Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Bidding farewell to Pope Benedict

Hello and happy New Year!

Each year around New Year’s, it has been my custom to have dinner with the Enrique family.  Antonio Enrique is the editor of our archdiocesan newspaper The Pilot, and his wife Reyes works for our Pro-Life Office.  They have a very large family, and his son, Father Marcos Enrique, is parochial vicar at St. Mark’s Parish in Dorchester.  Most of the Enrique children were with us. A notable exception was their son Esteban who is a postulant at the Charterhouse of the Carthusians in Vermont, but he was very present in our thoughts and conversation.

This year, they served us a wonderful paella.  We had a lovely meal and then sang Christmas carols.

The following day, I had the joy of celebrating the wedding of Alexis D’Alessandro and William Haughey at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.  They are a young couple who are very involved in the Church, and there were many priests concelebrating with us, including Bishop Arthur Kennedy and the uncle of the bride who is a Carmelite friar from the University of Lisbon.

That evening, we had our annual rosary and New Year’s Mass at the cathedral.  It began at 11:30 on New Year’s Eve so that we could begin and end the year at Mass.  It’s always a very special moment, and I was happy that so many priests were able to concelebrate with me.

This Mass always has a pro-life theme, and the Pro-Life Office was very involved in organizing it, particularly Sylvia Fernandez del Castillo.

With Sylvia and her family

In addition to being New Year’s Day, January 1 is also Haitian Independence Day.  So, since I arrived in Boston, it has been my tradition to celebrate a Mass with the Haitian community on that day.  It’s an opportunity to bring together the Haitian priests and parishioners from all the different parishes of the archdiocese.

As always, there was a very good crowd and quite a number of priests, deacons and leaders of the various parishes who joined us for the occasion.

Because Cardinal Chibly Langlois of Haiti has been recuperating at our Regina Cleri Residence, this year I invited him to concelebrate and serve as the homilist at the Mass.  He concelebrated seated but was able to stand at the pulpit to preach.

It was wonderful to have him with us.  Particularly this year, when Haiti has suffered so much, I think it was reassuring for the people to have a message from the cardinal at this Mass.

We always conclude our celebration by singing the Te Deum, which is a hymn of Thanksgiving that is traditionally sung in Europe and other places to welcome the new year.  Then, of course, we concluded by singing the national anthem of Haiti.

Monday, I departed for Rome to attend the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

The Funeral Mass was celebrated outside in St. Peter’s Square.

The weather was cool but pleasant.  In most places in the States, it would be very difficult to have an outdoor Mass like that in January, but in Rome, it is certainly very feasible.

As I arrived, they were just taking the pope’s body out.  In this photo, you see the men carrying the coffin and Archbishop Ganswein and close associates and relatives of Pope Benedict walking behind him as they took the body out of the basilica.

It was a very moving experience.  There were a large number of priests and bishops, and I would say virtually all the cardinals were there.

There was a huge crowd in St. Peter’s square, including many people from Germany.

Even though the crowd was many thousands of people, I was impressed at how silent and reverent they were.

There were official delegations from Italy and Germany, the two countries where Pope Benedict spent most of his life, including Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.  In addition, there were 17 other heads of state, including monarchs such as Queen Sophia of Spain.

The Mass was presided by Pope Francis in a way that has been developed in the last few years, whereby the presider leads the prayers of the Liturgy of the Word and then closes with the Concluding Rites.  The Holy Father was also the homilist and Cardinal Re, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, was the principal celebrant.

The Holy Father’s reflection was very much on the Scriptures but was also a very beautiful reflection on some of the salient leadership qualities of a pastor such as Pope Benedict.

At the funeral, I saw Cardinal Zen, who visited me several years ago in Boston.

He said he had received permission from the Chinese government to come for three days to attend the funeral.  I told him that I follow his case from afar and we are praying for him.

Following the funeral, I met with the Vicar of Rome, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, at the Roman Seminary.

Then, in the evening, U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Joe Donnelly held a reception for the American cardinals.

It was a lovely gathering and it was very good to see him.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán