Hello and welcome!
Having just returned from meetings in Rome, I was sad to learn of the passing of Cardinal Francis George today.
He waged a courageous battle with cancer while continuing to serve the people of God in his hometown of Chicago with love, humility and an abiding commitment to the Church. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his outstanding service to the United States Bishops’ Conference as our president. We extend our sincere condolences to Cardinal George’s family, to his Oblate community, as well as to the clergy and faithful of the Archdiocese of Chicago. We give thanks for the blessing of his life and priestly ministry and we pray with confidence and hope in Christ, the Good Shepherd, who has called his servant home. May his soul and all the souls of the faithfully departed rest in peace.
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Also, I was very pleased to see that earlier today the Richard family expressed their view that the death penalty not be sought for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
In addition to being in accordance with Catholic teaching, it also was the most merciful course of action for the families of the victims, who desperately need some closure. In the event that the jury was to hand down a death sentence, we know there would be many appeals and the whole process could drag on for many years.
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Now on to the events of my week…
As I mentioned in my last post, on Saturday we had the funeral Mass for Tom Shields at St. Francis Xavier Church in Weymouth. I was the celebrant and Father Mark Cregan preached. He gave a very beautiful reflection.
Before the Mass, we heard some remarks by Tom’s brother, Mark Shields. He gave a very beautiful testimony about his brother’s life and also mentioned that the very spot with the church today is where his family’s house once stood. He said, “Here in the pulpit I’m now standing where our kitchen was”. He went on to say that Cardinal Cushing bought the house from them “for a song,” promising them rewards later in life. And so, he said, Tom’s funeral Mass there was literally a home coming.
There were many testimonies of his generosity, his profound humility, and his love for his faith. For Tom, of course, his faith, family, and friends were very important, but he also had a great sense of social responsibility. As part of that, he supported Catholic education so generously by providing scholarships for many, many needy children.
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Following the funeral, I left for Rome for meetings with the Holy Father. We arrived on Divine Mercy Sunday, just after the Holy Father had celebrated his very special Mass for the Armenians.
The Holy Father’s celebration was a very important one. I will also participate in an ecumenical service marking the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide at Trinity Church in Boston this week.
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Of course, for us April 12 was Divine Mercy Sunday, but for the Eastern Churches it was Easter. I very much regretted not being able to join Metropolitan Methodios for the celebration of his Easter vigil, as I like to do each year. However, I was very happy that Bishop Arthur Kennedy and Dr. Vito Nicastro of our Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs were able to be there to represent us.
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That evening, I had a meeting with some of the subcommittee members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors who wanted me to share some of their concerns about the situation in Chile with the Holy Father. We discussed that issue and a number of other concerns that are important to the commission.
The following day, the Council of Cardinals concelebrated Mass with the Holy Father at Casa Santa Marta and then we began three days of meetings with him.
We discussed the new Constitution on the Curia, the proposals for new dicasteries and I also presented the Holy Father a proposal from the commission for child protection on a process for accountability of bishops.
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Monday night, I had dinner with Fra’ Matthew Festing, the Grand Master of the Order of Malta. He is always a most interesting person to meet with.
He gave me a report on the different activities of the order, particularly in healthcare for the poor. In many parts of the world, the presence of the order of Malta is crucial because of the important work they do. He was telling me about the wonderful work that they are doing in the Philippines among other places. He told me that when he was in the British Army he was stationed in Belize, in a town where I had been – San Lorenzo. So, we swapped stories about our days there. Fra’ Matthew is quite a raconteur and we had a very enjoyable evening with him. He is very aware of the outstanding work that the order is doing in Boston and New England.
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As I always try to do when I’m in Rome, I met our Boston seminarians studying there for dinner. We had dinner together Tuesday night and were joined by Father Marc Bishop and Msgr. Francis Kelly.
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Thursday night, the Pontifical North American College held their annual Rector’s Dinner.
The North American College now has over 250 students from all over the United States as well as Australia. This year the honorees were Robert Baker and Cardinal Pell.
Cardinal Pell gave a beautiful address in which he talked about his love and respect for the United States and the American Church. He said that he doesn’t know any seminary better than the North American College – but I’m sure that’s only because he hasn’t visited St. John’s seminary in Brighton yet!
He also said that Australians feel a great gratitude to the Americans because of World War II. He said, “Thanks to the Americans, Japanese is not my first language.”
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Eduardo Verástegui, one of the producers and the stars of the film Little Boy that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, gave me a Spanish version of the film to share with the Holy Father. So, on Thursday I had lunch with the Holy Father, gave him the copy, and spoke to him about what the producers of the film are trying to do in creating films that have a positive message and demonstrate a Christian anthropology. The Holy Father was very interested to learn about this.
Then Friday, by chance I happened to run into Eduardo in Rome, because he was there for the annual pilgrimage of the Papal Foundation, and we had a cappuccino together.
For those of you who would also like to see the film, a very generous benefactor has provided for several free screenings at AMC Burlington theatre this coming Thursday, April 23. You can click here to get tickets.
Until next week,