Friday, April 30, 2010

Curial Notes

Late this morning, well after Roman Noon, the Holy See Press Office made the notable announcement that at 6pm Eastern local time (noon ET), the Pope would be heading across St Peter's Square to his "home" of 23 years: the Palazzo del Sant'Uffizio (right), to visit the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Three days after its current head gave an unprecedented American TV interview to defend the dicastery's history on the matter, the news is significant given the CDF's role in handling the cases of clergy credibly accused of sex-abuse and their dismissal from ministry, confinement to lives of prayer and penance or empaneling ecclesiastical tribunals where doubt exists. These competencies have been exercised in some 3,000 cases since, at the behest of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the congregation was given the task in 2001.

In addition, the timing is intriguing -- as prefect, the now-pontiff devoted this day of the week to poring over the abuse files referred to the Congregation, referring to the reading as his "Friday penance."

Benedict last visited the CDF on the day following his 2005 election to the papacy to offer an emotional "farewell" to his longtime staff. This time, according to the note, the main purpose of the trek is to bless the Congregation's chapel after a recent renovation.

That said, a speech is likewise expected... more as it comes in.

SVILUPPO: As of midnight Rome time (6pm Eastern), no text of the Pope's "words of greeting" to the CDF staff has emerged.

As no public or semi-private utterance of the pontiff's goes unreleased by the Holy See, the lack of a report would appear to indicate an extemporaneous greeting, its transcript to be released on its completion. Either that, or the evening simply ran long -- the Press Office isn't necessarily known for an all-hours schedule.

On a related note, today likewise saw a meeting at which the five Apostolic Visitators for the Legionaries of Christ presented their final reports for B16's decision on the controversial community, its future imperiled by numerous revelations of gross moral and financial impropriety on the part of its late founder, Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, who was barred from ministry and assigned to a restricted life of prayer and penance by the CDF in 2006.

As the day progressed, the Sala Stampa director relayed that, on his own initiative, Benedict "decided to stop by and greet" the meeting's participants.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

"To Lead, Not Goad; To Inspire, Not Shame; To Encourage, and Not Rebuke the Sheep"

Chrism still fresh on his head (and the ring conspicuous by its absence), for his first pastoral visit as head of the Scranton church, Bishop Joe Bambera lunched at a local soup kitchen yesterday... with plans to stop at the area's other two within the next week.

As one born Scrantonian wrote from exile, "my heart is warmed"... and lest anyone didn't jump through the hoops to catch it earlier, here's the crux of the tenth bishop's closing remarks from his Monday ordination (fullvid) -- a worthy summary of the joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties facing not just the gang up the Blue Route, but no shortage of us far afield:

For even more, a special ordination edition of the local Catholic Light has dropped.

* * *
In a unique turn of papal praise, the Scranton bull termed its "beloved community" one that "among the dioceses in America, shines brilliantly with a dignity acquired over the course of years."

Indeed, that's so true that what the "Electric City" wants from Rome, it gets. Still, the even wider truth of the time remains that this ain't your grandfather's Stateside fold... not even your father's: in a word, the era of Northeastern dominance -- and, with it, the prevalent model guiding the American Catholic project for the last century and a half -- now lives only as history, the church's energetic future and ever-growing present on these shores having veered dramatically over the last three decades toward points South and West.

As history's big picture goes, the seismic numerical shift and changing of the ethnic guard -- and with it, a recasting of the church's tone, look and emphasis at every level -- finds no fitting parallel but the US church's first drastic sea-change: the 1840s, when the first massive waves of Irish, exiled by the Famine, swelled the Northeast, transforming its fairly small, sleepy ecclesial outposts (theretofore dominated by sparring factions of English descent) into Stateside Catholicism's unquestioned front-flank for the next 150 years.

As if the correlation between the two moments hadn't already been sufficiently clear, this age returned mightily to one of its precursor's dominant threads over recent days as -- led by the archbishops of Los Angeles and New York -- the bench took a firmly united stand on behalf of its latest migrants, fiercely rejecting what it termed a "mean-spirited" new Arizona law requiring documentation that, at its excesses, could pave the way for "the profiling of individuals based upon their appearance, manner of speaking, or ethnicity" and "the wrongful questioning and arrest of U.S. citizens and permanent residents as well as the division of families." (With this weekend bringing the annual "Pray for Immigrants" observance, prayers and other texts for nationwide parish use are being circulated.)

On a happier Southwestern note, in Texas -- where, within the last five years, Catholics overtook Baptists to become the state's largest religious grouping -- the celebrations of the change have long been afoot: in late 2007, Houston received the first cardinal given a new region of the country in over a half-century... earlier this month the head of Lone Star Country's longtime lead see was thrust into the stratosphere as the archbishop-in-waiting of the nation's largest local church... and on Tuesday, the US' eighth-largest city had its first turn at the coming-out party as twin auxiliaries were ordained (fullvid) to serve a Dallas fold whose Catholic population has ballooned sixfold in just the last two decades, now numbering some 1.2 million -- a size rivaling or besting most of the country's best-known and most-storied ecclesial outposts... and with an astonishing numbers of adults joining in, to boot.

The last time an American see greeted multiple auxiliaries came in 2006, as Boston received two. That North Texas can share a distinction of the kind with these shores' onetime flagship is a sign of the times... and lest anyone thinks otherwise, it won't be another half-decade before a bumper-crop of auxiliaries appears again: already well overdue, the 1.3 million-member archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is on-deck to receive two assistant high-hats before year's end.

Considering that all of five auxiliaries have been named in the other 49 states combined over the last year... well, you get the idea.

All that said, not even the presence of Houston's cardinal and LA's newly-named coadjutor -- and, indeed, not even a very proud Grandpa Ted (on hand to help birth "Grandsons" 4 and 5) -- could eclipse Tuesday's lead line as Dallas' day... and underscoring not just the expectations on his new top lieutenants, but likewise the rich pastoral context of the vibrant Texas church, K-Far's ordination homily included (alongside this post's headline) a powerful exhortation that Bishops Doug Deshotel and Mark Seitz not just serve the flock, but "revere" it:

For the more text-friendly, here's the full preach... with a third province possibly to follow.

* * *
And lastly, as a hat-trick week on the Circuit winds down, it's worth noting that one figure joins past and present... both over the decades and the last three days.

As a reader corrected, Monday's note on all-time Stateside bishop-makers actually has a third figure with 15 ordinations to his name (all of them tied not for third, but fifth): New York's Terence Cardinal Cooke, who succeeded Francis Spellman at 47 on account of his brilliance with the ledgers... but would come to surpass his predecessor by virtue of his quiet holiness.

Through his former secretary who'd likewise go onto the red hat, the "Cookie" line was passed forward Tuesday in Dallas. And in a different way, it continues tomorrow along the banks of the St Lawrence as the latest occupant of 452 Madison presides over his first episcopal ordination as head of the Empire State province, elevating Bishop-elect Terry LaValley of Ogdensburg, the first native son tapped to lead the North Country church in nearly a century... and a choice that, this time around, clearly heeded the local sentiment over the two-decade pattern that saw the post become a "revolving door," its last three holders each coming and going within five years.
(The 2pm Eastern rites will be webstreamed.)

Back to Cooke, though, mid-month saw a significant moment in the drive for his beatification as -- in one of those only-in-New York moments -- Pope Benedict was personally given the positio, the exhaustively-researched case for his sanctity, by Archbishops Tim Dolan and Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore (another former secretary to the cardinal), the cause's vice-postulator Msgr Joseph Giandurco, and the longtime lead champion of "Saint Cookie" Patricia Handal, head of the Big Apple's Cardinal Cooke Guild. (...and dear Aloysius looking down from above.)

The seventh archbishop is just one of several New Yorkers with causes pending, and the roster
reads like a microcosm of American Catholicism's multifaceted diversity: the pioneering Dorothy Day and Isaac Hecker; the Haitian-born Pierre Touissant and the Cuban priest-journalist Felix Varela... and of course, the figure who, in terms of impact, could well be considered the Stateside church's most significant son of all: one Fulton John Sheen.

Of course, the "Capital of the World" already boasts two of its own -- the first two canonized Americans -- among the heavenly host: Saints Elizabeth Ann Seton (born near the Battery in 1774) and the mother of migrants Frances Xavier Cabrini (sent there in 1889 by Pope Leo XIII, and buried near Manhattan's Northwest corner.)

And lastly, Monday sees the tenth anniversary of the death of the "last of the giants": the legendary John Cardinal O'Connor. To commemorate the occasion, a memorial conference and Mass will be held that afternoon in St Patrick's Cathedral.

He might never make it to formal sainthood... but was he ever a good priest.

Catholic Television, Diocese of Scranton(1); Texas Catholic TV(2)
PHOTOS: Aimee Dilger/Wilkes-Barre Times Leader(1); Cardinal Cooke Guild/Catholic New York(3)


And With Your White Book: The Missal Is Approved

A decade in the making -- and after an oft-contentious process that's been both praised and panned... and, on all sides, pored over intensely throughout -- it's now official: the complete revision of the Roman Missal in English is an impending reality of church life.

Within the hour, a Vatican source relayed definitive word that the new rendering of 2002's third Missale Romanum -- the first vernacular text to be universally employed across the Anglophone world -- has received the recognitio (confirmation) of the Holy See.

The work's final approval for liturgical use given in a decree dated 25 March, news of the move was first shared privately yesterday by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. A formal announcement is expected shortly in the customary end-of-meeting communiqué of the CDW's Vox Clara Committee, the blue-ribbon group of English-speaking prelates which has played the clearinghouse role on edits and revisions to the forthcoming translation.

Intended as a more faithful rendering of the Latin editio typica (the liturgy's binding text), the path to today's move dates to 2001, when the CDW instruction Liturgiam authenticam mandated new norms, overturning the post-Conciliar translation policy of "dynamic equivalence" in favor of an improved adherence to the Latin original.

Though the bulk of the reworked Mass-prayers, including the propers of seasons and saints, is still to emerge in its definitive form (known as the "White Book"), Rome granted recognitio to the new Missal's most familiar and consequential element, the standard Order of Mass (OM1), in 2008, permitting its early publication to provide a grace period to prepare musical settings and catechetical efforts to ease the significant change from the various English translations which've gone essentially unchanged for nearly four decades. (Underscoring the long trail of tensions the project has incited, CDW pointedly granted the OM1 confirmation in the dead of Roman summer, days after the US bishops became the lone body of the 11 Anglophone benches to gibbet a major piece of the new translation; once the Vatican reinforced its support for the project, however, the failed Proper of Seasons was approved on a USCCB re-vote four months later.)

As noted previously, with the Holy See's climactic part of the process now complete, the focus returns to the 11 Anglophone bishops' conferences, each of which is charged with disseminating the finished product within its jurisdiction, coordinating the preparatory programs and, above all, fixing the new Missal's implementation date within their proper territory.

While these will vary slightly from country to country, most observers expect the new book to "sunrise" at or around Advent 2011. And with Vox Clara's major project now handled, the commission is widely anticipated to take on a similar overhaul of another significant plank of English-language worship, with the Liturgy of the Hours or sacramental rites leading the on-deck buzz.

As ever, more as it comes in.

SVILUPPO: ...and here, fresh off the presses, the aforementioned Vox Clara release, with announcement:

The committee members are shown above with B16 following their papal lunch yesterday.


The Doctors Are In

As it has for some six centuries, this 29 April again marks the feast of one of the great saints of ecclesiastical renewal: Catherine of Siena (1347-80), who served in turns as a nurse, mystic and Dominican tertiary... but remains most famous for her pen, with which she corresponded as adviser (and often scourge) of her day's hierarchs:
Even at a young age, Catherine sensed the troubled society around her and wanted to help. She dreamed of dressing up like a man to become a Dominican friar; more than once she ran into the street to kiss the ground where Dominicans walked.

Catherine's parents tried hard to discourage her from becoming religious, but eventually, when she was about sixteen-years-old, Catherine, with the help of the Holy Spirit, was permitted to enter the sisters of Penance of St Dominic, the Mantellate.

During her life as a religious, St. Catherine had numerous visions and long ecstasies, but she is most remembered for her writings...

Her bold letters, even today, have a way of shocking the reader into reality. The style of her letters was lean and direct. She sometimes broke with polite convention. For example, during the Great Western Schism, in defense of Pope Urban VI, she rebuked three Italian cardinals who were supporting the anti-pope, writing to them, "what made you do this? You are flowers who shed no perfume, but stench that makes the whole world reek."

These words are strong, and it is not recommended that we imitate them. St. Catherine had a unique call from God, which Pope Paul VI referred to as her "charism of exhortation." 3 it was her great love and fidelity to the Pope and college of bishops that prompted her to respond to God's urgings that she be forthright with those who were against the Vicar of Christ.

Wanting Pope Gregory XI to leave his residency in Avignon and return to Rome, and knowing the Supreme Pontiff was afraid of being poisoned, Catherine wrote to him, "Be not a timorous child, but manly . . ." She spoke to him as a loving daughter would. In other parts of her letters to the Popes she used an affectionate pet name for them: Babbo, which means Daddy.

To Giovanna, the Queen of Naples, who supported the anti-pope and was accused of murdering her husband, St. Catherine wrote, "You know that you do ill, but like a sick and passionate woman, you let yourself be guided by your passions."

Catherine risked death by sending such words to the authorities of her time. But she was not afraid. "I trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, not in myself" was one of her favorite prayers.
In 1970, Paul VI broke precedent by making Catherine the first woman given the ancient accolade of "Doctor of the Church," along with the Carmelite foundress Teresa of Avila. (In 1997, John Paul II made it three, adding the Little Flower Therese of Lisieux to the roster of the faith's greatest teachers.)

"What did she understand by renewal and reform of the church?" Papa Montini asked in conferring the title on Catherine. "Certainly not the subversion of its essential structures, rebellion against pastors, a way of liberty and personal charism, arbitrary innovations in worship and discipline-as some would wish in our day.

"To the contrary," Paul noted, "she repeatedly affirms [the desire] that the church retain the beauty of the Bride of Christ and that renewal could only come 'not with war, but peace and serenity, with humility and the ongoing prayer, sweat and tears of the servants of God.'"

Especially in these trigger-happy days -- and with the role of women in the church back on the front-pages (of the Vatican daily, no less) -- the lesson is particularly worth recalling.

* * *
St Catherine's Day follows the memorial of one of the most popular "modern saints" added to the roll of the canonized in the pontificate of John Paul II, one whose poignancy is only enhanced this time around.

For just the sixth time, yesterday marked the feast of St Gianna Beretta Molla, a Milanese pediatrician who died at 40 to save the life of her fourth child....
She diligently dedicated herself to studies during the years of her secondary and university education, while, at the same time, applying her faith through generous apostolic service among the youth of Catholic Action and charitable work among the elderly and needy as a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. After earning degrees in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Pavia in 1949, she opened a medical clinic in Mesero (near Magenta) in 1950. She specialized in Pediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952 and there after gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly and poor.

While working in the field of medicine-which she considered a “mission” and practiced as such-she increased her generous service to Catholic Action, especially among the “very young” and, at the same time, expressed her joie de vivre and love of creation through skiing and mountaineering. Through her prayers and those of others, she reflected upon her vocation, which she also considered a gift from God. Having chosen the vocation of marriage, she embraced it with complete enthusiasm and wholly dedicated herself “to forming a truly Christian family”.

She became engaged to Pietro Molla and was radiant with joy and happiness during the time of their engagement, for which she thanked and praised the Lord. They were married on September 24, 1955, in the Basilica of St. Martin in Magenta, and she became a happy wife. In November 1956, to her great joy, she became the mother of Pierluigi, in December 1957 of Mariolina; in July 1959 of Laura. With simplicity and balance she harmonized the demands of mother, wife, doctor and her passion for life.

In September 1961 towards the end of the second month of pregnancy, she was touched by suffering and the mystery of pain; she had developed a fibroma in her uterus. Before the required surgical operation, and conscious of the risk that her continued pregnancy brought, she pleaded with the surgeon to save the life of the child she was carrying, and entrusted herself to prayer and Providence. The life was saved, for which she thanked the Lord. She spent the seven months remaining until the birth of the child in incomparable strength of spirit and unrelenting dedication to her tasks as mother and doctor. She worried that the baby in her womb might be born in pain, and she asked God to prevent that.

A few days before the child was due, although trusting as always in Providence, she was ready to give her life in order to save that of her child: “If you must decided between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child - I insist on it. Save him”. On the morning of April 21, 1962, Gianna Emanuela was born. Despite all efforts and treatments to save both of them, on the morning of April 28, amid unspeakable pain and after repeated exclamations of “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you», the mother died. She was 39 years old. Her funeral was an occasion of profound grief, faith and prayer. The Servant of God lies in the cemetery of Mesero (4 km from Magenta).

“Conscious immolation," was the phrase used by Pope Paul VI to define the act of Blessed Gianna, remembering her at the Sunday Angelus of September 23, 1973, as: “A young mother from the diocese of Milan, who, to give life to her daughter, sacrificed her own, with conscious immolation”. The Holy Father in these words clearly refers to Christ on Calvary and in the Eucharist.
At her canonization in May 2004, the great saint-maker -- presiding over the last of his pontificate's 51 altar-raising ceremonies (which, between them, doubled the rolls of those so recognized) -- said that Gianna "was a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love.
In a letter to her future husband a few days before their marriage, she wrote: "Love is the most beautiful sentiment the Lord has put into the soul of men and women".

Following the example of Christ, who "having loved his own... loved them to the end" (Jn 13: 1), this holy mother of a family remained heroically faithful to the commitment she made on the day of her marriage. The extreme sacrifice she sealed with her life testifies that only those who have the courage to give of themselves totally to God and to others are able to fulfil themselves.
As noted above, this year's feast of the mother-doc has an added poignancy -- having never remarried and raised their four kids alone, the saint's husband, Pietro, died at 97 on Holy Saturday.

While Gianna enjoys considerable popularity in the trenches on this side of the Pond, her feast hasn't made it to the local calendars in North America... at least, not yet.

Suffice it to say, it's a question of "national cultus."

Speaking of saints-days, mid-May'll see the calendar's first celebration of St Damien deVeuster since Hawaii's beloved "leper priest" was canonized last fall.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On the Missal, the Wait Is Over... Almost

The better part of a decade in the making, and most often tipped for implementation around the end of 2011, this week sees the last Vatican meeting on the forthcoming Roman Missal in English -- the first vernacular rendering crafted for use across the Anglophone world.

To celebrate the final Vox Clara summit preparing the overhauled book of Mass-texts, the members of the blue-ribbon commission lunched with B16 earlier today... and in his first direct comments on the Missal, the pontiff delivered the following address:
Members and Consultors of the Vox Clara Committee,

I thank you for the work that Vox Clara has done over the last eight years, assisting and advising the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in fulfilling its responsibilities with regard to the English translations of liturgical texts. This has been a truly collegial enterprise. Not only are all five continents represented in the membership of the Committee, but you have been assiduous in drawing together contributions from Bishops’ Conferences in English-speaking territories all over the world. I thank you for the great labour you have expended in your study of the translations and in processing the results of the many consultations that have been conducted. I thank the expert assistants for offering the fruits of their scholarship in order to render a service to the universal Church. And I thank the Superiors and Officials of the Congregation for their daily, painstaking work of overseeing the preparation and translation of texts that proclaim the truth of our redemption in Christ, the Incarnate Word of God.

Saint Augustine spoke beautifully of the relation between John the Baptist, the vox clara that resounded on the banks of the Jordan, and the Word that he spoke. A voice, he said, serves to share with the listener the message that is already in the speaker’s heart. Once the word has been spoken, it is present in the hearts of both, and so the voice, its task having been completed, can fade away (cf. Sermon 293). I welcome the news that the English translation of the Roman Missal will soon be ready for publication, so that the texts you have worked so hard to prepare may be proclaimed in the liturgy that is celebrated across the anglophone world. Through these sacred texts and the actions that accompany them, Christ will be made present and active in the midst of his people. The voice that helped bring these words to birth will have completed its task.

A new task will then present itself, one which falls outside the direct competence of Vox Clara, but which in one way or another will involve all of you – the task of preparing for the reception of the new translation by clergy and lay faithful. Many will find it hard to adjust to unfamiliar texts after nearly forty years of continuous use of the previous translation. The change will need to be introduced with due sensitivity, and the opportunity for catechesis that it presents will need to be firmly grasped. I pray that in this way any risk of confusion or bewilderment will be averted, and the change will serve instead as a springboard for a renewal and a deepening of Eucharistic devotion all over the English-speaking world.

Dear Brother Bishops, Reverend Fathers, Friends, I want you to know how much I appreciate the great collaborative endeavour to which you have contributed. Soon the fruits of your labours will be made available to English-speaking congregations everywhere. As the prayers of God’s people rise before him like incense (cf. Psalm 140:2), may the Lord’s blessing come down upon all who have contributed their time and expertise to crafting the texts in which those prayers are expressed. Thank you, and may you be abundantly rewarded for your generous service to God’s people.
Once the approval process is completed by the Holy See with the granting of its recognitio (confirmation) -- a move expected shortly in this case -- the focus then turns to the 11 Anglophone episcopal conferences, each responsible to release the completed book within their jurisdictions and, above all, fix their area's respective implementation date.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

CDF Meets PBS...


He might not be so hot on the Grey Lady these days, but in yet another intervention underscoring the significance with which the Holy See's taken the latest cycle of clergy sex-abuse revelations and the reaction to them, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal William Levada sat for an extended interview with PBS' "Newshour," which ran tonight.

Calling himself "a great fan" of the program, fullvideo's up of the unprecedented broadcast TV sit-down with the Vatican's #3 official -- the highest-ranking American ever at the Holy See, and Rome's top hand on the handling of abuse cases...

...and a full transcript, snipped below:
MARGARET WARNER: ...Last week the pope accepted the resignation of two prominent bishops in Europe. Another bishop tendered his resignation in this clergy sex abuse scandal. Are there going to be more?

CARDINAL WILLIAM LEVADA: I don't think there is any way to predict. There have been several in the past, over the past 10 years let's say for various reasons. There is no way of predicting that, but I wouldn't be surprised.

MARGARET WARNER: Is there a new test really, a new standard for bishops to meet in the way they handle clergy sex abuse cases?

CARDINAL WILLIAM LEVADA: I think the standard is not new but it's being applied more rigorously than in the past.

MARGARET WARNER: And were all these resignations voluntary?


MARGARET WARNER: Would this pope in these sorts of cases consider asking for resignations?


MARGARET WARNER: We've had people say to us that this is the worst crisis the church has faced in a couple hundred years. Do you see it that way?

CARDINAL WILLIAM LEVADA: It's a big crisis. I think no one should try to diminish that. I think the crisis is particularly grave because priests are ordained to be good shepherds. We had Good Shepherd Sunday this last Sunday, and this is anything but being a good shepherd when you abuse children and you violate their innocence and their persons and they are too young to be able to respond on their own. So this is a crisis if you will that I think caught most of us by surprise. One bishop told me this isn't the cruise I signed up for, but that's in fact what has happened. I think the pope that was not his training and background I think he is the right man to be guiding the church at this time....

MARGARET WARNER: So do you think that some of the media are out to get the pope or the church?

CARDINAL WILLIAM LEVADA: Well you know I guess the media likes a good story but I think that by reasonable standards I think that they have not been fair in giving a balanced picture, a picture in context.

MARGARET WARNER: And what is that picture? What is that context that isn't being reported?

CARDINAL WILLIAM LEVADA: I haven't seen in the reporting much attention given to what the United States church has done. The bishops, it's true through media attention, constant media attention in 2002, met and took very concrete action. When you see the programs that have been developed, the educational programs for parents, for children, for all church workers, including priests and teachers, there is a real success story that I personally we ought to be proud of and say this also can be a model. We're not proud that we had to create it but it can be a model for public schools, Boy Scouts, some of these other groups where we're seeing now, while they don't get the media attention the church has in this, we see either huge punitive damage case in Oregon was reported today for the Boy Scouts so I think that's one aspect of it.

MARGARET WARNER: So you don't think it's appropriate that people hold the church to a higher standard? There is more focus on the church?

CARDINAL WILLIAM LEVADA: That's a fair question. I think we should hold ourselves to a higher standard in the sense that this is not something that one would have expected that a bishop or anybody in the church, parents none of us would have expected this but I think the causes we will see go back to changes in society that the church and priests were not prepared for, particularly changes involving how to be a celibate person in a time of the sexual revolution, that's one of the causes I'd say.
* * *
Meanwhile, from the "Rome of the West," the intrepid Patricia Rice -- one of the most-accomplished church-beat scribes American journalism has ever known, "red phone" across the Tiber and all -- unearths a long-hidden story in today's St Louis Beacon, revealing a strikingly candid 2002 father's plea written by David Spotanski, a top diocesan aide to the then-president of the US bishops, Wilton Gregory of Belleville, to the bench chief.

Among its many clarion-call passages, the father of three (then as now, the chancellor of the Belleville church) told "Wilton" that, among other things, the church "chooses to disregard the wellbeing of Her children -- my children -- to protect Her own icons and Her image," warning that "you can issue gracious statements after the fact until there's not a tree left in the forest, but until someone holds the bishops' collective feet to the fire, you've done precious little but make yourself feel better."

As the memo served as "a very important touchstone" that influenced the making of Gregory's highly-regarded response that June to "the gravest" crisis American Catholicism has ever faced, suffice it to say, it's worth reading in full.

PHOTO: Reuters


Quote of the Month

The time in which we live is experiencing an enormous expansion of the frontiers of communication, realizing an untold convergence between different media and making interaction possible. Thus the Internet manifests an open vocation, with an egalitarian and pluralistic tendency, but at the same time it has dug a moat about itself: One speaks, in fact, of the "digital divide." It separates the included from the excluded and adds to the other discrepancies that separate nations from each other and divide them internally. The dangers of homogenization and control, of intellectual and moral relativism, already quite evident in the bent of the critical spirit, in truth reduced to the play of opinions, in the multiple forms of the degradation and humiliation of the human person in his intimate dimension. One witnesses, then, a "polluting of the spirit, which makes us smile less, makes our faces gloomier, less likely to greet each other or look each other in the eye..." ("Speech in the Piazza di Spagna, December 8, 2009"). But this meeting points to recognizing faces and so to overcoming those collective dynamics that can make us lose the perception of the depth of persons and remain at the surface: When that happens, they are bodies without souls, objects of trade and consumption.

How is it possible today to return to faces? I tried to show the road in my third encyclical. It passes through that "caritas in veritate" that shines upon the face of Christ. Love in truth constitutes a "great challenge for the Church in a world that is becoming progressively and pervasively globalized". The media can become a factor in humanization "not only when, thanks to technological development, they increase the possibilities of communicating information, but above all when they are geared towards a vision of the person and the common good that reflects truly universal values" (no. 73). This demands that they "focus on promoting the dignity of persons and peoples, they need to be clearly inspired by charity and placed at the service of truth, of the good, and of natural and supernatural fraternity" (ibid.). Only under those conditions can the epochal journey that we are undertaking become something rich and fertile with new opportunities. Without fear we want to set out upon the digital sea, embracing its unrestricted navigation with the same passion that for 2,000 years has steered the barque of the Church. And more than technical resources, however necessary, we want to qualify ourselves dwelling in this universe too with a believing heart, that contributes to giving a soul to the uninterrupted communicational flow of the Internet.

This is our mission, the Church's mission that she cannot renounce: The task of every believer who works in the media is that of "opening the door to new forms of encounter, maintaining the quality of human interaction, and showing concern for individuals and their genuine spiritual needs. They can thus help the men and women of our digital age to sense the Lord's presence" ("Message for the 44th World Communications Day"). Dear Friends, you are called to take on the role of "animators of the community" on the Internet too, attentive to "prepare the ways that lead to the Word of God," and to express a particular sensitivity to "the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute". The Internet could in this way become a kind of "Court of the Gentiles," where "there is also a space for those who have not yet come to know God".

