Archive for May, 2009

“STRONG, DRIVING WIND”

Sunday, May 31st, 2009
Pentecost at the Chapel of St. James, the Bethany Center

Pentecost at the Chapel of St. James, the Bethany Center

Pentecost, 2009. The first reading at today’s Mass, from the Acts of the Apostles, tells us some of the events of that day when as promised, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete descended upon the apostles, imparting the special gifts of language, courage, wisdom, piety, fear of the Lord, reverence and awe, etc. Often spoken of as the “birthday of the Church” it did indeed mark the beginning of the mission to the world. How did it come about? As Luke says in Acts: “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong, driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.” We, Floridians, know something first-hand about strong driving winds and the power they possess. Wind can destroy but it also can propel, like a sailing ship. That is precisely what it did on that first Pentecost – it destroyed that lethargy and uncertainty that followed the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord and propelled the apostles out into the world with an energy and courage they had never witnessed or been witnesses to. What happened to them in that Upper Room gave birth to wonderment and amazement to those who knew them. They were dramatically changed, courage replaced cowardice, mission replaced mistakes, and unity of purpose gave new life to the presence of Christ on earth. And the power of that day remains with the Church today. Name me one other hierarchically led institution which has lasted over 2000 years. Through the best of times and the worst of times, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached, throughout planet earth and when the Gospel has not been allowed, it has been preached covertly. No one says that the wind of the first Pentecost ushered in or assured smooth sailing. To the contrary, there have been times when the surface of the sea of faith has been storm-tossed, hostile to the good news, placed at risk by its various captains and navigators, but the promise of Jesus that even the gates of hell would not prevail against it remains as true today as when he spoke those words. The Easter Season is fast drawing to a close. For approximately 100 days we have prepared for the events of Holy Week, celebrated Holy Week, spent the last six weeks pondering the resurrected Christ and the last nine days celebrating the ascended Christ while all the time awaiting the arrival of the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, the strong, driving force that has kept the Church on course throughout the centuries.

My day today began with receiving into the Church a husband and father who began the RCIA program four years ago but whose business responsibilities prevented him from finishing. The wind of the Spirit blew him in my direction and I spent almost ten hours with him since Easter. What a joy to see his face and that of his wife and daughter when for the first time in their family life, they were one at the Table of the Lord. Then I stopped briefly at a reception for Ensign Michael Minkoff, a graduate in 2004 of St. Petersburg Catholic who with his brother Matthew, currently a second year midshipman at the Naval Academy served my Masses at the Cathedral of St. Jude with dedication and generosity. What a pleasure to see two fine young men preparing to serve their nation in the Navy. From there at two o’clock some 150 eighth graders and above from the Cathedral and five other parishes were confirmed in the same Holy Spirit at St. Jude’s. I’m dog-tired and ready for bed but I just want to say that the “strong, driving wind” of this Pentecost propelled me through this day in the Lord’s service. Thank you, Lord, for the twin gifts of Son and Spirit.

Rite of Reception into the Church at Mass

Rite of Reception into the Church at Mass

154 young women and men confirmed in the Spirit at the Cathedral on Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 2009

154 young women and men confirmed in the Spirit at the Cathedral on Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 2009

FEELINGS

Friday, May 29th, 2009

The local Church for which I was ordained a priest, the Archdiocese of Miami, is hurting and I feel for them. You can almost palpably feel the pain in this statement (Español) issued on Thursday night by Archbishop Favalora with reference to the decision of Father Alberto Cutie to leave the Catholic Church of his baptism and ordination and to enter another Church and likely serve as a minister there. To my archbishop, my brother priests and the deacons, religious and laity of Miami I send the prayers and support of a sister Church and a brother priest/bishop. These situations always are painful and this one even more so because of the public persona and notoriety of the priest involved. The news could predictably be expected to generate disappointment, embarrassment, anger, frustration, disillusionment and lots of other feelings. In this case Father Alberto is a classmate of a few of the priests of this diocese and I know they hurt as well. It is never easy for a bishop to say farewell to a priest, often a good priest, who finds the challenge of living celibate chastity too difficult and chooses to leave to marry. The Church has recognized this reality by providing a process by which the priest can petition for dispensation from his priestly vows after a certain period of time. When I have been confronted with this reality here in the past, I have always wished to acknowledge the pain of the moment in all involved, the gratitude for the service given and a desire to assist the priest in beginning his new life. None in my experience have ever caused the public pain which this case is causing and for that I thank God. Also,  I would have to say that most priests choosing to leave for the purpose of marriage do not wish to cause the Church any public pain or embarrassment, in fact they go out of their way to see that does not happen and for that I thank God.

Moments like this occasion a rise in the call to review if not end the requirement of a celibate priesthood within the Catholic communion. Moments like this will never provide the opportunity for the ecclesial calm and reflection which such a review would require and that decision does not belong to any individual bishop or conference of bishops but rather to the whole ecclesial communion led, governed and directed by the successor of Peter, the pope.

I hope that Alberto Cutie will reflect on the pain his decisions have brought to bear on something he has said time and time again he loved and served and we must and should continue to pray for him and for the Church of Miami.

+RNL

MORNING HAS BROKEN ….BLACKBIRD HAS SPOKEN

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Fridays I try to reserve for myself but today is not going to be one of  those days, th0ugh I do hope I can get to my first RAYS game tonight. Some general responses to comments which many of you have taken the time to share with me over the past weeks and months. It is impossible for me to respond to all of them but some response seems apropos. I do not consider this a blog, as you know, where comments are posted. I read them, take them seriously, sometimes respond to them generically without publishing them specifically.

First, thanks to all who read this blog. The number of people visiting each day is on a steady increase and I know that many check it out intermittently. We can tell where the readers are from (general location) and how long they remain on the blog site (the longer time usually means someone comes intermittently and thus takes more time to read its contents). I do  not consider it my duty to blog every day although sometimes it may appear that way.

I was pleasantly surprised at the response level of support in favor of the position of restraint which I tried to take on the Notre Dame graduation issue. Thank you for that and thanks also to those who respectfully disagreed. From the beginning all I hoped for was a civilized discussion/debate.

One reader mentioned the loss of THE FLORIDA CATHOLIC and asked what we were planning as a vehicle for delivering “news” of the diocese, especially clergy assignments, etc. We hope our web page will be the major manner of communicating to all who can access it through the electronic media.

That so many of you loved the ordination of Father Melchior brought a return of tears of gratitude and happiness. Also, the blog on the virtue of hope seems to have struck a responsive chord in a number of readers.

So let me end with some good news for a change. The vocations to the priesthood picture brightens considerably this year as we have accepted about eight  into the seminary to join the twenty-four we currently have. For the first time since 1988 we have more than thirty seminarians and this year will be the third best year for the number of seminarians since 1984. Thirty-nine is the highest number in the forty year history of the diocese (1983-84). I attribute that grace to several factors: God’s blessings and favor, a good vocation director who works the job hard, and the quality of our present seminarians who attract those discerning a vocation. It also helps that only Father Carl Melchior left the seminary this Spring (understand that properly now!) while for the first time in my memory, all others are remaining in formation for next year. Finally, your prayers help a lot. The media this morning is filled with a story of a priest who felt he needed to leave the Church of his ordination. Not enough attention is paid to those who choose to remain and serve. Soon, if it is God’s will, there may be more of them.

+RNL

NEW COIN IN THE FOUNTAIN

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Last night’s news from the White House contained one stunning appointment, the new Ambassador of the United States to the Holy See. The president’s choice is Miguel Diaz and I am personally delighted since I have known Ambassador-designate Diaz personally and admired his theological and intellectual work. Normally, I would be clueless about these appointments but this man served on the faculty of our regional seminary as a professor of theology following receiving his doctorate degree from Notre Dame. Miguel Diaz is proud of his Cuban heritage and history and also of his Church. The bishops of Florida were sad to see him leave when for economic and professional reasons first Barry University in Miami andf then St. John’s in Collegeville, Minnesota offered him positions he could not turn down. At the time he was also serving as academic dean at our seminary. A number of priests of this diocese ordained in the last thirteen years would probably remember Diaz and, I would think, with respect and gratitude for his work at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary. Of this I am certain, this is a man who would not sell out either his Catholic faith or his love of his country.

The appointment will be “batted around” in some circles prior to his confirmation hearings precisely because he is a working Catholic theologian. Those who are skeptical of the president’s every move will likely see something sinister in this appointment and the media may have a little more interest than they normally would. All I know is this, the Miguel Diaz I know and remember is an outstanding husband, father, and teacher and a wonderful representative of our Catholic faith. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States of America and the Holy See and the joint appointment of ambassadors by the late President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, our country will for the first time be represented by someone who can not easily be called a “political operative” but a son of immigrants who loved the Church enough to make it his life up to this moment. There will soon be a new coin in those fountains in St. Peter’s Square.

+RNL

HOPE SPRINGS FROM THE ETERNAL

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Of the three great theological virtues, faith, hope and love, it often seems to me that hope is the one which gets the least attention and often gets lost in our Church to its more often preached and lived sisters of faith and love. This is sad because without hope there is often to be found despair and in despair can be found depression, anxiety, apprehension, distrust, etc. Christian hope is founded on our belief that at the end of this life there is to be found eternal happiness in heaven. Heaven is the focus for hope and while admission into heaven is by no means a foregone conclusion (we have to earn it “the old fashioned way”), it is still the purpose of our life and the goal to which we all aspire. Remember the famous Baltimore catechism answer to the question, “Why did God make us?” “To know, love and serve Him in this life and to be happy with Him in the next.” So no matter how tough this life becomes, our Christian hope is posited in the reality, not just a guess, that there is something far better awaiting us in life with God.

If I have a  criticism or concern about the Church at this moment in human history and especially in the United States, it would be that in our leadership we may have lost our sense of hope. We have tended to focus on challenges faced at the expense of hope sought. We have become so polarized, at times sadly, on what we believe to be deficiencies in faith and love, that we no longer place our trust in God. The Church belongs to God just as we are God’s children and while God still helps those who help themselves, we sometimes behave like the future belongs to us. Hope reminds us that the future belongs to God and we are His instruments, not the other way around.

One of my former seminary students, now a priest and wonderful pastor in Atlanta, gave me many years ago a framed quotation which I still gaze at each morning of my life, including this morning. It simply says; Be Still and Listen, For I Am Your God. Even I am willing to admit that sometimes I talk too much.

+RNL

IN MEMORIAM

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Memorial Day Mass 2009 at Calvary Cemetery. Photo kindness of Dominic Reatini

Just as Jesus at the Last Supper asked that when we gather for Eucharist and bread and wine are changed into his body and blood, we should “do this in memory of [him]” so today Eucharist was celebrated at Calvary Cemetery in Pinellas Park not only in memory of the Lord’s sacrifice of self  but also in memory of our gallant women and men who have given their lives in service to our nation or who have served in the armed services of the United States. Every year several hundred faithful join me on Memorial Day for this special moment when our whole nation pauses to honor the memory of our fallen heroes as well as those who served. It is a nice custom and although it is always one of the “warmest” Masses I celebrate, I do not mind it; indeed, I look forward to it.

Today I remember my own brother, Tim, who alone among the three Lynch boys was drafted to serve in the army in Vietnam. Tim is a family treasure still living. I was not present on the platform at Route 128 station just outside of Boston when he boarded a New York, New Haven and Hartford passenger train to begin his long cross country train ride to Fort Lewis, Washington, where he would board a ship bound for Vietnam. He tells of the tears in my mom and dad’s eyes as they said “good-bye” to him and how he came to believe of the bond of love between a child and his parents which accompanied that moment.  Tim served his time in the heart of the fighting and experienced some of the most unspeakable horrors that accompany any and all wars. He has steadfastly refrained form sharing the details of those moments but it has been clear to all who love him that they were indelibly marked in his heart and mind. He survived when others with whom he served did not. My brother Jim and I owe Tim and his fellow soldiers an eternal debt of gratitude for their courage, valor and strength. It is easy for me on a day like this to stand at the altar at the cemetery and  look out on those graves marked with small flags indicating former service men and women and give thanks to God in memory of those who served. I had an occasion to walk the American cemetery at the Normandy beaches a few years ago with another friend who served in Vietnam and I remember saying to him, could there not have been a future president, governor, priest, bishop, inventor, administrator, teacher laid to rest there in Flander’s fields. Only God knows and God also knows that today, Memorial Day 2009, we gather to celebrate the ultimate, final victory of life over death and pray in memoriam for He who conquered sin and death and for those who fought that we might live in freedom.

A congregation of approximately 350 brave the heat and the threat of rain. Photo kindness of Dominic Reatini

A congregation of approximately 350 brave the heat and the threat of rain. Photo kindness of Dominic Reatini

+RNL

ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT THE ASCENSION

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

This week in the South we are celebrating the solemnity of the  Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven. I say in the “south” because if you were attending any Church north of the District of Columbia you would be celebrating the sixth Sunday of Easter. Long ago when most of the country transferred the Ascension to Sunday, the bishops of the northeastern part of the United States chose to keep this Solemnity on the fortieth day after Easter which would have been last Thursday. Ascension Thursday marks that strange moment when the Lord ascended (under his own power, mind you) into heaven where he rejoined his and our Father, the Spirit, and the holy women and men he left when he came to earth. So we find ourselves paradoxically recalling a moment in history when the Lord chose t o leave us. But he did not really leave us and the Gospel today indicates, he said to his disciples, “lo, i am with you always, even until the end of time.” So what gives here? What assumptions can we make about the ascension?

First, he was really just finishing off that last ounce of his humanity by physically taking his leave like we all must some day, except there was no separation of body and soul as there is for us. His physical presence for those thirty-three years was ended with his Ascension into heaven but His presence in the Eucharist and in the world remains. The disciples and friends needed to adjust to the reality that he was no longer physically present as they had experienced him. They began on Ascension Thursday the solemn nine days of prayer and meditation, awaiting the promised coming of the Holy Spirit and perhaps even hoping that Jesus would descend again, come again, soon. Mary was with the apostles during this time between Ascension and Pentecost. We often refer to Mary as the first among the Apostles.

Before physically ascending, Jesus gave his disciples and us a mandate – “go forth into the world and preach the good news.” That task was made appreciably easier for the early Church because of the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost but an assumption about the ascension was that the Lord needed to leave before the spirit could and should come. It is a wonderful solemnity and I, for one, am happy that it was transferred to the sixth Sunday so that more and more Catholics could hear the readings and celebrate the occasion. Listen, contemplate, and wait!

+RNL

DEVOTEDLY YOURS

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

The late Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy of Miami who ordained me to the priesthood used to write letters to the people of the Archdiocese every time he was flying to and from Miami. Entitled “Devotedly Yours” even those like myself who loved him very much thought that on occasion the altitude was too high and the air pressure too thin as we attempted to glean his points. So here I am, at 39,000 feet just having made landfall over North America somewhere near Goose Bay, Labrador, writing some closing thoughts on my very, very brief to the “mother country” and the Church there. Over the years I and my successors as General Secretaries of the episcopal conference of the United States came to know a wonderful priest of the Westminster who was always a consummate host to us when we were in London. His rectory at Our Lady of Victories parish in Kensington-High Street saved all of us egregious hotel bills in the capital city of the United Kingdom. The newly installed Archbishop Vincent Nichols was in residence here until he became an auxiliary bishop to Cardinal Hume. Canon Adrian Arrowsmith

Canon Adrian Arrowsmith

Canon Adrian Arrowsmith

was that host with the most and I visited him on Wednesday night after my arrival here. Now a  wonderful 83 years old and sharp as a tack, he lives in retirement in Hertsfordshire, west of London. I took a commuter train for thirty minutes and then a taxi for ten to get to him.

Canons are mostly unknown in the United States although there is one in the St. Petersburg diocese who heads a parish mission community. They function something like consultors, advising the bishop on matters, and they have a hand, only a hand, in the selection and installation of new bishops. They wear an ecclesiastical garb which looks a like but is still different from the garb of a monsignor. Canon Adrian loved having +Vincent in his house and welcomed all his guests who quickly, like myself, became his friends. He is lovingly cared for now  by his god-children whom I met once again and we had a splendid evening of sparkling conversation, wit, and some rumor.

There has been conversation during my time abroad (all forty-six hours of it) about the Church in the United States and President Obama. The rest of the Catholic world is far more enthralled with our new president than many Americans. The remarks of the editor of the Vatican daily paper and its treatment of the President are largely reflective of how he is being received overseas-with cautious optimism. Several bishops spoke to me about the approach of the Church in the United States to the new president, indicating what I believe to be a true reality, the abortion issue has become “a tale of two parties.” Here support for abortion on request is so broadly accepted by so many people and politicians, that  it can not be defined as a political ideology  or goal of any one political party. These bishops wondered if the Church in the United States was becoming an instrument of one party against the other. Like myself, they despise the thought of abortion-on-request but they are uneasy with the politicization of the issue.

