Reflecting on the Orlando tragedy

Hello and welcome,

Before sharing information about my events and activities of the past week, it must be recognized that our nation continues to recoil from the horror of the killings that took place in Orlando.

As the names of those whose lives were taken during the attack were made known and family members and friends shared their grief, our shock at the unprovoked killings gave way to recognition of the depth of the loss. In particular, the gay and lesbian communities in Orlando, here in Boston, throughout the United States and throughout the world were understandably devastated by this targeted assault. The Archdiocese shares in their sorrow and concern. There is no place in the Church or society for hate and vilification of any person or group of persons. All people are created in the image and likeness of God, blessed with the gift of human dignity that calls for our respect and love.

We also stand in solidarity with members of the Muslim community when they are wrongly and dangerously assigned shared responsibility for the attack in Orlando and other violent assaults, simply because they are Muslim. There is no justification for linking their sincere faith and goodwill with these horrendous attacks or for promoting hatred and suspicion of people based on their religious beliefs. At a time when our society is best served by our coming together in shared strength and resolve, such unwarranted appeals to suspicion and isolation threaten the common good. May we rise above these calls to divisiveness and together walk in the light of the Lord.

I’d like to share with you this interview I conducted with WBUR earlier this week, discussing these and other matters related to the Orlando tragedy.

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As I mentioned in my last post, I spent much of last week in Rome for meetings with the Holy Father.

I returned back to Boston on Saturday, and that afternoon had an opportunity to see the progress of the construction of the new Our Lady of Good Voyage Chapel in South Boston, which is coming along splendidly. unnamedunnamed (5)unnamed (2)

John Hynes IV, great grandson of Boston’s Mayor John Hynes of the mid-20th century and son of John Hynes III, the developer of Seaport Square, was kind enough to give us a tour of the building.unnamed (4)

At this point, the main structural aspects will be completed by the end of the summer and then they will begin work on the interior. It is our hope that all the work will be completed and the chapel will be ready for use by next spring. Blog-IMG_5922

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Saturday evening, I departed for the Diocese of Orange, California to participate in the Spring Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with Bishop Uglietto, Bishop Kennedy and Bishop-elect Mark O’Connell. The Diocese of Orange is the home of Christ Cathedral (the former Crystal Cathedral), and several of the bishops had a chance to celebrate Mass there during the week.Blog-2016-06-17 (1)

Though the Spring Assembly is meant to be more of a retreat than our fall gathering, we take advantage of all the bishops being together to hold a number of board meetings over the weekend. Then, on Monday, we began the General Assembly, which ran through the entire week. Blog-IMG_5951

St. Junípero Serra, who is one of the founders of the Church in California

On Monday, we had an opportunity to welcome the new apostolic nuncio to the states, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who is coming to us from Mexico. He is a very experienced Papal representative, having had 10 previous postings in other parts of the world. He gave a wonderful talk introducing himself to the bishops and, of course, he was officially welcomed by Archbishop Kurtz, the president of our conference.Blog-IMG_5939

Every third year, the Spring Assembly is dedicated to being a time to reflect on our ministry as bishops.

So, during the course of the week, we heard a number of talks from Cardinal Tagle of Manila on the ministry and role of the bishop. He did an extraordinary job, and I know all the bishops were very, very pleased with his talks. He has experience as a teacher himself, and so he spoke a great deal about the importance of the teaching role of the bishop. For my part, I also had an opportunity to speak on a panel on the role of the bishop as teacher.Blog-image2

At our gathering, they have different images on display. I was particularly drawn to this one of the Last Supper, which I found very beautiful. It depicts John the Apostle resting his head on the Sacred Heart, which is a theme I often use in my preaching.Blog-IMG_5952

Finally, I want to also mention that during our time together, the bishops endorsed a letter from our president to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople as the Orthodox Churches are preparing for their Holy and Great Council in Crete next week. We are praying for an increase in unity among the Orthodox Churches themselves, which will be a very important step toward greater unity between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

Your All Holiness,

Gathered together in special assembly in Orange County, California, with my brother bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, we turn our thoughts to Your All Holiness, the primates of the other Orthodox churches and the other bishops who will be participating in the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church on the island of Crete in just a few days’ time. We are aware that over the past several decades an enormous effort has been made to convene this Council, and we rejoice with you that these efforts have reached fruition.

The topics that Your All Holiness and the other Orthodox bishops will be considering are of the greatest importance not only for the Orthodox Church but also for other Christians. All of us await Orthodox insights on these matters that draw upon the rich and ancient Tradition that is yours.

In particular, we look forward to new perspectives on the relationship between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. Along with Pope Francis, it is our desire to deepen the fellowship that already exists between us, and to find new ways to work together for the benefit of our world that needs the Good News of Jesus Christ so much.

Along these lines, we were deeply moved by the recent images of Your All Holiness, Pope Francis, and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece visiting the island of Lesbos to offer support and encouragement to the many refugees who have arrived there. Pope Francis has often observed that it is in caring for the needy together that ecumenism is most meaningful. We make our own your affirmation with the Pope and the Archbishop in the April 16 Common Declaration that "we firmly and wholeheartedly resolve to intensify our efforts to promote the full unity of all Christians."

Your All Holiness can be sure that all the Orthodox bishops gathering together at the Holy and Great Council will be very much in our thoughts and prayers in the coming days.

Sincerely in the Lord,

Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D.

Archbishop of Louisville

President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


Until next week,

Cardinal Seán

June 2016
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