As animators of culture and communication, you are a living sign of how much "Church communities have always used the modern media for fostering communication, engagement with society, and, increasingly, for encouraging dialogue at a wider level". In this field voices are not lacking: We need only to point to... Catholic periodicals, the network of weekly diocesan papers and the now numerous Catholic Web sites. I exhort all media professionals not to tire of nourishing in their heart that passion for man that draws ever closer to the languages he speaks and to his true face. You will be helped in this by a solid theological formation and above all a deep and joyful passion for God, fed by a constant dialogue with the Lord. The particular Churches and religious institutes, for their part should not hesitate to value... providing persons with foresight and resources. The media world should be a part of pastoral planning.

As I thank you for the service you give to the Church and therefore to the cause of man, I exhort you to walk the roads of the digital continent animated by the courage of the Holy Spirit. Our confidence is not uncritically placed in any instrument of technology. Our strength lies in being Church -- a believing community, able to bear witness to all the perennial newness of the Risen One, with a life that blooms in fullness in the measure that it opens up, enters into relation, gives itself gratuitously.
--Pope Benedict XVI
Address to "Digital Witnesses" Conference
Paul VI Hall
Vatican City
24 April 2010

Yet again, kudos and tip to Zenit for its English translation of the above -- three days later, the Holy See has nothing more of the talk than its original Italian....

As ever, so much for the Internet's "working language," the 24-hour news-cycle, et al.

Still, keeping with the Final Commission to witness "to the ends of the earth," the global church's 44th World Communications Day comes again on 16 May -- the Sunday now celebrated as Ascension Day in most of the Catholic world.

This year, church, let's make it one to remember... and, please God, for all the right reasons.


Monday, April 26, 2010

"There's Nothing We Cannot Bear If We Have Faith"

And on this rainy Monday, good thing Scranton's not 2 Street -- judging by the vibe, the natives would've gone struttin' with their umbrellas if it were.

That said, it might take half an eternity to load, but on-demand video's up of this afternoon's ordination, its high spirits unflinching even amid the day's downpour.

As the Vespers homily took the better part of an overnight to capture and encode on its own (but was still worth every second spent at it), you're on your own to watch (or fast-forward through) for today's heartfelt closing remarks... but any who do won't be disappointed -- from the story of the chalice (a Hamers special), to the words on the Council, to Joe Bambera's stemwinder call for all hands on deck to bind up the wounds of and within the church, it's another winner, through and through.

There's a story much bigger than the file at hand hidden in the subtext of this day... as there's still no shortage of back-office backlog to be handled, though, it'll have to wait.

On a final coda, having been "mentored" by Cardinal Justin Rigali over his eight-month stint as the apostolic administrator's delegate, Scranton's tenth bishop doesn't just become an adopted member of the bench's St Louis-River City caucus, but the 15th high-hat ordained by Pharaoh's mighty hand.

A week after his 75th birthday, the figure ties Philadelphia's prince with Cardinal Joseph Bernardin for third on the all-time list of Stateside bishop-makers. The Italian twosome are surpassed only by the Golden Age's epic Beantown rivals: Cardinals Richard Cushing (17) and, with a staggering 32 bishop-sons, New York's Francis Spellman... yet again, eternally in a class by himself.

* * *
Tomorrow, the Circuit goes Southwest, to The Big D -- home of the K-Far, a Catholic population numbering some 1.2 million (six times its 1990 size)... and now, for the first time in its history, twin auxiliaries as Bishops-elect Doug Deshotel and Mark Seitz are ordained to serve the booming North Texas church.

The 1pm Central rites in the Catedral Santuario de Guadalupe will be webstreamed.

SVILUPPO: Correcting the above, a third prelate racked up 15 episcopal ordinations: New York's Cardinal Terence Cooke. What's more, though, the trio actually rank fifth; Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore ordained 23, and the founding archbishop of St Louis, Peter Richard Kenrick, raised 16.

PHOTO: Michael J Mullen/Scranton Times-Tribune


"To Serve and To Love": Restoration Day in Scranton

As he prepared to take the reins of one of the Stateside church's staunchest bastions, Bishop-elect Joseph Bambera of Scranton offered a moving reflection for his homily at last night's Vespers (fullvid) in St Peter's Cathedral.

Suffice it to say, just watch:

Once a curate at the cathedral whose main chair will shortly be his, the rites elevating the 54 year-old native son -- a full-time pastor of five parishes and sometime diocesan official prior to his February appointment -- begin at 2pm Eastern... and those interested can catch it here then.

Following the oft-turbulent (and short-circuited) six-year tenure of Bishop Joseph Martino, the incoming bishop appears intent to augur a reboot for the 320,000-member Electric City church, a fresh start inspired by the model of its last home-grown head: the beloved Bishop "Cliff" Timlin, who led the diocese from 1984-2003 and will serve as a principal co-consecrator today alongside yet another native son, retired Auxiliary Bishop John Dougherty.

Martino will be in attendance, but in the background, participating in the ordination rite with the other 18 prelates slated to be on hand.

Among numerous special touches for the day, the bishop-elect will be presented for ordination by the pastor who mentored him in his first parish assignment, and Bambera will employ the pontificalia of his predecessors, including the pectoral cross of founding Bishop William O'Hara (1868-99), and the crozier and "Council ring" of the "Infant of Prague" J. Carroll McCormick, the cardinal's nephew who led the diocese from 1966-83 and ordained his latest successor to the diaconate.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Post-"Hurricane" Forecast

Early yesterday, the matrix shifted again as -- for the second time in as many weeks -- Benedict XVI made another dramatic move on the leadership stage of the nation's largest religious group.

Still, as Archbishop-designate Tom Wenski could see the better part of two decades consolidating his hometown's ascent into the top rank of the ecclesial stratosphere (on top of rebuilding Haiti and freeing Cuba), a broader look at what's in store for the church in Miami -- and, indeed, points far beyond -- can hang for a bit.

After the shop's most intense news-month in five years, as previously noted, your pages are returning to their previously-interruped breather. Sure, it's always all too easy to keep mulling over and moving with "one more," but with enough else piled up behind the scenes that it's looking like a scene out of "Hoarders," it's all gotta get handled sometime.

That said, a full plate's on-deck for next week -- ordinations in Scranton, Ogdensburg and the twin auxiliaries in Dallas... whatever else might hit the fan... and, quite possibly, one more thing that might shake up the lay of the land just a bit.

As ever, thanks for reading (and keeping the lights on), hope everything's great on your end and, above all, every apology under the sun for every missed or unacknowledged anything that's crossed the desk over these fascinating, brutal weeks; hopefully there'll be far fewer of those after the next couple days.

More soon... your prayers, please... and as the rest goes, for once, what if we just said "wait"?

We live in interesting times, church, so enjoy 'em. God love you lot forever, and for all the fun stuff, as always, stay tuned.