Cardinal Sean Brady came from the Archdiocese of Armagh to the installation and I had a moment to welcome him next year to the Diocese of St. Petersburg. Most of the bishops of the United States will be visiting our diocese in June of 2010 for what we call a “special assembly.” During these assemblies, we have a number of speakers address the bishops on issues of our own lives and ministry in the Churches of the U.S. Starting in the mid-seventies with the late Basil Cardinal Hume, we have always invited a bishop (thus far always a Cardinal) from another country to serve as our “spiritual director” during our days together. Cardinal Brady said he was quite honored to be asked to come to St. Petersburg for this occasion although somewhat awed by the task before him. I assured him that the U.S. bishops don’t bite (most of them) and he will be much appreciated. He asked about his classmates and friends, Father Gerry Finnegan from the Venice diocese, Monsignor Aidan Foynes and Monsignor Brendan Muldoon. I promised the Cardinal that I would gather the three of them for a quiet dinner while he was in our town. This morning a devastating report of sexual and physical abuse in mostly boarding schools in Ireland was made public by the Irish government. Yet another sad day in the history of the Church but I hope and pray we have learned from the sins of the past and while no one can promise that they will never happen again, we can promise that every step will be taken to keep our children safe and such behavior will not be tolerated.

I also had an opportunity to spend a few moments with the Papal Nuncio to the United Kingdom and we talked about his service as papal nuncio to Cuba. He hated it when he was reassigned (to the Republic of the Congo) and saw in his four or so years on the island nation the birth of a growing, far more robust Catholicism, especially among the young Cubans.

The newspapers and their number seems to be legion from the staid London Times to the tabloids with all sorts of iterations in between proved interesting reading for me at Heathrow airport this morning and thanks to a quite late plane, I had plenty of time to peruse the papers. The UK is going through a period of scandals affecting certain members of Parliament who seem to be resigning from office, a few every day. Most of their sins seems to focus on the payment of real estate, property and capital gains taxes and many seem to think that the Labor party, ruling at the moment, is in trouble. The UK now has a third major party gaining strength called the Liberal Democrats(I think though I am not sure) and they are gaining on the Conservatives or Tories who have formed the opposition since the days of Lady Margaret Thatcher and the rise of Tony Blair.

I did not think the papers were particularly kind to Archbishop Nichols. As I listened to his homily I knew that the media would not likely get what he was saying and except for one or two sound bites, they did not disappoint. However, they jumped on something he said earlier in the day with regard to the Ryan Report of the Irish sexual misconduct in religious schools which had been issued that morning in Ireland. The Archbishop decried the events now revealed and expressed his abhorrence of them and then went on to suggest, “but we must not forget the great work done by the Sisters of Mercy and the Christian Brothers” during that time as well.” [not meant to be a direct quote but more a paraphrase.] The boom of journalistic criticism fell unfairly on him. Most victims of sexual misconduct by a clergyman or person of the Church, dreadfully painful and destructive as it is and was relates more to the actions of a very few. Their anger is more rightly directed at the Church which may have known about the behavior and did nothing. Now I understand that the Archbishop of Dublin is upset with Nichol’s interventions although I did not know how anyone could have dodged the issue yesterday either in Ireland or Great Britain. Anyway, that seemed to be Fleet Street’s slant of the Church news of the previous day and the fire is kept burning by internal ecclesiastical differences. Sound familiar?

