Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

A horrible tragedy, some exciting news and my trip to Paraguay

Certainly everyone is praying for those affected by the massacre at the Virginia Tech on April 16. We pray for the victims, their families and all of the students who are affected directly by this horrific experience. We also pray for the family of the perpetrator of the crime. The entire situation is a great tragedy from beginning to end.

This tragic massacre of students at the Virginia Tech underscores the need we have, as a country, to be better able to deal with mental illness – both identifying and treating it. Many of the laws and regulations we have concerning privacy and individual rights go beyond the dictates of common sense. One result of these laws is that many of the homeless people living on our streets find themselves in that situation because they are suffering from mental illness but are not receiving treatment. Schools also are unable to deal effectively with students who have mental health problems. It is my hope that in the wake of this great tragedy solutions will be proposed to deal with these problems.

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On April 18, pro-life supporters received some excellent news. That day, I attended the semi-annual meeting of directors of the pro-life offices of the New England dioceses and was greeted with the good news that the United States Supreme Court has upheld the ban on partial birth abortion. Although we still have not had time to analyze the decision, it certainly is a step in the right direction. The ruling upholds the Legislature�s right to pass laws that limit abortion.


The director of our Pro-Life, Marianne Luthin (on the left) is joined at the meeting by fellow directors Mary Lou Peters of the Archdiocese of Hartford and Father Ernest Esposito of the Diocese of Bridgeport and Sister Suzanne Gross of Hartford

It has been disappointing to read politicians� reaction against this decision of the Supreme Court, given the fact that most Americans are in agreement that this is a barbaric procedure that needs to be banned.

The horrific nature of partial birth abortion, which is practically infanticide, needed to be stopped. I think this has given a sense of hope to people in the pro-life movement. The ruling also underscores the importance of the judiciary in the life of the country. It points out the need for this to be carefully considered in the next presidential elections because the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court has great implications for the future of the country and the protection of human life.


At the meeting the directors share information on common concerns and efforts they are making in their home dioceses to defend life

Certainly, it was interesting that the Catholics voted in a block, and I am sure that that�s not lost on most people.

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As I mentioned in my post last week, I spent a couple of days with my family after Easter. Following that, I went to Paraguay to be present at the instillation of Bishop Adalberto Martinez Flores as bishop of the diocese of San Pedro.


Bishop Adalberto Martinez Flores

Bishop Adalberto was one of my priests in the Virgin Islands. In fact, he had been one of my parishioners in Washington D.C. He went to the seminary in Rome and studied with the Focolare movement. He finished his studies right around the time that I was named bishop of the Virgin Islands, and in the Focolare movement they need to find a bishop who will ordain them because they do not ordain for their own movement. So, recognizing the great need that we had in the islands for Spanish-speaking priests, I invited him to be a priest of the Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. He served for many years there, and then he was later named auxiliary bishop in his native diocese, the Archdiocese of Asunci�n in Paraguay. After being auxiliary bishop there for a couple of years, he was named bishop for a new diocese, the Diocese of San Lorenzo, which is also in Paraguay.

Recently, there have been some rather dramatic developments in the life of the Church in Paraguay. Namely, that the bishop of San Pedro, Bishop Emeritus Fernando Armindo Lugo M�ndez, resigned his post two years ago, has become involved in politics and is now running for president of the country. As a result, the Holy Father has asked Bishop Adalberto to take over that diocese, which is a very rural, very poor diocese. It is a great challenge.

Bishop Adalberto�s previous diocese, San Lorenzo, was carved out of the Archdiocese of Asuncion and actually extends from the capital into a rural area. Territorially, the new diocese is probably the largest in Paraguay although it has perhaps half the population of the Diocese of San Lorenzo: around 350,000 Catholics. He only has 20 priests to minister to them.

Just to get to San Pedro was an adventure. I arrived on Friday in Asunci�n; the installation was Saturday morning. The vice president of Paraguay, Luis Castiglioni, offered to take me in his plane, so we went in a twin engine plane and landed in a grass field not far from the cathedral.


Our plane was the small one in the back

The vice president is a very young man who is also running for president. In fact, there were three presidential candidates at the installation. Politics are very contentious in Paraguay. They do not have a long tradition of democracy, having had a dictatorship for over 30 years under General Alfredo Stroessner. So trying to strengthen political parties and civic institutions has been a difficult task for them.

All of the bishops of the country and the nuncio were present at Bishop Adalberto�s installation. Bishop Adalberto�s parents and his brothers and their families also joined us for the occasion. There were also many, many young people there. The population is a very young population in Paraguay, and it was good to see the great representation of the different youth movements who were a part of the celebration.


The bishops of Paraguay process into the cathedral


Next to me is the papal nuncio to Paraguay, Archbishop Orlando Antonini


Before the installation Mass began, young Guarani Indians put on a sort of play reenacting the arrival of the first Jesuit missionaries in Paraguay






It was very colorful and they did such a great job



The main altar of the cathedral is magnificent. It features a statue of St. Peter


Following the installation there was a celebratory lunch


There was an abundance of lively music and dancing




Bishop Adalberto’s mother and I. We had beautiful weather
for the day of the installation � thank God.

The next day, April 15, there was a terrible storm, and when it rains, people just stay home because the roads are just so bad. I was worried I would not be able to get back to Asunci�n to get my plane the following day. It was about an eight-hour ride on 200 miles of dirt road, which had turned into rivers of mud. We traveled in a truck with four-wheel drive and saw very few other cars on the road. So I was confident we would make it if we did not get stuck in some river or small lake we had to drive through.


It was an eight-hour run back to Asunci�n on roads like this


It may be hard to see in this photo but there was a pounding rain

Thank goodness, we arrived back in Asuncion, and in the afternoon, I was able to perform the baptism of a little baby whose mother I had baptized in Washington many years ago. Another young man, whom I also baptized in Washington, came to visit me with his wife and children. Having been in Washington for so many years, almost everywhere I go in Latin America now, I end up meeting people I have baptized!


Ana Veronica, whom I baptized in Washington,
and her baby Diego Maria whom I baptized last week

In the morning of April 16, the last day of my trip, I went to visit the capuchin friary where the postulants are. The capucjins there are from Brazil and came to open a couple of houses in Paraguay. One of those houses is this postulancy house.


The Capuchin postulants

They have a chapel for confession where people come for the sacrament of reconciliation, much like we have the Franciscans chapel on Arch Street here in Boston. They do not have as many friars, but they have many hours for confessions during the week. It is very, very popular. The chapel is named after St. Leopold Mandic, who was a famous capuchin confessor. He died in Padua, Italy in 1942. You can read his biography here.

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Once a year I meet with all the superiors of the women�s and men�s religious orders. Sister Marian Batho the archdiocese�s delegate for religious, organizes these events and brings people together. It is a chance to give them an update on what is happening in the archdiocese.


Sister Marian addresses the superiors of the men’s congregation’s

On April 18, I met with the superiors from orders of brothers and priests. The men serve in a variety of ministries. Some of them have educational institutions, others are doing chaplaincy work in the prisons, some are doing work with the poor and homeless, some are working in campus ministry and still others have parishes.

At the meeting, we talked with them about plans for the bicentennial and different things that are happening in the different ministries of the diocese, the 2010 Initiative and things like that. It is an opportunity to have a conversation with the male religious. Some of them had questions or ideas that they wanted to share with me. It was a very good meeting.

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For the photo of the week I have chosen another view of the main road which links San Pedro to Asunci�n. It is the best road in all the area!