Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Greeting the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians

Welcome once again my blog. This week was filled with many public events. It was my privilege to greet the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of the Armenian Church, His Holiness Karekin II as he visited Boston. I also participated in the Respect Life Mass and Walk for Mothers and Children, a local march that focuses on defending life.

Two weeks ago I attended an annual gathering for Hospital chaplains at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton. The guest speaker at the event was Susan Conroy, author of “Mother Teresa’s Lessons of Love and Secrets of Sanctity,” a book in which she describes her experiences working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta back in 1986. It was very well received.

At the banquet gathering, a number of chaplains were singled out for their extraordinary service to God’s people.



Bill Houghton


Martha Sullivan

It was great to be a part of recognizing people who participate in such important work


Joan Rossi

Our Catholic people are very grateful for the tireless ministry of the priests, religious and laity who work in hospital ministry. They make themselves so available to the sick, the injured, their families and the staffs of these institutions. It is a very special moment of grace in the life of a person when they are facing an illness, serious operation or injury. Having the spiritual support of the sacraments, chaplains and ministers is a great blessing for people in those moments.

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Last Thursday I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Marco Impagliazzo, president of the international Community of Sant’Egidio, at Boston College, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. Marco is also a professor of modern history at the University of Perugia in central Italy.


Marco Impagliazzo (at the podium) with this translator

I arrived at Gasson Hall, and John McGinty, BC’s interim assistant director of continuing education, was very nervous because Marco had not arrived yet from the airport. As we waited, I proposed to him that we get somebody with an Italian accent to get up stand-in for him because we had a copy of his talk there!

Fortunately, Marco did arrive in time. God bless him, he got off the plane after flying from Italy and came right to Boston College.

Marco’s address was on “The Church of All, especially a Church of the Poor,” which is a quote from Pope John XXIII. I was so pleased to see how many people turned out for the conference. The professor gave a beautiful reflection that I think helped people to become acquainted with the spirit and the history of the Sant’Egidio movement as well as what it means to speak of the Church and the poor.

At the conclusion of his talk, I was invited to give a response.


My response

I was very happy to share some of my own reflections, drawing from the Gospels and Jesus’ teachings about money and about the poor in addition to commenting on the professor’s very wonderful talk.

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On Friday I was invited to join the Sisters of Notre Dame for a meeting of the international leadership of their community. There were sisters there from all over the world. Their superior general, who is an American sister, and their council from Rome came. There were many sisters from Africa, Japan and Peru.

It was very interesting to hear about the wonderful growth of the order, particularly in Africa. It was very encouraging and it reminded me of the many international meetings that I have been to in my own religious community.

– – –

Saturday I attended the 10th anniversary of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Ipswich. Father John Kiley and his parish were very, very gracious. It was a lovely celebration, and they had a magnificent choir. The woman who did the cantoring had an extraordinarily beautiful voice.


The celebration was to mark the 10th year of the merger of the area parishes there. I just commend Father Kiley and the leadership there that worked so hard to bring this about. The parish is obviously thriving and a great source of blessings for the people that make up that family.




– – –

Sunday was the day for the Respect Life Walk for Mothers and Children. Traditionally, we have a pro-life Mass at the cathedral before the walk.


At the Respect Life Mass

I was very pleased with the attendance this year. At the end of the Mass, Marianne Luthin, director of the archdiocesan Pro-Life Office, got up to thank the people and to invite everyone to the Respect Life Rally and Walk at Boston Common.


Marianne Luthin

I want share with you my homily at the Mass:

In the Gospel today, we heard the fervent prayer of the Apostles: “Increase our Faith.” We too came together today to ask our God to increase our faith. There are many pitfalls in life. The light of faith helps us to find the right path. Reason also helps us to find that path. Faith and reason help us to discover the truth. They do not contradict one another.

We gather here to celebrate the truth that human life is precious and worthy of our protection and nurture. We do not judge or condemn those who disagree, but we warn them that they are on a path that leads to chaos and self-destruction.

In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, the prisoners chained in a cave for a lifetime come to think that the shadows on the wall are real objects. When a prisoner escapes into the sun, sees reality and returns, the other prisoners think he is crazy and become angry with him.

Those of us who have seen the rays of the sun and understand that human life is precious and must be protected, must share that knowledge with our brothers and sisters in the cave, even if they do not want to hear us. People’s moral sense has been dulled to the point that some have come to accept abortion as a social good.

Our firm conviction is that life is an inalienable right of each brother and sister made in the image and likeness of God. Faith and reason both illumine this truth. When faith is weak or absent, when reason is clouded by emotion, passion or selfishness, we lose our way.