Westminster Cathedral in London on May 21, 2009

Westminster Cathedral in London on May 21, 2009

My dear and good friend, Canon Adrian Arrowsmith - the new Archbishop's former "landlord"

My dear and good friend, Canon Adrian Arrowsmith - the new Archbishop's former "landlord"

Interior of Westminster Cathedral before Installation Mass - Main Altar

Interior of Westminster Cathedral before Installation Mass - Main Altar - photo kindness of Anusha Everson

A SUNNY DAY IN LONDON TOWN

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Archbishop Nichols

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am making a quick 45 hour visit to London and have just returned from the purpose of my short stay, the installation of my friend, Archbishop Vincent G. Nichols, as Archbishop of Westminster. Archishop Nichols and I became friends when we were both General Secretaries of our Episcopal conferences, he the Conference of Bishops of England and Wales and I, the United States. This morning he was transferred from the Archdiocese of Birmingham where he had been archbishop to the major and most important see of Westminster (which means London). The liturgy was solemn, totally lacking any spontaneity until the concluding remarks of the retiring Cardinal Archbishop, Cormack Murphy O’Connor at the end of the ceremony when the congregation strained into applause for him and for his work here the last nine years. He brought a smile to faces and a twitter of laughter by saying that since all the former Archbishops of Westminster had died in office, he and others had been praying that he would live to see the day when his successor was installed. He is certainly relieved.

There were four cardinals present including the only other bishop from the United States, Cardinal Roger Mahony, a friend of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor. There was also one younger bishop from Nigeria who just happened to be in town. On the procession out he confided in me that such a liturgy in Nigeria would have been a lot more lively and likely still going on. But it is England and London and the sun has been out now for two days and the locals are complaining about the “heat.”

Many Catholics even visit London and go to Westminster Abbey which is the Church of the Kings and Queens of England. Few ever find their way to Westminster Cathedral which is set back off Victoria Street in the borough of Westminster and near the train station. It is mammoth in size and had many beautiful touches but can be quite dark. Today, since the BBC was televising the installation mass live (first ever), it was aglow with bright lights, women with hats worthy of Ascot and men in three-piece suits. They sang and prayed well with much of the music being the familiar Latin chants of decades ago.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was present and spoke. Interesting, he is not the archbishop of London as another holds that seat, but is the primate of the Anglican Church in England by virtue of being the Archbishop of Canterbury. He highlighted in his remarks the close cooperation and work of the Catholic Church with other Christian religions in the nation and trusted that under the new shepherd that work would continue. Knowing +Vincent and his heart, he and I and almost everyone else present in the Cathedral knew it would. When Henry VIII assumed control of the Church in England, Scotland and Wales, all church property including Westminster Abbey, the monasteries, schools and all formerly and originally Catholic properties were taken over. When the Church was restored and allowed to function again, it had to start anew, totally, with new churches and Schools and institutions. I believe Catholics are in the majority in this country now but we may soon be replaced by the Muslims who continue arrive, thrive and live in great number. England has been very generous in welcoming the stranger.

The Catholic Church in this country now enjoys a great respect and since the late Cardinal Hume, its archbishop of Westminster has been a leading, some would say “the” leading spokesman for Christianity. Archbishop Nichols will segue quite easily into that role and will quickly enjoy respect. I am happy that I could be here today as I respect him very much and always have. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, he was at my episcopal ordination and has been back once to spend time with my brother priests.

Both climatologically and ecclesiologically, it is indeed “a sunny day in London town.”

+RNL

HOLY FATHER, HOLY LAND

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI has returned from his visit to the countries of Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian state. It was a visit fraught with challenges and difficulties and one on which a great deal of hopes and anticipations rode. I think the Pope’s visit to all three countries was successful as he negotiated some of the deepest tensions, distrust and animosities to be found almost anywhere on planet earth. His first stop in Jordan, friendly in all ways, was to greet the Christian refugees who have fled Iraq. Their number continues to increase and the Holy Father assured them that they were not forgotten. From there he travelled to Israel where the government greeted him with warmth and welcome. As Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II had done on their prior visits, he assured the Israelies that he and Catholics everywhere recognized their need for and right to their own land and nation. He apologized for the sin of the holocaust and repeated the prayer of every person of good will who comes into contact even through history with that horror – never again! He then had the task of assuring the Palestinians that they too should be allowed to live in their own homeland and he prayed and pleaded for peace. All in all, he accomplished his mission and went out of his way to assure the 3% of the population who are Christian and who remain that they are not forgotten and need to remain to maintain the Christian sites and places of pilgrimage. Stalin once brushed the papacy aside by snidely remarking, “and how many legions does the Pope have?” Military power – none. Moral power – awesome. I trust that you were as proud of the Holy Father’s visit to this troubled area of the world as I and many others.

+RNL