Hello and welcome!
Last Thursday, I met with several representatives of Boston’s Jewish community at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. With us were Jeremy Burton and Stacey Bloom of the Jewish Community Relations Council, Peggy Shukur and Lewis Sassoon of the Anti-Defamation League, Rob Leikind and Gerry Cohen of the American Jewish Committee, Rabbi Marc Baker of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, and Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis.
I invited them to join me and Father David Michael to plan a joint interfaith event. We haven’t held such an event for quite a long time because of the pandemic. But, particularly given what has happened in our country with the resurgence of anti-Semitism, I want to send a very clear message that the archdiocese stands with the Jewish community.
It was a very good meeting, and after our session at the rectory, I took them over to the cathedral to view the renovations. Of course, much of the work in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel was done during the previous renovation, which was very much supported by the Jewish philanthropist Lenny Florence.
Friday night, I celebrated the Rite of the Candidacy for four seminarians of our Redemptoris Mater Seminary.
Candidacy is one of the steps leading to priestly ordination. It is a way that the Church impresses upon us the need for a process of formation and a commitment to that process. Candidacy has replaced the old practice of tonsure, which was the initiation to the clerical state up until 1972. (So I’m one of the last tonsured!)
It was a very joyful celebration, and I was very pleased to be able to do it personally.
On Saturday afternoon, I led a wake service for Msgr. Albert Contons at St. Peter’s Lithuanian Church in South Boston. Msgr. Contons was a proud son of the parish and ministered to the Lithuanian community there for many years.
Even though he was the oldest priest of the archdiocese and was about to celebrate his 99th birthday and 75th anniversary of ordination, he was still very active. Through his long ministry, he impacted countless lives, and we know he will be sorely missed by many.
This Monday was, of course, the 10th anniversary of the Holy Father’s pontificate.
For the occasion, I gave an interview on CatholicTV’s “This is the Day” program, which I’d like to share with you here:
I also celebrated a televised Mass for the Holy Father.
Then, for much of this past week, I have been in Asunción, Paraguay, for the Second Latin American Congress on the prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults, which was held Tuesday through Thursday.
Sponsored by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, CEPROME Latinoamérica (the Latin American Council of the Center for Research and Training for the Protection of Minors), the Catholic University of Paraguay, and the Bishops Conference of Paraguay, the gathering brought together about 350 bishops, priests and laity from throughout Latin America to discuss how to advance the cause of safeguarding in the region. It has been a very interesting conference, and people have been very eager to learn more about child protection.
Monday, before the beginning of the conference, we participated in the dedication of the new Center for the Dignity of the Person and the Protection of Minors at the Catholic University of Paraguay.
We were also welcomed by the Apostolic Nuncio to Paraguay, Archbishop Eliseo Antonio Ariotti.
The nunciature here is very large and, of course, the nuncio is the dean of the diplomatic corps of Paraguay.
As I mentioned, the conference began on Tuesday, and the Holy Father sent a very beautiful message to the congress participants, which I read on his behalf during the opening session.
Message from Pope Francis on the occasion of the Latin American Congress on the prevention of abuse “Assist, Inform and Communicate: Keys for effective management in cases of sexual abuse”
Asunción, Paraguay, March 14-16
I send my most cordial greetings to all of you, Apostles of Prevention, gathered in Paraguay for the II Latin American Congress organized jointly with the Episcopal Conference of Paraguay, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and CEPROME, entitled “Attend, Inform and Communicate: Keys for effective management in cases of sexual abuse.” In a special way, I applaud the inauguration in Asunción of the new Center for Studies on Human Dignity and Prevention of Abuse, which will be a national focal point dedicated to this purpose. I send an affectionate greeting to Cardinal Adalberto Martínez and to all those who have gathered in Asunción during these days from the different countries of Latin America and Europe. Your work to protect the most vulnerable is urgent and essential.
This occasion gives me the opportunity to highlight the importance of such developments at the local church level. Almost a year ago, I promulgated the Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium, in which I asked the Roman Curia to render ever greater service to the local Churches. The work of establishing clear procedures for the protection of vulnerable people in the Church must become a priority in every local church. I have asked the Pontifical Commission to oversee the proper application of “Vos estis Lux Mundi,” so that victims of abuse have clear and accessible avenues to seek justice. Those parts of the Church where efforts to promote adequate prevention measures are still in the early stages due to lack of resources need special attention. The cruel inequalities that affect our societies must not be allowed to affect our Church!
Four years ago, bishops and religious superiors from around the world met at the Vatican with members of the Roman Curia to address the growing problem of the church hierarchy’s mishandling of child sexual abuse. Both rape and betrayal, sexual abuse by clergy and its cover-up by bishops and religious superiors has left an indelible wound on the body of Christ, the Church, because of the damage caused to so many people. Anyone who diminishes the impact of this story or minimizes the current danger, dishonors those who have suffered so much and deceives those they claim to serve. Sexual abuse by anyone in the Church, whenever it has occurred, is a clear and present danger to the well-being of God’s people and its mishandling will continue to degrade the Lord’s Gospel in the eyes of all.
Yes, Church leaders have done much to confront this evil and prevent it from happening again. This same Congress is one more expression of this desire for change in our Church. It is also an expression of the synodal process of meeting, listening, reflecting and helping each other as we seek to implement and measure our commitment to prevent abuse in our Church. I encourage more events of this type! Forward! But we must be able to see the results that minors are safer in our Church. I have asked the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to monitor and verify the adequacy of sound policies and practices throughout the Church and to compile a report pointing out where improvements are still needed.
I entrust all these efforts to the intercession of Our Lady of the Assumption, patroness of Paraguay, whom we know never stops coming to the aid of those who are abandoned and who seek her help. May she be a model for this new stage in the life of the Latin American Church and a source of strength for all who are involved in this necessary, but painful, task in the ministry of the Church.
May the Lord bless you and may the Virgin take care of you, and please don’t forget to pray for me!
Vatican, March 8, 2023
We also heard from the director of CEPROME, Father Daniel Portillo Trevizo, and Archbishop Charles Scicluna of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Tuesday evening, we were treated to a ballet on St. Francis and St. Roque González, a Jesuit from the time of the “reductions” in Paraguay. It is entitled “Fratelli Tutti” and was performed for Pope Francis when he visited Paraguay.
I thanked the actors for their wonderful performance, though I told them that although I’m a Franciscan, I’m not going to dance!
During the Congress, we heard from a number of speakers. Wednesday, Father Hans Zollner, Father Andrew Small and I spoke on behalf of the Pontifical Commission.
Wednesday evening, I celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of Asunción for the Congress participants.
There must have at least 100 priests with us at the Mass.
Of course, it was a great joy to be there with Cardinal Alberto Martinez, who was a parishioner of mine in Washington and whom I ordained a deacon, priest and bishop. So, it was very moving to be in his cathedral celebrating Mass with him for the members of the Congress.
And then, afterward, we were treated to a banquet hosted by the nunciature.
The nunciature has a mosaic of Our Lady of Caacupe, the patroness of Paraguay. (The large, modern-looking building behind the hedge is the U.S. Embassy.)
Thursday, we heard from Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and Dr. Yago de la Cierva of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. They gave excellent talks on communications.
Until next week,