PHOTO: Getty


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Opening Shots

Stay tuned for the promised on-demand video, but for now, a money quote from Bishop Tom Paprocki's introductory remarks (fulltext) in Springfield:
Before I open the floor to questions, there are a couple of other things you should know about me. One, I am a marathon runner. I have run sixteen marathons since 1995. As I marathon runner I have developed a sense of endurance and a commitment to going the distance. So you may see me from time to time literally running around town. Of course, I won’t be dressed like this, but you’ll recognize me by the SOX cap that I’ll be wearing. Second, my favorite sport is hockey. I still play hockey. I am a goalie. My nickname is, the “Holy Goalie.” If you’re trying to figure out how my mind works, you should know that most hockey players say that goalies are different. I get enjoyment from standing in front of a hockey net and having people shoot pucks at me at 100 miles per hour. I am used to taking shots. With that in mind, I will now take your questions!
Again, Papo'll be installed in Illinois' capital on the 22 June feast of the English martyrs Ss Thomas More and John Fisher -- the "patrons of faithful citizenship."

Meanwhile, on this Tuesday's main stage, Archbishop-elect Tom Wenski (right) has sent English and Spanish video messages to the folks in Orlando... and with his Miami presser feed pending, the following part of a letter retiring Archbishop John Favalora sent his priests early today explains the "why" behind how this morning's unique result shook out:
In the fall of 2008 I began the process of preparing for my successor. It was becoming more and more evident to me that the complexity of the Archdiocese warranted consideration for a coadjutor. Our diverse cultural mix, our many international relations and interactions because of our immigrant component as well as our many pastoral and financial challenges would seem to indicate that time to understudy would be very helpful to the next Archbishop. It would be good for him to be involved with the decisions that will affect his tenure.

I received permission to seek a coadjutor at the end of 2008 and the official process bean in late spring 2009. By March of 2010, I learned of the Holy Father’s selection. Immediately, it became evident to me that our new Archbishop did not need the time to understudy; he already had many more years of active ministry here than I do. There was no practical reason to delay his appointment until December.

It was my judgment that the needs and well-being of the Archdiocese would be better served by an earlier transition. Upon my request, I was permitted to tender my resignation and I receive the Holy Father’s blessing in accord with canon 401, § 2. While I reiterate that I still enjoy good health, I also recognize that I no longer have the stamina and spirit of earlier years. Moreover, I recognize that the current challenges facing the Archdiocese now could benefit from new eyes and fresh insights and energies. Archbishop Wenski, I believe, will bring these and so many more gifts to this Office. He will lead us very well.
SVILUPPO: And here, in a mix of English, español and Kreyole, longvid from this morning's Miami presser:



Holy Goalie: A Two-Pole Tuesday

And well, gang, time to rev 'em up....

To make things official, this morning Pope Benedict named:
  • Bishop Thomas Wenski, 59 (above), ordinary of Orlando since 2004, as metropolitan archbishop of Miami;
Indeed, two picks of Polish descent... far more significantly, though, two of the sharpest, savviest, most-respected workhorses among the 300-member Stateside bench.

* * *
So the story goes, as the Florida prelate arrived to vest before January's funeral of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince -- the most prominent victim of Haiti's devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake -- a lead figure in the makeshift tent-sacristy was said to have declared, "Wenski's here, now we can begin."

And in the 59 year-old prelate's hometown, this day's sentiment might well be strikingly similar.

In a historic move for the burgeoning church in the nation's fourth-largest state, the native son's been returned to Miami as the fourth archbishop, succeeding Archbishop John Favalora, whose resignation was accepted eight months before he reached the retirement age of 75.

According to an early report, the installation has been scheduled for Tuesday, 1 June, its venue still to emerge. (In 1997, Wenski, then 46, was ordained a bishop in the now-defunct Miami Arena, capacity 17,000.) This morning's traditional Appointment Day press conference has been called for 10am.

Now home to some 900,000 Catholics -- the Southeast's second-largest diocese, after Atlanta -- the Harley-riding archbishop-elect becomes the first homegrown cleric to take up the Sunshine State's top ecclesial post; as of last count, Florida's now home to some 2.3 million American Catholics.

Conversant in Polish, Spanish, Creole, public policy and the ways of the media -- and well-known and regarded in Washington, Havana and Port-au-Prince alike -- Wenski (shown above during a briefing in Cuba last summer) returns well-equipped to handle a complex local situation that'll put his motto ("Omnia omnibus" -- "All things to everyone") to the test. Above all, though, the Miami nominee brings a mix of wonkishness, muscle and grit to St Mary's Cathedral that, in contrast to his genteel Louisiana-born mentor, promise to take his pulpit's visibility and voice far beyond South Florida to a degree heretofore unseen.

As a 50 year-old junior auxiliary, Wenski was elected chair of the US bishops' Migration Committee before being quickly entrusted with another of the "majors": the bench's International Policy arm, which the prodigal Miamian led from 2004-08. Along the way, he held a Mass of Reparation for President Obama's commencement appearance at Notre Dame, earned a Master's in Sociology from Fordham, gave an invocation at a Republican National Convention, spearheaded the delivery of 75 tons of food to Cuba in the wake of a hurricane, served on government commissions dealing with homelessness, and made his own path to Haiti in the days following January's quake, upstaging the Stateside church's lead delegation by virtue of his longstanding bonds with the island and its diaspora at home. (He returned during Easter Week.)

Ordained a priest of Miami in 1976, Wenski was thrust into the archdiocese's wildly diverse cultural scene from early on, serving first in a Hispanic parish before spending almost two decades at the helm of a Haitian apostolate he essentially built from scratch, only leaving it -- at least, formally -- on his appointment as auxiliary bishop.

As noted earlier, the returning Miamian leaves the Orlando fold in the early stages of both a $150 million capital campaign and an extensive renovation of St James Cathedral.

In a word, that just goes to underscore the degree to which that the native son was deemed not just the right man for the job, but the only one.

* * *
While the Southeastern promotion of another Polish Thomas understandably takes today's top line, it's no less notable that, in his pick for the capital of the Land of Lincoln, B16 has, at long last, given one of the bench's more distinctive lights a diocese of his own.

At the helm of the 160,000-member Springfield church -- but a fraction of the 800,000-member Chitown vicariate he now oversees -- Paprocki succeeds now-Archbishop George Lucas, who was promoted to Omaha last June.

He might be celebrated on the legal listservs for his skills with books and folks alike, but among a far bigger crowd at home in Chicagoland, the prelate dubbed "Papo" has racked up a following as the polyglot, marathon-running hockey devotee who occasionally tends practice goal for the Blackhawks, keeps his car littered with Nickelback and Linkin Park CDs to discern his next round of Confirmation homilies... and above all, is known for a particular devotion to Coldplay. (...hence the earlier clip... that said, those who interpreted the video as "pop rock" and reached the conclusion that way were pretty clever.)

A rare breed of spirit, style and substance -- and, along the same lines, a favored son of Joseph Bernardin and Francis George both -- despite his junior status, Paprocki famously bested Archbishop Raymond Burke for the chair of the USCCB Committee on Canonical Affairs at the 2007 November Plenary, outscoring the now-"chief justice" by a margin of 3-to-2 (138-95). Lest anyone presumes a deviance from Burke-style orthodoxy, however, the bench's lead jurist dropped some jaws at the bishops' 2008 meeting by raising the specter of shuttering Catholic hospitals nationwide were the incendiary Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) -- then a top-shelf fear of the bishops in the wake of President Obama's election -- to become law. At last year's Fall Classic, the canonical chair made another memorable turn, reading from Code in pitch-perfect Latin -- the most extensive exposure the mother-tongue's had on the Floor in memory.

Ordained for the Windy City in 1978, Paprocki earned a civil law degree while serving in his first parish assignment, going on to Rome and the JCD a decade later; on his return to Chicago, Bernardin named him Chancellor just shy of his 40th birthday. Like Wenski, however, the heavy administrative cred belies a significant record in the trenches -- in 1986, the young priest founded a largely pro bono legal clinic to provide advocacy services for the poor and disadvantaged, remaining at its helm into the present.

The "Holy Goalie" will take possession of the capital diocese -- and with it, the Illinois church's lead on statewide matters of government and policy -- at a Mass on 22 June (conspicuously the feast of St Thomas More, patron of politicians). Springfield's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was rededicated last December following a lengthy $11 million restoration.

In the meanwhile, the bishop's in for at least one only-in-Chitown sendoff as, in early May, Paprocki celebrates Confirmation at St Sabina's on the South Side, home of the ever-controversial Fr Michael Pfleger -- the longtime Obama ally whose mid-preach call last week for "women priests... married priests... women bishops and women cardinals" subsequently landed the famed activist pastor in but his latest round of hot water.

PHOTOS: Valeta Orlando/Florida Catholic(1); AP(2); CNS File(3)


The Home Stretch

Mornin, gang... up and at 'em?

Lest anyone was unaware, you're getting the best these pages can muster these days -- five years along, and this month's been the most chaotic, relentless, intense marathon of news this scribe's ever had to plow through... and once today's out, hopefully no one minds that the shop will be taking a Nice. Long. Breather.

At least, 'til the next round of fireworks goes off, seemingly late next week.

Indeed, a recharge and back-office clean-up was supposed to happen last week... but once The Boss was rushed to the hospital with double pneumonia within 24 hours of that sign-off, well, there went the plans, and any designs of down-time. Luckily, she was released over the weekend, but it's still fits and starts, so your prayers, please -- can't beg 'em enough.

That said, to all the many folks who've written or lent a hand and are still waiting for a reply or thank-you, all apologies and then some -- suffice it to say, there's a lot where that came from, just as much unwittingly fallen through the cracks, and having but one pair of hands (and, candidly, two blown-out wrists) to tackle it all, please just know I'm doing whatever I can whenever I can, and in the meanwhile, hope you can understand.

And now -- well, soon -- off to the races... God love you lot, and a Happy Tuesday to one and all.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Between the Poles

Judging by the late reports, this one fits especially well what we look to be seeing in the morning, on seemingly every account....

Whether you can connect the dots, or just enjoy trying, have fun, gang... on this end, meanwhile, it's another late night in the office.


"We'll Talk Tomorrow"

Just before 10pm Eastern, the Miami Herald ran the following lede:
The Archdiocese of Miami is expected to announce Tuesday that Archbishop John Favalora will step down after almost 16 years at the helm of the local Catholic church in South Florida, with Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando the likely candidate to succeed him, sources say.

Favalora, now 74, is retiring as required by church rules at age 75.

Reached Monday night by The Miami Herald, Wenski said, ``I cannot comment. . . . We'll talk tomorrow.''
PHOTO: St Mary Cathedral, Miami


And Springfield Makes Two

In the capital of the Land of Lincoln, it looks like the nation's longest-standing vacancy is set to wrap early tomorrow as well....

From the Springfield Journal-Register:
Officials have scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. Tuesday to make “an announcement of critical importance to Catholics in the diocese,” according to an advisory issued Monday evening. (The phrase “critical importance” was italicized in the advisory.)

The announcement is to be made in the atrium of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 525 E. Lawrence Ave. It will also be streamed on the diocesan Web page,
For the record, additional corroboration of the buzz has arrived.


In Miami, The Homecoming

As the talk's already reaching a fever-pitch, here's the key portion of the First Word circulated to the donors late this afternoon:
This scribe was preparing to return to breather mode today... as tends to happen, though, the phone started ringing... and with it came word from two church sources that, as soon as tomorrow, the Pope is expected to send Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando [left] home, appointing the 59 year-old prelate as Archbishop of Miami and accepting the retirement of Archbishop John Favalora [right] eight months before the incumbent reaches the age of 75.

As you've known for some time, given both Favalora's health and a "perfect storm" of challenges for the 900,000-member archdiocese, the Miami file has been moving for months. While word first appeared on the pages of a coadjutor appointment in August, over recent weeks, with Wenski emerged as the choice, it appears Favalora saw fit to step aside immediately as his former auxiliary already had all the knowledge he needed of the place, that the considerable plate of fiscal and administrative difficulties could begin to be handled in a long-term manner with minimal delay and, indeed, as one well-briefed op put it, Wenski's "not really a coadjutor kind of guy."

While Wenski has garnered plaudits for his critique of matters ranging from President Obama's commencement appearance at Notre Dame and recent weeks' media coverage of the scandals, the reported nominee likewise has a well-burnished rep as a "conference man," having led the US bishops' efforts on social justice and international policy. Ordained a Miami auxiliary by Favalora in 1997 and head of the Orlando church since 2003, Wenski would leave the Disney diocese in the early stages of both a $150 million capital campaign and an extensive renovation of St James Cathedral.

Fluent in Haitian Creole -- and said to "speak, think, curse and pray" in "strongly Cuban-accented" Spanish -- it all just goes to underscore that the choice was, essentially, a no-brainer, and that the native son was the only man for the job.
Since the above brief went out, word's come that the sound systems in the chancery courtyard are already set up for the traditional Appointment Day presser, and the presumptive nominee was said to be en route from Orlando in the usual advance smuggling-in.

Numerous calls seeking the ritual "no comment" from the archdiocese's Communications Office went unreturned through the afternoon.

As ever, more to come.

SVILUPPO: In advance of Roman noon, a couple background notes on a Miami transition:

First, it's beyond doubt that -- being possessed of significant administrative skill, linguistic fluency to its core constituencies, an especial ability to hit the ground running amid high-octane challenges and a public-square savvy already well-honed and ready for "prime time" -- Wenski had topped the shortlists for the Miami nod from the first moment the coadjutor reports began to surface nearly a year ago.

Only reinforcing this, it was even credibly rumored from several quarters over the last six weeks that the reported nominee was first asked to accept appointment as coadjutor, but declined the prospect of returning first as understudy... an aspect which could help explain the foreseen scenario of his outright appointment as metropolitan archbishop eight months before Favalora reaches the retirement age.

That said, it's likewise worth noting that -- as with practically every other major B16 appointee across the board -- Wenski will come to his hometown's archbishopric with a notably more public persona than his mentor; at least one South Florida journalist rejoiced on hearing tonight's news, and many others far beyond are likely feeling the same way.

While the native Miamian had earlier been buzzed about as a top candidate for Detroit, the choice for a significantly amped-up profile for the top church post in the nation's fourth-largest state is but the latest testimony to Rome's awareness of and blessing on the ascent of the church in the South, and with it, just the latest effort to provide the diverse, energized, confident Southeastern bloc with leadership reflecting its ever more emergent Catholic presence. (By the numbers, the Miami church grew by some 200,000 members -- roughly a third -- over the course of Favalora's 16-year tenure at its helm.)

And lastly, with the expected appointment, Benedict XVI will have named nine of the heads of the nation's 25 largest local churches, and 15 of these shores' 33 archbishops.

Next up on the latter card: Seattle and Oklahoma City, both of which have ordinaries serving well past the retirement age... and both files "motorcaded past" so LA and Miami might be finished first.

PHOTO: Valeta Orlando/The Florida Catholic


Ironman RIP

Having been in hospice these last several weeks, the Premier See has announced the death of Archbishop William Borders at 96.

The 12th successor of John Carroll at the helm of the Baltimore church, which he led from 1974-89, the Indiana-born, Louisiana-bred prelate -- a particular favorite of the local crowd -- slipped away peacefully at 10.03 this morning.

A Bronze Star-winning Army chaplain during World War II, Borders kept a hard-charging pace even into recent months, and his grit through the years won frequent comparisons to Charm City's other Ironman -- Orioles' legend Cal Ripken, holder of baseball's record for consecutive games played (2,632). Before his promotion to the nation's mother-church, Borders was ordained the founding bishop of Orlando in 1968 -- a circumstance that, given the new diocese's boast of Cape Canaveral within its bounds, led the new prelate to dub himself the "Bishop of the Moon." (The Orlando church's best-known attraction -- Walt Disney World -- opened in 1971.)

Funeral plans remain pending, but it is known that Borders wished to be interred at the "New Cathedral" of Mary our Queen. More as it comes in.


Five Years Ago Today...

...remember where you were?

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord.

The fact that the Lord knows how to work and act even with inadequate instruments consoles me, so above all I entrust myself to your prayers.

In the joy of the Risen Lord, confident of his unfailing help, let us move forward. The Lord will help us and Mary, his Most Holy Mother, will be on our side. Thank you.

Gloria, Gloria, Gloria....

...if you don't know, don't even try assuming.

...and those of you who do know, well, 'nuff said.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

In Grief, Poland Returns to Wawel

A week after a Russian plane crash killed Polish President Lech Kacyzinski, his wife and much of the country's leadership -- 96 people in all -- the official period of mourning ended today with the burial of the conservative leader and his wife in the hallowed spot reserved for the nation's most cherished heroes.

At the close of a second funeral Mass in Krakow and a cortege down the ancient capital's "Royal Route," the late president and his first lady were laid to rest in the crypt of the city's Wawel Cathedral -- a privilege once exclusive to Poland's kings and queens, but since extended to a handful of luminaries of the nation's struggle for independence and subsequent figures of monumental stature.

Given the polarization Lech Kaczynski's Law and Justice party inspired prior to his death at 60, controversy has ensued over the choice of his burial-site. That said, the venue's unique status in Polish life and beyond has been amplified further over recent decades by the link between the Wawel crypt and the country's most beloved product of all: the late Pope John Paul II, whose self-admitted "very special bond" with Wawel Cathedral dated to his boyhood, and of which he wrote in his later years that the 12th century temple "encompasses the whole of Polish history."

In just one facet of his legend that would become inexorably wedded to the narrative of Polish nationalism, Karol Wojtyla celebrated his first Mass in the Wawel crypt on the day after his 1946 ordination, receiving his episcopal ordination and claiming the archbishop's throne in the church atop it over the following two decades, serving as the cathedral's pastor and protector until his 1978 election to the papacy.

Such was the Polish Pope's -- and, indeed, his homeland's -- tie with the place that, on his 2005 death, a surge of chatter suggested (or insisted) that Wojtyla's heart would be brought home to rest at the sacred site. But the speculation quickly proved unfounded, or unheeded.

While Pope Benedict appointed the dean of the College of Cardinals Angelo Sodano as his personal legate to the weekend memorials, wire reports said John Paul's Secretary of State was prevented from attending due to the Icelandic ash clouds which've grounded most European air traffic over the last week.

In Sodano's stead, today's rites were led by Krakow's Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz -- the late pontiff's all-powerful secretary and closest confidant of four decades -- and yesterday's by Warsaw's Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz. (Closer to home, meanwhile, in the Stateside heart of Polonia -- Chicago, home to over a million Poles of birth or descent -- a memorial Mass is being celebrated tonight in Holy Name Cathedral, with Cardinal Francis George slated to preside in choir as his Polski-fluent auxiliary, Bishop Thomas Paprocki, celebrates and preaches.)

Though the aforementioned first Burial Mass for Lech and Maria Kaczynski was celebrated yesterday in the modern capital's St John's Cathedral, a liturgy in suffrage for all 96 casualties of the Katyn crash -- among them, two bishops and four priests -- was likewise held (above) in Warsaw's Pidulski Square... the same spot where, bearing a different name 30 years ago, the Polish Pope offered one of his pontificate's most significant messages:
Today, here in Victory Square, in the capital of Poland, I am asking with all of you, through the great Eucharistic prayer, that Christ will not cease to be for us an open book of life for the future, for our Polish future.

We are before the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In the ancient and contemporary history of Poland this tomb has a special basis, a special reason for its existence. In how many places in our native land has that soldier fallen! In how many places in Europe and the world has he cried with his death that there can be no just Europe without the independence of Poland marked on its map! On how many battlefields has that solider given witness to the rights of man, indelibly inscribed in the inviolable rights of the people, by falling for "our freedom and yours"!

"Where are their tombs, O Poland? Where are they not! You know better than anyone—and God knows it in heaven."

The history of the motherland written through the tomb of an Unknown Soldier!

I wish to kneel before this tomb to venerate every seed that falls into the earth and dies and thus bears fruit. It may be the seed of the blood of a soldier shed on the battlefield, or the sacrifice of martyrdom in concentration camps or in prisons. It may be the seed of hard daily toil, with the sweat of one's brow, in the fields, the workshop, the mine, the foundries and the factories. It may be the seed of the love of parents who do not refuse to give life to a new human being and undertake the whole of the task of bringing him up. It may be the seed of creative work in the universities, the higher institutes, the libraries and the places where the national culture is built. It may be the seed of prayer, of service of the sick, the suffering, the abandoned—"all that of which Poland is made".

All that in the hands of the Mother of God—at the foot of the cross on Calvary and in the Upper Room of Pentecost!

All that—the history of the motherland shaped for a thousand years by the succession of the generations (among them the present generation and the coming generation) and by each son and daughter of the motherland, even if they are anonymous and unknown like the Soldier before whose tomb we are now.

All that—including the history of the peoples that have lived with us and among us, such as those who died in their hundreds of thousands within the walls of the Warsaw ghetto.

All that I embrace in thought and in my heart during this Eucharist and I include it in this unique most holy Sacrifice of Christ, on Victory Square.

And I cry — I, a son of Polish soil and, now, I, John Paul the Pope — I cry from all the depths of this Millennium, I cry on this vigil of Pentecost:

Send down your Spirit!
Send down your Spirit!
And renew the face of the earth.
Of this earth!

PHOTO: Getty(1-3); Reuters(2)