Like the Apostles, we pray, “Increase our faith.” We live in a culture that is hostile to the values of the Gospel. Our culture has become so highly individualistic, as a people we are addicted to entertainment, and submerged in materialism. Money has become a god to many people.

We live and breathe in this culture of unbelief. How can we increase our faith?

First of all we should ask ourselves what faith is. It is not just a superficial optimism, it is not just a collection of dogmas. Faith is a relationship with Jesus Christ. Without faith, we lead a rudderless existence drifting chaos.

There is a strong relationship between faith and prayer. Prayer keeps the flame of faith alive in our hearts. The witness of our fellow believers is also an important factor, beginning with the lives of the Saints who are our heroes and heroines in the Christian life. Our friendship with other believers is a fellowship that strengthens our faith and our shared ideals.

Living a life of faith is also living a life of service. Jesus came as the suffering servant. As His disciples, we too are called to serve. We should not congratulate ourselves for simply doing our duty, rather we should be grateful that God gave us the grace and inspiration to do something good and noble, to serve along side Jesus who came to serve, to wash the feet of His disciples, to give us an example. It is a trust in Him that will enable us to pattern our lives on His teachings, to find meaning in His promises, and to live as His friend and disciple.

I often have a story that I learned of many years ago about a family with a sad history. The daughter was ashamed of her mother’s appearance because her Mom’s hands were terribly disfigured. After the mother died, the daughter learned that her Mom had rescued her from a fire and burned her hands severely in that act of heroism to save her baby.

The woman felt so ashamed and regretted the years when she ignored her mother’s love and sacrifice. It is even more tragic that Jesus gave up His life for me, and I take it for granted or react with indifference to God’s love for me.

Our faith allows us to discover God’s love. Then faith is the pearl of great price for which we should be willing to sell all to acquire that gem. Discovering God’s love we discover who we are, made in His image and likeness, we learn why we are in this world and what we need to do with our lives.

What are we up against?

January 1973 the Supreme Court of the United States removed every legal protection from human beings prior to birth. The effects have been devastating:

– The deaths of millions of children in their mother’s womb;

– Countless women traumatized so deeply by abortion that they spend years struggling to find peace, healing and reconciliation;

– Men grieve because they could not choose to protect a child they helped bring into existence;

– Our society is increasingly coarsened by toleration and acceptance of acts that purposely destroy human life.

These attacks on human life are carried out in the family and with the active involvement of those in the healing professions — who have traditionally protected the weak and vulnerable. Often, the abortion is done at the urging of the father who rather than protecting his child, believes that his only obligation is to pay for the abortion. And now Amnesty International has come out supporting abortion. It is sick.

True commitment to women’s rights puts us in solidarity with women and their unborn children. It does not pit one against the other but calls us to advocate on behalf of both.

As believers, disciples of Jesus and followers of the Lord in His Church, we need to work to promote the Gospel of Life. It takes courage in the midst of so many adherents to the Culture of Death, to say yes to life.

Abortion is violence against women and children. As people of faith we cannot be indifferent to their plight. Our efforts to end abortion go hand in hand with efforts to help women in a difficult pregnancy and to reach out to those whose lives have been shattered by abortion. All of this is part of our mission as Jesus’ disciples to build a civilization of love. Our task is to change laws, but mostly to change hearts. We must love and pray for those who disagree with us and work tirelessly to help them see the precious gift of life and to want to nurture and protect it.

With the Apostles, we pray, “Lord, increase our faith, make us those mustard seeds, small and insignificant but able to change the landscape, bring light into the cave, make our country safer for women and children. Amen.

The walk also had a good turnout. It was not until we began to walk that I appreciated how many people were there.




We had the rally at the bandstand, which is a very nice venue. Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, gave a very good talk.


Kris Mineau speaking to the rally on Boston Common

The keynote speaker, David Bereit, had some excellent comments as well. And then I spoke.


My address. Behind me is Dr. Mildred Jefferson, president of Mass. Citizens for Life

– – –

On Columbus Day morning, the Archdiocese of Boston, along with the Greek Orthodox Metropolis and the Massachusetts Council of Churches, sponsored an ecumenical prayer breakfast for the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of the Armenian Church, His Holiness Karekin II. We were very happy to greet him, and we are all acutely aware of how important it is to the Armenian people to memorialize the genocide and we certainly sympathize with their efforts.


Father Edward O’Flaherty, Director of our Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and I speak to the Catholicos before the breakfast


We opened with a prayer


The breakfast provided an opportunity for many good conversations

The Catholicos spoke to me about the wonderful visit of John Paul II to his country in 2001. He was very proud of the fact that John Paul opted to stay with him in his residence. Usually, when the pope visits a country he stays with the nuncio or the local Catholic bishop. But the Catholicos told me, “I insisted he was coming as my guest.” So the pope stayed there and he actually celebrated Mass in one of their churches, which was an extraordinary gesture of Pope John II.


At that breakfast, there were clergy who represented many different groups. Father John Maheras spoke representing Metropolitan Methodios who could not be present.


Father Maheras

The new head of the Mass. Council of Churches, Rev. Jack Johnson, was also there.


Rev. Johnson

He came to us from the Greater New Jersey Area Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church this year and is the council’s ninth director. The breakfast was also a nice opportunity for us to publicly welcome him and to thank him for continuing the wonderful work that Rev. Diane Kessler had done for so many years, praying together for Christian unity.


My remarks to the Catholicos



Catholicos Karekin was the last to speak



The Catholicos gave me a beautiful pectoral cross as a gift, which I will cherish. It’s a lovely cross.



Introducing Father Arthur Kennedy, rector of St. John Seminary, to the Catholicos


Before we departed we took this group photo with all the clergy and invited guests

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Later on Monday, the Jesuit provincials gathered at the conference center at Babson College. They invited me to have lunch, and it was an opportunity to speak with them, listen to their ideas and share some of my hopes concerning the ministry of the Jesuits in our diocese. We are the beneficiaries of the service of many Jesuits, particularly young Jesuits who are here studying from Africa and Latin America. Those young men are very generous in serving the immigrant communities from their countries.

This meeting was the second time since I have been here that the provincials have invited me for dialogue, and I think it is very helpful, especially when you consider how many Jesuits we have in Boston. There are over 300 Jesuits here, so it is a very substantial presence. The institutions that they run have a very big impact in our archdiocese.

– – –

That day we also met with the local membership of Communion and Liberation, one of the most well-known new movements in the Church. I celebrated Mass for them. They had a Schola Cantorum to sing for the Mass, which was exquisite. They sang all this four-voice music, and it was a very lovely experience. We are blessed to have Communion and Liberation in the diocese.

At the dinner following the Mass, a number of individuals gave witnesses about their lives in this ecclesial movement and how it has helped them. There was quite a variety of people. One individual spoke as a doctor. Then a housewife spoke and finally a student. After the meal there was a sing-a-long, which is very typical of Communion and Liberation gatherings. They do a lot of singing.

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On Wednesday, I was visited by Bishop Michel Dubost of the French diocese of Evry-Corbeil-Essonnes, accompanied a large group of journalists from the Bayard group. Bayard is a very large French publishing group that was founded by the Augustinians of the Assumption — better known as the Assumptionists — in the 19th century.


Among the publications that they are responsible for are La Croix, which is a French daily newspaper that ranks sixth in circulation. The also publish a weekly magazine called Pèlerin. Americans are mostly likely to know Bayard as the parent company of Catholic Digest.

The group is visiting the United States in sort of a fact-finding mission they told me. Though mostly from France, there were also some French Canadians among the group. Many of them are writers for the different publications that they produce.


As you can see, there were quite a number of them

In our discussions they asked me first to comment on the state of about the Church in the United States and in Boston. Then, they asked me questions.




It was an unexpected chance to practice my French as very few of them spoke English. It was very nice to meet the bishop and I was intrigued by the fact that so many would come to partake in the interview. I hope that they were satisfied with my answers!


– – –

On Wednesday evening, I traveled to Bad Abbots Irish Pub in Quincy for a session with Theology on Tap. Father Mike Drea, pastor at St. Ann Parish in Quincy, was one of the organizers of this event with help from some young adults. They have already had a number of these meetings, and I had spoken at another Theology on Tap group in Lowell a year ago.


They asked me to speak on evangelization, so I was very pleased to be a part of it. I was delighted to see how many people came out. The pub was packed. They were mostly young people who seemed to be having a very good time.



They were really packed in

They were very attentive, and I really spoke longer than I had anticipated. I gave about a 40 minute talk, and afterwards I was struck by the serious and profound questions that they asked me. They were appreciative of the opportunity to come together and reflect on their faith.


The owner of the pub, Peter, and his wife, Ann, could not have been more gracious to us. Of course, we all were amused by the name of the pub, “Bad Abbots.” We hope that they are changing it now to the Good Abbot!

For the “photo” of the week, I have chosen this week not a photo but a video. A young adult in attendance just sent me a link to Google Video, where he has posted a video recording of my talk. This is his message with the link:

Cardinal Sean,
I took a video of your excellent talk at the “Theology on Tap” in Quincy, MA, and posted it to Google Video.

I got a lot out of the talk, and thought this could be a useful way to share the talks with those who weren’t there. Thank you for taking the time to make such a great presentation to the young adults of Boston! Joe Gallagher.

Thank you Joe!

Here is the video. If you have trouble watching it click on this link

God bless you all,

Cardinal Seán