Day: September 20, 2019

Honoring our priests

Hello and welcome!

This week I joined with the four diocesan bishops of Massachusetts in issuing a statement on the environment and climate change entitled Embracing Laudato Si’.

Conscious of the need to protect our common home, it is important that people take practical decisions concerning the environment and trying to avoid what the Holy Father calls “a culture of waste.” (This is one reason we have installed the solar panels at our Pastoral Center — as a way of indicating the Church’s commitment to look for new ways to preserve the environment.) We were very pleased that the Massachusetts Catholic Conference assisted us in issuing this policy statement concerning the Church’s teaching on the environment.

“St. Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness.” In June 2015, Pope Francis made this observation in his powerful encyclical, Laudato Si’ — On Care for Our Common Home.

In our home state of Massachusetts, we are blessed with inspiring natural beauty from the seashore on the east coast to the majestic mountain vistas in the west — with rolling hills, vibrant communities and rich farmlands throughout the state. We, the four Roman Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts, call on all Catholics and others of faith in Massachusetts to reflect on this natural beauty — this gift from God. To protect and sustain this gift we must act now within our faith institutions and throughout the state to take substantial, meaningful steps to protect our environment and provide relief from the impact of toxic pollution and climate change to protect the health and safety of all citizens, particularly the most vulnerable in our society.HairPin

Pope Francis “calls for dialogue throughout the world” on how we can be better stewards of the earth and, in so doing, be more responsive to the plight of the poor around the world. His call for an “integral ecology” to be lived out joyfully respects the dignity of each person, identifies a moral obligation to protect the environment, and promotes social justice by supporting responsible economic development with respect for all people and the earth.

Pope Francis stated: “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.”

For decades reports from highly respected scientific studies also clearly set forth the dangers of climate change in the United States and around the globe. More recently, those studies detail the urgency of this crisis.

— In October 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) reported we may have as little as 12 years to act on climate change — to slash global emissions 45 percent — to reach limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C. This would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society with clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society.

— In November 2018, the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) found the effects of climate change, including deadly wildfires, increasingly debilitating hurricanes and heat waves, are already battering the United States, and the danger of more such catastrophes is worsening. If not mitigated now, in a worst-case climate-change scenario, the document finds financial impacts over $400 billion annually to U.S. economy. According to the NOAA, July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded worldwide. The five hottest July’s have occurred in the last five years.

— Last month, the United Nations sounded the alarm about food supplies. World food security is increasingly at risk due to “unprecedented” climate change impact. Today 500 million people live in areas that experience desertification. People living in already degraded or desertified areas are increasingly, negatively affected by climate change.

With this immense threat, we may feel inclined to despair, but we are people of faith. Catholic social teaching is built on the principle of subsidiarity, “which grants freedom to develop the capabilities present at every level of society, while also demanding a greater sense of responsibility for the common good from those who wield greater power.” We are called to act with hope and to respond to this challenge with urgency in all facets of our life: as individuals making an ecological conversion in our personal lives; as members of our parishes, schools and businesses striving for structural changes that reduce environmental impact; and as citizens participating in political discussions and fulfilling our civic responsibilities. We are asking everyone to examine their personal vocations and opportunities to take action to take better care of our common home.BelleIsle

Change is hard and at the outset can seem intimidating. Every person’s actions will depend on their life circumstance and their commitment to protect our natural resources. We must each find tangible and substantive actions that are within our grasp. Families should discuss their concerns about the environment and how their lifestyle and consumption is contributing to the climate changes and other environmental degradation. Parishes should integrate Catholic social teaching on the environment in their liturgy and in their religious education program. Action is needed at all levels of government to encourage replacement of fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy while ensuring that the most vulnerable in society are protected from harm during this transition.

We also wish to echo the view of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops who adopted an explicit priority to teach and advocate about integral ecology, emphasizing environmental degradation and its impact on the lives of the most vulnerable.

As a Catholic community, we must commit to this effort while Christians around the world celebrate the Season of Creation (September 1st- October 4th). We, the Catholic Bishops of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, pledge our support to addressing this global crisis.

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” — St. Francis of Assisi


Much of this past week, I was in Rome for meetings of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, as well as meetings of the Council of Cardinals advising the Holy Father on the reform of the Roman Curia.IMG_0911

Our meetings of the Pontifical Commission began on Thursday and, as we do each year, we began by listening to the testimony of victims of abuse. This serves to focus us on the urgency of working for safe environments and also looking for ways to be a voice for those who have been so profoundly affected by the sexual abuse of minors.

I also read to the members from the Holy Father’s letter issued for the Feast of St. John Vianney. It is a very beautiful letter to priests, in which he recognizes that many innocent priests have suffered because of the sexual abuse crisis, but then goes on to talk about the terrible damage that has been done to the victims and the community, as well as the Church’s commitment to work for healing and to create a culture of safeguarding.IMG_0914

The commission is preparing a number of very important meetings involving bishops’ conferences in Eastern Europe. We are also studying different aspects of Canon Law that will impinge on safe environments.

One of the tasks of the commission is the formation of leadership so, recently, two members of our commission addressed the gathering of all the bishops named over the last year, to impress upon them their responsibility as bishops to promote safeguarding in their dioceses. We have also continued to be involved with the ad limina visits of bishops from the different nations, so that we can discuss with them the challenges and successes in implementing programs for safeguarding in their countries.IMG_0913

On Sunday, the final day of our meetings, I had Mass with the members of the commission in the Irish Chapel, which is in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica very near the Tomb of St. Peter.IMG_0912


Sunday night, we had dinner with the priests and seminarians of Boston who are in Rome.IMG_0916

Among them was our seminarian, Dennis Nakkeeren, who will soon be ordained a deacon. Father Carlos Suarez was also in town, so we were very happy to have him join us, as well.


On Tuesday, we began our meetings of the Council of Cardinals together with the Holy Father discussing the suggestions that have been returned from the different bishops’ conferences, universities and theologians regarding the document Praedicate Evengelium, which is the document we have been working on concerning the reform of the curia.c6


During the time of our meetings of the Council of Cardinals, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople was in Rome to visit the Holy Father. When he arrived, he paid us a surprise visit. Everyone was delighted to see him!unnamed_1

The patriarch speaks perfect Italian because he studied at the Orientale, which is the Jesuit institute in Rome for the Eastern Churches. So, there is a special affinity for him in Rome. We were very happy that we had an opportunity to greet him.


Tuesday night, I had a Mass for about 800 doctors and other healthcare workers from the United States who were in Rome for a convention organized by Mario Paredes. He arranged for the conference to begin with a Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major. IMG_0918

IMG_0917The Basilica of St. Mary Major dates back to the 4th century. It is one of the oldest and most historic churches in Christendom, and I always like to have the opportunity to celebrate Mass there.Inaugural Mass Rome SEPT 2019 -5Inaugural Mass Rome SEPT 2019 -10Inaugural Mass Rome SEPT 2019 -19Inaugural Mass Rome SEPT 2019 -42Inaugural Mass Rome SEPT 2019 -82Inaugural Mass Rome SEPT 2019 -90

I pointed out to the physicians that about one-quarter of all the healthcare institutions and hospitals in the world are run by the Catholic Church. In developing countries, the statistic is even higher. There, about 65 percent of hospitals are run by the Catholic Church.


Following the Mass, Msgr. Paul McInerney gave us a tour of the Borghese crypts. Pope Paul V was a pope of the Borghese family who supported a great deal of building in Rome, including additions to St. Mary Major. He is also the pope whose name is inscribed on the façade of St. Peter’s Basilica. IMG_0925

He is buried in the crypt along with many of his relatives, including Napoleon’s sister, who married one of his descendants.


Thursday morning, we celebrated Mass with the Holy Father in the chapel of Casa Santa Marta, then I headed to the airport to be back in Boston in time for our annual Celebration of the Priesthood Dinner, which was that evening.MorningMass


The Celebration of the Priesthood Dinner is always a wonderful event at which we honor our priests. Of course, one of the principal reasons that we hold this dinner is for the financial benefit of the Clergy Trust, which is a very important obligation we have to take care of our priests. COP19-GTracy-02COP19-GTracy-05COP19-GTracy-09COP19-GTracy-21COP19-GTracy-22COP19-GTracy-27COP19-GTracy-30COP19-GTracy-32

We are very grateful for the work that is done by the Clergy Trust on behalf of our priests. We are also very grateful to Artie and Judy Boyle who were this year’s dinner chairs. Their son, the newly ordained Father Chris Boyle, gave the invocation of the evening. (It also happened to be his birthday!)COP19-GTracy-38

It was announced during the evening that the dinner’s fundraising goal of $1.6 million was reached.COP19-GTracy-35COP19-GTracy-42

The theme of this year’s dinner was very much centered around some of the ministries of our priests to the homeless, their role as chaplains and their support of the missions and our own local immigrant communities.

We were very pleased to be joined this year by Mayor Tom Koch of Quincy, Boston Fire Commissioner Joe Finn, Boston police Commissioner William Gross and, of course, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who addressed us. Their presence just goes to underscore the important service that our priests are giving to the wider community.COP19-GTracy-44

The Celebration of the Priesthood is one of the biggest fundraising events in Boston, and we are always very gratified by the outpouring of esteem and affection for our priests.COP19-GTracy-47COP19-GTracy-48COP19-GTracy-52 It was a wonderful evening, and we are very grateful to all who attended to show their support.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán

September 2019
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