Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Day: May 7, 2021

Visiting St. Joseph the Worker Shrine

Hello and welcome!

Saturday was the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, so I was pleased to be able to celebrate Mass at St. Joseph the Worker Shrine in Lowell. Lowell-09

We were very pleased to be joined by Mayor John Leahy and several members of the Lowell Fire and Police departments, who carried the statue of St. Joseph in and out of the church.Lowell-IMG_7913Lowell-13

Lowell-14Lowell-IMG_3155The Mass was held to mark both the Year of St. Joseph and the Year of the Eucharist. In my homily, I commented on the fact that there are three feast days of St. Joseph: January 23 is the Espousal of Mary and Joseph, March 19 is St. Joseph’s Day and, of course, May 1 is St. Joseph the Worker.Lowell-IMG_3157

Lowell-IMG_3158When I was a young priest, I taught at Oblate College and the shrine’s pastor, Father Michael Amesse, OMI, was a student of mine. He reminded me that once I had posed the question to him, “What is the river that separates the United States from Mexico?” He said he didn’t know, but he excused himself because he was Canadian!

I taught many of the Oblates, and it’s always fun to hear their recollections of that time. In fact, a couple of years ago, when I was in Rome for meetings, I went out during a break for coffee at a local café. A priest walked up to me and introduced himself as the Father General of the Oblates. He said, “Cardinal, I don’t know if you remember me, but you taught me when I was a seminarian, and you told me that I spoke Spanish like John Wayne.”

Well, now he’s the Father General, so I guess John Wayne must have spoken Spanish very well!

It was nice to be back with the Oblates once again. They do wonderful work at the shrine, and the sacramental ministry they carry out there is so important to our archdiocese. We are very grateful to the Oblates for their presence and ministry at the shrine.

Orthodox Easter fell on May 3 this year, so I was very happy to join Metropolitan Methodios and the Greek Orthodox community of Boston for their celebration of the Easter Vigil Saturday night at Annunciation Cathedral.

It is such a beautiful liturgy, with the blessing of the fire, the lighting of the candles throughout the cathedral and the singing of the beautiful hymn “Christos Anesti” (“Christ is Risen”).Photo by Alex MavradisPhoto by Alex MavradisPhoto by Alex MavradisPhoto by Alex MavradisPhoto by Alex MavradisPhoto by Alex Mavradis

After his homily, Metropolitan Methodios invited me to address the people and bring them Easter greetings on behalf of the Catholic community.Photo by Alex Mavradis

They presented me with the gift of this beautiful paschal candle.IMG_7917

Sunday, I was very happy to go to St. Margaret Mary Parish in Westwood for a parish visit and Mass.Westwood-IMG_3161

It was wonderful to be able to visit the parish and see all the great things that are happening there. We are grateful to Father Bob Blaney and Father Paul Soper for the good work they are doing.

Monday, we celebrated a special Mass at the cathedral to express our solidarity with our local Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. We were pleased to be joined by members of our Asian American Catholic communities, and the concelebrating priests represented the nations of Cambodia, Korea, China, the Philippines, India and Vietnam. We were also honored by the presence of Ambassador Ray Flynn and Boston City Councilor Ed Flynn.Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault 
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault 
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault 
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault

Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault 
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault 
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault 
We organized this Mass to show our support for the AAPI community at this time when there have been increased incidents of prejudice and violence directed at them nationwide. In response to this situation, I composed this letter, which I shared at the Mass and would also like to share with you here:

My Dear Friends in Christ,

Events of recent months have brought to wide public awareness what many of you have experienced for far longer, racism and violence against people of Asian descent, which are increasingly occurring throughout the United States. This is disturbing, unacceptable for our society and contrary to the human dignity that is at the heart of Church teaching.

The issue of racism is a systemic problem in our country. It undermines the moral fabric of communities and creates division where those in a particular group are marginalized. In the 2018 USCCB Pastoral Letter, “Open Wide Our Hearts,” the bishops of the United States recognized that the “roots of racism have extended deeply into the soil of our society.”

We need to ensure that the discussion around systemic racism recognizes the violence and discrimination Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have experienced. As I have previously shared, the antidote to the poison of racism is community and solidarity. The reality of racism in our society and the moral imperative of racial equality and justice must be incorporated in our schools, our teaching, and our preaching.

As a Church, we need to welcome a conversation with our brothers and sisters of Asian descent and the struggles they experience. By embracing their pain as real and making clear our rejection of any acts of hate and violence, we can better understand the devastating impact racism has on too many people.

We must all recognize our responsibility to speak up when we witness acts of racism and violence against people of Asian descent, whether the acts are subtle or overt. Acts of racism are always sinful and destructive.
In the Commonwealth, Asians represent more than 7 percent of the population. The Archdiocese of Boston is enriched by parishes with vibrant Vietnamese, Indian, Cambodian, Chinese, Korean and Filipino communities and is blessed to have ordained a number of priests of Asian descent.

As people of faith, committed to living by the principles set forth by Christ, we stand in solidarity with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. We reject all forms of racial injustice and violence. Through the grace of God, we endeavor to follow the guidance of Pope Francis who has stated, “we are called to live not as one without others, above or against others, but with and for others.”

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap.
Archbishop of Boston

Wednesday, I participated in a conference hosted by the Italian ambassador to the Holy See, Pietro Sebastiani, on the topic of child protection in Italy. A number of the members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors were also invited to participate, including Father Hans Zollner, Dr. Ernesto Caffo and former commission member Baroness Sheila Hollins.ItConf-IMG_7907ItConf-IMG_3178

The principal venue for the meeting was the historic Palazzo Borromeo in Rome, which houses the Italian Embassy to the Holy See. Those who attended in person gathered there while the rest of us participated virtually.ItConf-IMG_3168ItConf-IMG_3170

There were a number of talks during the conference. I was particularly interested in remarks by the representatives from Google, Facebook and Microsoft who spoke about the dangers children face from online predators and what they’re doing to help protect children. Some of the statistics they presented were just shocking. They say that one-third of internet users are children, and far too many of them are vulnerable to grooming and other such predatory behaviors online.

In my remarks, I was asked to share some details about the commission’s work, and I thought I would also share that with you here:

Thank you for this invitation to introduce to you the work of the Pontifical Commission — to continue the collaboration with the Italian bishops begun when Pope Francis founded the Commission in 2014.

We recently concluded our 15th ordinary Plenary Assembly with our 17 members from around the world, including the esteemed contributions offered by Prof. Ernesto Caffo.

Proposing Initiatives to the Holy Father

Our Holy Father founded the Commission with a Chirograph, stating: “The Commission’s specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church.”

Pope Francis wrote that our mandate is three-fold:

1) to advise the Holy Father on the protection of all minors and vulnerable adults,

2) to assist the Holy Father in listening and responding to victims/survivors of abuse, as well as their families and communities,

3) and to promote local responsibility in local Churches and to offer support in their safeguarding efforts.

Advise the Holy Father

As advisors, the Commission members identify the most urgent priorities to be considered by the Pope and by the Holy See for the effective prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

A key phrase in the Chirograph is that our work focuses on supporting local churches in their safeguarding efforts.

— Our Commission does not address individual cases of abuse by clergy or religious, a service that remains the competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

A second significant phrase is “listening and responding to victims” – our Members call this area our “priority principle” – placing listening to victims first — and providing programs of outreach and care for victim/survivors and their families.

Assist the Holy Father in Listening

Pope Francis has taken a leadership role in these areas:

— In 2014, we suggested that the Holy Father personally encounter a group of victim/survivors representing different geographical areas of the Church and in July 2015 Pope Francis celebrated Mass and met with this group in Santa Marta – the first in a continuing series of such meetings.

— In 2015 a similar proposal led to the meetings with victims at the World Meetings of Families in 2015 and 2018.

— And in 2016, the Holy Father instituted a “National Day of Prayer for Victims of Abuse” in the universal Church at our initiative – in each country the day is selected by the bishops.

Service to Bishops and Local Churches

Our mandate to support local churches includes many forms of collaboration with bishops’ conferences, conferences of religious superiors, and their safeguarding commissions.

— We are particularly grateful for the “point-persons” nominated by each episcopal conference – they work with us in the ongoing task of developing safeguarding guidelines in the entire Church.

An important way we offer support to bishops is through the ad limina visits, discussing together safeguarding and the prevention of abuse in local Churches.

A particularly important initiative is called “Survivor Advisory Panels,” a new model for bishops and victims of abuse to meet together in groups.

— They provide a model for a culturally sensitive program for listening and interaction.

— Meetings are in-person or on-line. Over the past 3 years we have piloted this program in Zambia, the Philippines, and Brazil.

— When the pandemic has passed, we pray, we plan to launch these panels in several more countries.

The efforts of our Members “on the ground” in local Churches have reached over 300 events these past 7 years, including conferences, seminars, workshops, and formation events. Some recent examples and plans for the next few months:

— A few weeks ago, we hosted a 3-day conference titled “Healing Our Own Wounds” organized with the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference and Conference of Religious of Brazil.

— We co-hosted a global Symposium entitled “Strategies for Preventing and Healing Childhood Sexual Abuse” – partnered with Harvard University and the Catholic University of America.

— In June, there was an on-line seminar for people who have been abused, their families and communities — informed by the experiences of the local Survivor Advisory Panels (SAPs).

— This September, we have a conference in Warsaw for bishops and Church leaders in Central and Eastern Europe, organised in partnership with the Polish Bishops Conference.

— This December, there will be an academic seminar on The Rights of Victims in Canonical Penal Processes — with experts from the Roman Curia, academia, and canon and civil law practitioners.

Over these years we have met with bishops and safeguarding leaders around the world. Some examples from each year:

— In February 2019, Pope Francis accepted our proposal and invited the presidents of the Bishops Conferences of the world for a three-day gathering on responsibility, accountability and transparency. As a result, our Holy Father promulgated new safeguarding laws and guidelines for the Vatican City State – and the motu proprio “Vos estis lux mundi.”

— In 2018, we co-sponsored the “Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities Conference” in Abu Dhabi.

— In 2017, we organized a conference at the Gregorian University on “Safeguarding in Homes and Schools,” which led to forming a task force with the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences on strengthening safeguarding in Asia.

— In 2016, presentations were made in 70 countries, including the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), and Bishops Conferences in Mexico, Italy, Slovakia, Lithuania and Australia.

— In 2015, there was a 2-day conference with the Episcopal Secretariat of Central America and Panama (SEDAC), with bishops from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama.

Canonical Guidelines

We also offer our advice and assistance to our Holy Father in areas related to canonical norms, policies, and procedures.

Proposals we have offered have led to some significant steps:

— Pope Francis promulgated changes such as raising the age for child pornography offenses to eighteen and excepting abuse cases from the requirements of pontifical secrecy.

— Our Holy Father issued a Letter to Bishops on the Feast of the Holy Innocents asking for adherence to “zero tolerance” of abuse against children.

— Among the “basic principles to ensure the protection of children” we proposed, Pope Francis legislated mandatory reporting to civil authorities in the Vatican City State and strongly proposed mandatory reporting in Vos estis lux mundi.

These proposals have led to several important documents:

— A template with “best practices” for Guidelines in local churches, developed in collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (2015).

— On-going development of an audit procedure for dioceses and religious institutes, including sharing policies and procedures and “inculturating” them in local cultures (2016).

— Two documents on accountability: Come una madre amorevole (2015) and Vos estis lux mundi (2019).

On-going development

Since the Chirograph in 2014, our work has developed in many important ways.

The focus of our work continues to change to meet the needs presented to us by local Churches:

— Attention is increasingly given to the abuse of vulnerable persons and to accountability of Church leaders.

— We are looking to provide resources especially to areas of the world that have not yet implemented a full safeguarding program.

We now have a significant role within the Roman Curia and the Vatican City State:

— We have organized several interdicasterial meetings these past few years that are attended by the Prefects, Secretaries, and officials for mutual discussion and research.

— We are collaborating with the Secretariat of State and the Vatican City Governorate on safeguarding Guidelines and procedures.

Of course, we are also discovering new technologies for our work:

— This past year, during the pandemic we launched an on-going series of Webinars reaching thousands of people in countries around the world, worked together with the International Union of Superiors General (Women) and the Union of Superiors General (Men) and in just these past few weeks I was able to meet on-line with bishops I would never have been able otherwise to reach – Brazil, France.

And we placed a priority this past year on developing a new website and digital platform, which was launched in English in February 2021 (@TutelaMinorum and The roll out in Italian and Spanish is planned for late Spring.

— It is a tool to help identify strengths and weaknesses in global safeguarding efforts.

— Peak interest has been for spiritual and pastoral assistance to victims and survivors of abuse.

— Through the website we are offering resources to all, creating a “hub,” an on-line “community” to promote sharing of safeguarding information, knowledge, news and events and also partnering with other faith groups and civil organizations for the protection of children and vulnerable people.

Thank you again for this opportunity to share our work with you. Our goal as a Commission is always to foster the work of safeguarding within every Catholic institution and, indeed, in every family and every human community.

May I conclude by sincerely thanking you for all your efforts in these areas and for offering a strong witness to the Church’s firm commitment to the growth and safety of all God’s children.

Thursday, we had a meeting of the Council of Cardinals advising the Holy Father on the reform of the Roman Curia. It was the first meeting we’ve had for quite some time because of the illness of Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, who was very sick with COVID but, thank God, is recovering.CC-IMG_7902

It was good to have the opportunity to meet with the Holy Father and resume our discussions again. Our next meeting will be held in June.CC-IMG_3183

Thursday, we had one of our regular gatherings of the Presbyteral Council of the archdiocese.MCC-Logo During our meeting, we heard a report by the director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, Jim Driscoll, on upcoming legislative issues, some of which may impact our parishes.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán

May 2021