Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Pentecost at the Pantheon

Hello and welcome!

This past week, I was in Rome for activities concerning the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

In addition to meetings of the executive committee of the commission, one of our major activities was a meeting on Friday between members of the commission and Cardinal Lazzaro You and representatives of the Dicastery for the Clergy.

We signed an agreement on how we can cooperate on different activities such as training, information sharing and promoting safeguarding in our seminaries.

On Saturday, I had lunch with Cardinal Anthony Kambanda of Rwanda.  He wanted to meet with me because the commission is going to fund a position for someone to come and help set up safeguarding programs for his country.

Those from Boston may remember Cardinal Kambanda because he visited the archdiocese last year to celebrate the Feast of Ugandan Martyrs at St. Mary Parish in Waltham and joined us for our Eucharistic Congress at the Tsongas Center.

We also met with members of the Mexican bishops’ conference from the Provinces of Mexico City and Guadalajara.  There are about 40 bishops in those provinces, comprising about one-third of the Mexican episcopate.

Among them was Bishop Francisco Javier Acero Pérez, OAR, the auxiliary Bishop of Mexico City, who joined me for dinner on Saturday evening.

Bishop Acero is an Augustinian Recollect who was with us in Paraguay and was very helpful in organizing the commission’s conference there in March.

On Pentecost Sunday, I celebrated the 10:30 Mass at the Pantheon, which is probably the oldest church building in the world.

It was, of course, originally a pagan temple, and the original structure was built before the time of Christ’s birth.  In my homily, I mentioned the fact that the Pantheon is as old as the Catholic Church and that, when the Church was born on Pentecost 2,000 years ago, the entire Church would have easily fit inside that building.

The Mass was in Italian, although they proclaimed the readings in various languages as the ritual calls for.  They proclaimed the first reading in Spanish and French, the second reading in Portuguese and German, and the Gospel in several different languages.

It was a wonderful celebration and there was a very large crowd because people come from far and wide to experience the very special Pentecost tradition they have.  At the end of the Mass, members of the Rome Fire Department throw down thousands and thousands of rose petals through the huge hole in the roof of the Pantheon, called the oculus.  The petals represent the tongues of fire coming down on the Blessed Mother and the Apostles on Pentecost.

With the Fire Chief of Rome and two of his firefighters

Among those who came for the celebration was a group from Notre Dame University that included Betty-Ann Hickey. She is now the director of religious education for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, but she and her husband are originally from Fall River.  I performed their marriage and baptized their son there many years ago.

I was also accompanied to the Mass by Anglican Archbishop of York Stephen Cotrell and a group who were visiting Rome.  He had contacted me before the Mass to ask if they would be able to join us, and I was very pleased to have them with us.

I was originally supposed to return to Boston on Monday, but the plane experienced a series of mechanical problems, and the flight was ultimately canceled.  Fortunately, however, I was able to catch another flight on Tuesday in time to attend a meeting with representatives of Caritas Cubana at the cathedral to talk about the situation in Cuba.

Wednesday, we had a meeting of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference via Zoom.

The MCC is the public-policy arm of the four dioceses of Massachusetts, and this meeting is always an opportunity for us to gather together to discuss legislation and issues of interest to the Church in the Commonwealth.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán