itself decisively in every way to avoid further instances of this kind of wickedness.

The finalized agreement, with the sacrifices that it brings, is also a sign of this pledge, of the decision to close a sorrowful page and to be watchful going forward in means of prevention and the creation of an ever more secure environment for children and young people in all areas of the pastoral life of the church.

Still, given that the problem of abuse experienced from childhood and adopting protections against it doesn't just completely regard the church, but also many other institutions, it is just that these also take decisively the necessary provisions.

The church, conscious of its educational reponsibility in the protection of youth, intends to participate as a positive force in the battle against pedophilia, which rightly involves all sectors of society ever more extensively in many countries around the world.
Closer to the eye of the storm, in an interview with the Opinion Blog of the LA Daily News, Cardinal Roger Mahony opened up...

...and then a quibble ensued over whether the remarks were, indeed, on-record.

The paper maintains they were, so... here's a bit:

On what he means when he says he's taking responsibility:

I found in visiting with victims that unless you accepted responsibility in the name of the Church for what happened to them, you cannot authentically offer them an apology. And as I met with many victims, most of whose cases, practically all, took place long before I came here .... (I saw the) need to take responsibility in the name the Church so that I can personally take responsibility.

[LADN] pressed him further: What is he taking responsibility for? What specifically did he do wrong?

That's not the issue ... for victims, they just need the official voice of the archbishop to say whatever happened to you shouldn't have happened. It's sinful, it's wrong, and I apologize.... I'm sorry what happened to you in the life of the church, and I apologize....

[LADN] tried to stress the difference between "I'm sorry about what's happened to you" versus "I'm sorry for what I have done." Isn't there an important difference between the two?

That's true, but that's not what (victims are) looking for. They would love to meet the offender and hear him say that. They're looking for an apology from the Church....

What about the charge that the problem is a lack of discipline and orthodoxy in the seminaries?

Well, first of all that's one of the things that we still are studying. As you know, the bishops are conducting a study of causes.... In our case, many of the priests came out of the "good old days" -- Latin-only, cassocks-only.... Most of our cases did not come out of post-Vatican II, they came out of pre-Vatican II.

From "Weeks"... to Days... to Hours

As reported earlier, things really are moving quickly.

Yesterday, you heard here that more movement on the US' backlogged-as-never-before-in-modern-times appointment docket was expected shortly, and that a decision for the diocese of Pittsburgh was expected within "weeks."

Then, in this morning's hometown Post-Gazette -- with an assist from someone you know -- Ann Rodgers reported that an appointment was "imminent."

Now, it's becoming clear that, (as soon as) tomorrow, Pope Benedict will name the twelfth bishop of Southwestern Pennsylvania's 820,000 Catholics... and, in the foreseeable future, that ain't all, either.

And the winner is.... Well, besides Archbishop Wuerl......


Monday, July 16, 2007

More to Come

For those who might be thinking that Baltimore was the end of the line in the summer de-clogging of the US' backlogged-as-never-before-in-modern-times appointment docket, just wait.

The way things are moving, we're not done yet....

More specifics as they're nailed down. Stay tuned.


Done Deal

The LA settlement was agreed to by a judge and all parties at a hearing earlier today.

Final figures: 508 claimants, $660 million -- "up to 40%" of which goes to plaintiffs' attorneys.
From the wire:

Some of the plaintiffs sobbed as the deal was formally approved and a moment of silence was held for others who had died during the years of negotiations.

"This is the right result," said Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Haley Fromholz. "Settling the cases was the right thing to do, and it was done by dint of a number of extremely talented and dedicated people putting in an awful lot of time."

The deal came after more than five years of negotiations and is by far the largest payout by any diocese since the clergy abuse scandal emerged in Boston in 2002.

The individual payouts will vary according to the severity and duration of the abuse alleged. The plaintiffs' attorneys are expected to receive up to 40 percent of the settlement.

Ray Boucher, the lead plaintiffs' attorney, asked his clients to stand during the hearing and thanked them for their resolve and their courage.

"I know it's hard for most of the victims whose scars are very deep ... and I know many will never forgive the cardinal," he said. "But he took steps that I think that only he could take and if left to the lawyers and others in the church he would not have settled this case."

Cardinal Roger Mahony sat through the hearing but did not speak. Mahony, who has led the archdiocese since 1985, issued an apology on Sunday after the settlement was announced.

"There really is no way to go back and give them that innocence that was taken from them. The one thing I wish I could give the victims ... I cannot," Mahony said Sunday. "Once again, I apologize to anyone who has been offended, who has been abused. It should not have happened and should not ever happen again."

Outside court, though, some plaintiffs weren't ready to accept the cardinal's words.

Lee Bashforth held up a photo of himself as a young boy with the priest he says abused him. He called Mahony's apology "disingenuous" and said the settlement only saved the church from having to face questions before a jury.

"I hope that I'm no longer an 'alleged' victim. Six hundred and sixty million dollars should take that alleged off," said another plaintiff, Steve Sanchez. "Cardinal Mahony got off cheap today."

Mahony has said the settlement would not have an impact on the archdiocese's core ministry, but that the church would have to sell buildings, use some of its invested funds, and borrow money. The settlement also calls for the release of priests' confidential personnel files after review by a judge.

The attorney for the archdiocese, Michael Hennigan, appeared emotional as he told the court that his views of clergy sexual abuse changed during the years he spent trying to hammer out an agreement. He said private meetings with 70 of the plaintiffs made the most impact.

"I'd like to say that the church would have been reformed without these cases, but I don't know that's true," he said. "These cases have forever reformed the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. It will never be the same."

The deal settles all 508 cases that remained against the archdiocese, which also paid $60 million in December to settle 45 cases that weren't covered by sexual abuse insurance.

The archdiocese will pay $250 million, insurance carriers will pay a combined $227 million and several religious orders will chip in $60 million. The remaining $123 million will come from litigation with religious orders that chose not to participate in the deal, with the archdiocese guaranteeing resolution of those 80 to 100 cases within five years, Hennigan said. The archdiocese is released from liability in those claims, said Tod Tamberg, church spokesman.

The settlements push the total amount paid out by the U.S. church since 1950 to more than $2 billion, with about a quarter of that coming from the Los Angeles archdiocese.
...more like a third, actually.

Full Mahony statement:
After much prayer, time, and effort by all of the parties involved, I am able to announce to you today that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has reached an agreement in principle with attorneys representing clergy sexual abuse victims in the 508 civil cases that remain filed against us. While there is still work to be done to finalize the formal agreement, I believe that this agreement in principle represents a significant step toward final resolution of all of the sexual abuse claims filed against the Archdiocese these past few years.

The funding for the global settlement will be shared by the Archdiocese, Insurance Companies, various Religious Orders, and other named parties. I am grateful to the several Religious Orders which have stepped forward to take financial responsibility for cases in which their priests or brothers were accused. However, some Religious Orders and other defendants have declined to participate in the global settlement, and therefore, will be excluded from it.

At this time, I again offer my personal apology to every victim who has suffered sexual abuse by a priest, religious, deacon or layperson in this Archdiocese. It is the shared hope of everyone in our Local Church that these victims, many of whom suffered in silence for decades, may find a measure of healing and some sense of closure with today’s announcement. Although financial compensation in itself is inadequate to make up for the harm done to the victims and their families, still this compensation does provide a meaningful outreach to assist the victims to rebuild their lives and to move forward.

Though the achievement of a global financial settlement is important, so too is the tremendous dedication of our parish leaders and parishioners who continue efforts to prevent sexual abuse and the potential for abuse through our abuse prevention training programs, screening procedures for all priests, employees and volunteers, and our age-appropriate safe environment programs for our children in our parishes and schools.

As I mentioned at the time of our settlement of 45 sexual misconduct cases last November, these settlements will have very serious and painful consequences for the Archdiocese. This is not the fault, nor responsibility of the victims. Rather, we as an Archdiocese will be required to reevaluate all of our ministries and services since we will not be able to offer them at the same levels as in the past. We will also be required to sell non-essential properties in order to fund our portion of the settlements. However, I want to reassure you that no parish properties or parish schools will be affected as a result of these settlements.

Let us continue to pray, through the special intercession of Our Lady of the Angels, for healing for all victims of sexual abuse as well as for the future of our Local Church.

AP/Nick Ut