Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

The passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Hello and welcome,

Today, a loving God called Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI home to his eternal reward for a lifetime of dedicated service to the Church. That service included 71 years as a priest, 28 years as a Cardinal, and nearly eight years leading the Catholic Church as the Bishop of Rome and Successor to St. Peter. His life and his pontificate were based in a deep and abiding faith and an extraordinary record of theological scholarship. In the years leading to the Second Vatican Council and at the Council itself, Father Joseph Ratzinger made substantial contributions to the renewal of Catholic theology, and he played a significant role in the drafting of key conciliar documents. Pope John Paul II called Cardinal Ratzinger to Rome to serve as the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In that role, he proved to be an invaluable contributor throughout the pontificate of his predecessor. Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate was characterized by broad and deep contributions to Catholic magisterial teaching.

In all of my personal interactions with Pope Benedict XVI, I found him to be an engaged leader, thoughtful in his decisions and always committed to the mission of the Church. I am very appreciative of the confidence he showed in me when he made me a Cardinal in 2006 and his ongoing support and pastoral care for the Archdiocese of Boston.

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston exchanges greetings with Pope Benedict XVI as the pope meets for the last time with the College of Cardinals at the Vatican Feb. 28, 2013.

In February 2013, he stunned the world and the Church by becoming the first Pope to resign the office in nearly 600 years. At that time, I noted that he brought unique capabilities to the papacy. His fidelity to maintaining the truth and clarity of the Catholic faith, cultivating ecumenical and interfaith dialogue and reaching out to inspire the next generation of Catholics have been great gifts to us all.

Perhaps the most moving experience for me was accompanying survivors of clergy sexual abuse to a meeting with the Holy Father in Washington, D.C. during his 2008 pastoral visit to the United States. It was a great privilege for me to be present at this meeting, as the Holy Father, in very personal ways, demonstrated his deep pastoral care for the survivors. Pope Benedict XVI recognized the pain experienced by survivors and all persons impacted by the abuse crisis. He was then, and at all times remained, committed to the Church supporting their journey towards healing and doing all that was possible to ensure the protection of children, young people, and vulnerable adults.

I am particularly mindful in this Christmas season of God’s unconditional love for all of us manifested by the Incarnation. I continue to pray for all of those in need that they may know His love and of our blessings upon them, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis and each of you.

I will miss Pope Benedict.

May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, Rest in Peace.

Pope Benedict XVI waives fduring his 2008 visit to Washington, D.C. 
Pilot photoby Gregory L. Tracy


Each year, the Hispanic community of the Cathedral Parish holds Las Posadas, which is a novena that reenacts Mary and Joseph seeking a place at the inn in Bethlehem.  It is usually done going from home to home, something like caroling, but on Friday night, they held it at the cathedral.

They have parishioners portraying Mary and Joseph, whom they refer to as Los Peregrinos (The Pilgrims), and they sing a number of traditional songs.

The lyrics explain the storyline.  It’s a dialogue between Mary and Joseph looking for lodging and the people in the house telling them that there is no room and to go away.  But, finally, when they say it is Mary and Joseph looking for a place for the Christ child to be born, they open the door and invite them in.  As I always say, Las Posadas changes the Christmas story: taking it from one of rejection to one of hospitality and an attitude of opening our hearts to receive Christ and the Holy Family.  So, it’s a very beautiful way to prepare for Christmas.

On Saturday morning, I made my traditional Christmas Eve visits, beginning with Catholic Charities’ Teen Center at St. Peter’s in the Bowdoin-Geneva section of Dorchester.

There, they hold an annual toy and food distribution.  This was begun by late Boston Mayor Tom Menino many years ago, and his family has been continuing that tradition.

I was very happy to greet Angela Menino and speak with the volunteers.

In addition to many members of the Menino family, we were also joined by officials from the Boston Police Department, our staff from Catholic Charities, and many of the local Catholic clergy, including Father Doc Conway, Father Jack Ahern, Father John Currie, and the Capuchin friars who are working with the Cape Verdean community.

It’s always a joy to take part in this event, which is so important for the people of the neighborhood.  It brings a lot of joy and Christmas spirit to families, particularly this year, in light of the challenges brought about by unemployment, inflation, and the other economic challenges that people are facing.

After that, I went to visit Pine Street Inn.

When I arrived, Executive Director Lyndia Downie and I had a chance to address many members of the local media.

I spoke to them about the importance of their being at Pine Street Inn to help the public focus on the issue of homelessness in our society.  It was such a cold day that it just brought home, in a very pointed way, the suffering of people who are unhoused.  Of course, this is a multifaceted problem, and any kind of real solution will have to address challenges such as increasing the availability of mental health care, addiction services, and affordable housing.

It is said that as many as 40 percent of the homeless population are working, but with low-wage jobs, they find it impossible to secure decent housing.  As a result, many people are living in their cars, with friends and relatives, or even on the streets.  And, while it is good for everyone to want to do something to help shelters such as Pine Street Inn at Christmas, we have to remember that this is a problem that continues throughout the year.

Afterward, I visited with the volunteers, prayed with the men, and helped to serve them their holiday meal.

It was good to be there with Msgr. Frank Kelly, one of the founders of Pine Street Inn.

Then, I visited the dining room they have for the women.  Needless to say, there were many people there, being such a cold day.

We are very grateful for the wonderful work that is done at Pine Street.  Lyndia and her team are not content to simply provide people with emergency housing but have done so much to develop housing to bring homeless people into a situation where they have their own place to live.

That evening, we began our Christmas celebrations at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, starting with Midnight Mass.

Many people still like the tradition of gathering at midnight as it represents Christ, the Light of the World, coming in the middle of the night.  I estimated that there were over 1,500 people there with us.

This year, we prayed in a special way for peace in Ukraine and for all those suffering from loss, homelessness, and other difficulties.

As always, Richard Clark and the Cathedral Choir did a fabulous job with the music.

Then, we had our morning television Mass broadcast on CatholicTV.

And, finally, I was happy to celebrate the 11:30 Mass, where, once again, we had a full cathedral.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán