Archive for September, 2013

FIFTY YEARS AND COUNTING

Saturday, September 28th, 2013
Most of the St.Petersburg diocese seminarians in the chapel following the anniversary Mass. Remember we have two men studying in Rome and one outside of Boston and we were unable to locate several other men for the picture.

Most of the St.Petersburg diocese seminarians in the chapel following the anniversary Mass. Remember we have two men studying in Rome and one outside of Boston and we were unable to locate several other men for the picture.

Recently Pope Francis in speaking to what we old-timer bishops call the “baby bishops gathering” (translated that means all new bishops created in the previous twelve months who gather in September in Rome for a week of instruction on how to be a bishop) suggested to them that they spend more time in their dioceses and less time at the airport. Good pastoral advice which I especially need to take to heart.

But, for the next three days no one will find me at the airport but rather on AMTRAK once again heading to South Florida for the twice a year meetings of the seminary board of trustees for both St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami and the Regional Seminary of St. Vincent de Paul in Boynton Beach. To save time and travel money, we also add a half day meeting of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops. This leaves practically no time to visit with our diocesan seminarians so I make a third trip to each seminary later in the year to interview, encourage, and hopefully assist each of our seminarians individually. All trips to south Florida are on AMTRAK which is cheap, comfortable, usually always late, and different.

This week, however, there is an additional reason to be proud of one of our seminaries, St. Vincent de Paul, which is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of its founding. It has an interesting history for a still young institution. It was built originally as a seminary for the Congregation of Missions or as they are better known, the Vincentian fathers. St. Vincent de Paul whose name is appropriately assigned to magnificent works of charity throughout the US also had as a priority of his nascent religious order the formation and education of priests. In 1959, one year after the establishment and creation of the Diocese of Miami, they responded in the affirmative to a request from Miami’s first bishop, Coleman F. Carroll to begin a six year seminary program on property in southwest Miami, part of a 95 acre track of land purchased years previously by Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley, bishop of St. Augustine. As soon as three buildings and a swimming pool were completed, the Vincentians opened a high school and first two years of college seminary program .

At roughly the same time, this same province of Vincentian Fathers was given by Bishop Carroll a larger tract of land in Palm Beach county (also purchased by Archbishop Hurley of St. Augustine), over 100 acres in Boynton Beach, so far west in the county that at the time it seemed to many to be in the middle of the Everglades. Here they were to open what they envisioned as a Philosophy/ Theology seminary for their own seminarians as well as those of any other diocese which might choose to send their men there. The Vincentians were already running seminaries of this nature in St. Louis, Seattle, Denver, near Allentown, PA, Los Angeles and in the post war period there were more than enough vocations to consider opening new houses of formation. So in 1963 St. Vincent de Paul Seminary opened its doors on Military Trail in Boynton Beach and welcomed its first class. The Vincentians used an architect from Albany, New York (their provincial headquarters was near Albany) who designed a series of buildings having never been to Florida. All he knew was that it was hot in Florida and he had a collection of postcards of motels along A1A on our state’s east coast to guide him in his design. Thus the student and faculty wings all looked like motel units BUT the bathrooms could only be accessed by walking outside to a common area and no one told this poor architect that even in Florida it can get quite cold at night from December through March.

Those motel like wings of which I write/

Those motel like wings of which I write/

The seminary did well from the start with student enrollment and a faculty largely consisting of Vincentian priests and a few diocesan adjunct professors. Note that the seminary opened its doors at precisely the same moment as the universal church opened the Second Vatican Council. Later it was thought by the archbishop that some things had gotten a little out of control at the seminary; the rector and one or two other priests left to get married so by then Archbishop ColemanF. Carroll (Miami was made an archdiocese in  1968) got quite nervous about the seminary and told the Vincentians that they had to give it to him, free, no exchange of money. They rightly refused claiming it was their money that built the seminary in the first place. That did not dissuade Archbishop Carroll (he was a man who did not take “no” to his wishes well) who went to Rome and basically asked for permission to confiscate [the kindest verb I could come up with] the seminary (the Vincentians to this day would say “steal the seminary”), and assume responsibility for its operation and staff. The Vincentians withdrew and a new cadre of priests from the Archdiocese of Miami began to be trained to take their place. A priest from Boston, Monsignor John O’Connor was brought in to be the first non-Vincentian Rector, then a Dominican, Father Urban Voll who is still alive today, then the first Miami priest to serve as Rector/President, Bishop Felipe deJesus Estevez in 1980. Father Joseph Cunningham from Brooklyn, Father Arthur Bendixen from Orlando took over for a short time. He was followed by my classmate, Monsignor Pablo Navarro, then Monsignor Stephen Bosso, then Monsignor Keith R. Brennan and presently from our own diocese, Monsignor David L. Toups.

Fifty years later, the seminary is enjoying a renaissance in enrollment, now with ninety students and more predicted for the next few years based on enrollments from other near-by dioceses and men in the final two years at the college seminary in Miami. It is the nation’s only truly bi-lingual, multi-cultural seminary where a native Spanish speaking seminarian can take all his courses in Spanish and English speaking seminarians pray and study at times in Spanish. In 1981 St. Vincent de Paul was incorporated as a regional seminary when all of the dioceses except one agreed to pay immediately into an endowment fund and assume responsibility not only for funding but also for staffing. Later in the early part of the last decade, that one diocese which had held out initially also joined so the seminary is owned by the seven dioceses of Florida whose bishops sit as members of the Corporation. I have always as bishop supported both of Florida’s seminaries. Transparency requires me to note for the reader’s benefit that I served as Rector of St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami for five years from 1979-1984. We have in the past shared some of our finest priests with both seminaries and in the seventeen and one-half years I have been bishop of St. Petersburg, not one man ordained from St. Vincent de Paul or who attended St. John Vianney College seminary has left the active ministry – a testimony to great work done by our Vocations Admissions team and the seminary formation programs.

DSCN4132The papal nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano returned to the sunshine state yesterday (Friday) for the anniversary Mass, joining the bishop owners from around the state, and over 600 people jammed into the beautiful seminary chapel for Mass principally concelebrated by Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami who serves the seminary as its Chancellor. The seminary is now in the Diocese of Palm Beach since 1984 and its local bishop is the Treasurer. Those motel units will soon be renovated and for the first time in fifty years will have bathrooms and showers in each room and a new residence building for the students should begin construction within the next few months. The seminary endowment fund now sits at about 14.5 million dollars but the bishops agreed that over the next decade, we will all raise enough money for seminary formation to increase the endowment to about thirty million. So a very good first five decades give way to another form of Florida’s “bright future” in the decade which began this month with the new school year. Congratulations are due to Monsignor David Toups, his staff, administration, faculty, students but in a special way to those Vincentian and early diocesan pioneers that had the vision to build, sustain and maintain the seminary. Ad multos annos the saying goes, or loosely translated “here’s to many more years.”

+RNL

TRULY BITTERSWEET

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013
Bishop Bernard Hebda. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Gaylord's website.

Bishop Bernard Hebda. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Gaylord’s website.

I woke up this morning to the news that I will likely be without a bishop for a while. Regular readers know that for the last several years I have spent most of July on vacation in northern Michigan – far northern Michigan on the lower peninsula. I have always written admiringly of the local bishop in the Diocese of Gaylord who has given me permission to “spell” the pastor of Petoskey so that the latter  might enjoy a summer vacation. I have come to so deeply admire that local bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord that it has for several years been a privilege in the Eucharistic Prayer to pray for “Bernard, our bishop.”

The priests and people of the diocese love him. Whenever and wherever two or three are gathered together in the name of the Lord, it is highly likely that Bishop Hebda will also be in their midst. He’s everywhere, for everybody, whenever. During the year I get text messages from him that he is driving by Crooked Lake in Conway telling me how beautiful the place is and occasionally spurring me to wish I was there. We have grown to enjoy together the Douglas Lake Bar and Grill near Pellston and though neither of us imbibe of alcohol, we both enjoy a good meal together at least once during my stay.

This morning the Holy See announced that Bishop Bernard has been appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey. Those people don’t know how lucky they are, but it won’t take them long to find out. And they can always ask almost anyone from the Diocese of Gaylord and they will proudly speak of the shepherd they hardly had time to come to know. Everyone knew that this day was likely to come, just not so quickly. All of the Catholic population of Gaylord and a bishop who comes for a month each summer know our loss, and Newark’s gain. While I may be his senior in years in the episcopacy, Bishop Bernard is superior to me in so many ways. Last year he generously led our priests spiritually through our annual convocation at the Bethany Center and they quickly saw in him what I have always seen in him – a priest first, bishop second, man of the Church always.

His Dad and siblings live in Sarasota so there will always be something of a Florida connection. It’s just that this is something of a hole in this bishop’s heart (my own) this morning with the news of his transfer. In speaking of his diocese of Gaylord today, he said “what was not to love” about the place. Bishop Bernie, you were a part of that beautiful mosaic and now there is a piece missing.

+RNL

ABSOLUTELY AMAZING

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

I have needed a few days before collecting my thoughts and sharing them with you about Pope Francis’ amazing interview with the Jesuit publications which was made public last week. First, I wanted to read the interview twice. When that occasional movie comes along which stirs my imagination and my thought process, I often return a second time when I learn how much I missed on the first viewing. The same was true of the interview in America magazine. Secondly, at just over 30,000 words, it is only two thousand words short of being half the size of Hemingway’s classic, The Old Man and the Sea which I also enjoyed. But now I think I understand the papal interview better and I certainly love it more.

Readers of this blog since its inception should know by this time that one of the recurrent themes which I return to often is that everyone in the world knows what our Church is against, especially in the last decade in the United States, but few know and even less appreciate what we are for. While we need to speak prophetically from time to time against the great moral dangers of our age, we also need to speak mercifully of those who disagree, fail to understand or feel wounded or hurt by Church teaching. Quite frankly we are losing membership not because of the presence of the truth but because of the absence of mercy. For the rest of my days on earth, I will be grateful to Pope Francis for this exquisite and dead on observation: “I see clearly that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the Church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds, heal the wounds….And you have to start from the ground up.”

The Church largely abandoned the vision set forth in the Second Vatican Council documents of “Lumen Gentium” and “Gaudium et Spes” paying it lip service at times at best and began to worry more about what the Council seemed to have unleashed than about what the Spirit may have been saying. There is no place for the blame game in my heart, only a restless desire for years to get back to the task of renewing, reinvigorating, reimaging which was the true outcome of the Council. So what was left on the battlefield as the Pope might see it: a church where young women feel neglected and/or alienated; a church where when parents are coming to accept and love their gay and lesbian children, they feel with those same children that the Church does not love them or worse, we teach by the sheer force of our rhetoric that God does not love them; a Church that seems to have lost the notion that Jesus spent more of his time with sinners, the poor, blind, and the lame and with outcasts than with those who might have had the influence to help him spread his message the most.

I have heard reliably that when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Archbishop Jorge Bergolio was happiest when he was with his priests willing to toil daily in the poorest of the barrios and ministering to the poorest of the poor. As Pope, in this interview and in his daily homilies, he has constantly reminded us of the forgiveness, mercy and love of God for all people, regardless of their failings, regardless of their sins. He shows us that one does not have to change doctrines to change hearts but one does have to change one’s rhetoric to be more inclusive. Let me pause and mention the issue of abortion. Many in the media and elsewhere read the Pope’s words in the interview as in some way going soft on “abortion” and suggesting the Church might wish to step back from its long stance of pointing out the insanity of taking the lives of pre-born children. The next day when the Holy Father in speaking to a gathering of Catholic obstetricions/gynecologists pleaded with them to never be involved in aborting pre-born children and to see the face of Jesus in all whom they bring into the world, the more casual media and some others seemed to have thought he was taking back what he had said in the interview. I personally read both statements as a seamless thread from calling for more applications of tender mercy for women who feel they have no other option while at the same time being mindful of exactly what is involved. Let me repeat the Lynch mantra that in Pope Francis we have a man who will lead the church by continuity with church teaching, calling for a greater application of compassion, mercy and forgiveness, and reminding all of us of the need for simplicity in our lives.

I served a church when its episcopal leadership were pastors, before their ordination as bishops and after as well. They envisioned the Church as sharing common ground with many others, advocating a seamless garment in promoting the life issues, ardent advocates for social justice for all people, prophets for peace, worshipping in our common language and with a greater simplicity and passionate but not strident. Somewhere along the line, we lost this vision. Now, in this amazing interview, Pope Francis is once again raising the specter of hope that what has begun fifty years ago this month will continue over time. The pendulum has begun to shift back and how long it will continue to do so, well that is up to the Holy Spirit. For the moment, I find all this absolutely amazing.

Read the interview by clicking here.

+RNL

THE STRIFE IS OVER, THE BATTLE WON

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

As most readers know by now, the remodeled Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle was dedicated to the glory of God last Thursday night, September 12 before a full-house of representatives of all the parishes in the diocese, the Cathedral parish itself, and several hundred bishops, priests and deacons.

Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle Dedication Mass

Processing in at the beginning of Mass. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

It was a beautiful liturgy with extraordinary music and actions allowing the magnificence of what was taking place to shine forth, even in the darkness.

Blessing the new Baptismal font. Photo kindness of Dana Rozance.

Blessing the new Baptismal font. Photo kindness of Dana Rozance.

 

Blessing the new Altar. Photo kindness of Dana Rozance.

Blessing the new Altar. Photo kindness of Dana Rozance.

 

"The lighting of the altar, which is followed by the lighting of the church, reminds us that Christ is "a light to enlighten the nations;" his brightness shines out in the Church and through it in the whole human family." (DC, No. 16d) Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

“The lighting of the altar, which is followed by the lighting of the church, reminds us that Christ is “a light to enlighten the nations;” his brightness shines out in the Church and through it in the whole human family.” (DC, No. 16d) Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

If you were unable to attend, missed it on the live stream video and would like to see more of that evening, our diocesan website has the whole video of the Liturgy of Dedication and several hundred beautiful pictures on it for your review.

Here are some things which might or might not be of interest to you:

(1) The “certificate of occupancy” required from the City of St. Petersburg prior to any public usage was granted at about 10:00am on Dedication Day. (Whew!)

(2) The Cathedral renovation was completed with the successful installation of the “ambo” at 4:35pm prior to the opening of the doors at 6:00pm for the liturgy (double “Whew!)

Wheeling in the ambo at 3:45pm. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Wheeling in the ambo at 3:45pm. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

(3) The first Mass after the Dedication Liturgy was celebrated at 8:30am on Friday for the children of the school who, with a keen architectural eye, proclaimed it, “Cool!”

(4) The first two funerals were celebrated Saturday morning for two long-time members of the Cathedral parish. Their liturgies were slightly delayed by the families precisely so their loved ones could be buried after a Mass in the renovated Cathedral.

(5) The presence of the papal nuncio to the United States was a”gift” as I fully expected him to understandably say that it would be impossible for him to accept invitations to blessings and dedications but he was present and we enjoyed having him with us.

Most Reverend Carlo Maria Viganò, Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S.A., giving his remarks before the final blessing. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Most Reverend Carlo Maria Viganò, Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S.A., giving his remarks before the final blessing. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

(6) Lightning struck the control tower at Baltimore-Washington airport (BWI) that afternoon causing the cancellation of the flight of Bishop Frank Dewane who along with a very good friend of mine serving with the bishop on the Board of Catholic Relief Services were unable to be present. Except for Bishop Dewane understandably, all the bishops of Florida were present (and a few others from around the country).

With all of the bishops and archbishops in attendance after the Mass. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

With all of the bishops and archbishops in attendance after the Mass. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

(7) A very warm “welcome home” was given to the third bishop of St. Petersburg and my predecessor, Archbishop John C. Favalora, who was quite taken by what had been done to his former Cathedral Church.

Archbishop John C. Favalora, myself, and Father Joseph Waters, rector of the Cathedral after the Mass. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Archbishop John C. Favalora, myself, and Father Joseph Waters, rector of the Cathedral after the Mass. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

(8) Contrary to rumors circulating in certain sectors of the blogosphere, the tabernacle remain in the same relative place in the Cathedral but was given far more highlighting than in the past, was restored and replated and looks stunning. One should not believe much of what is written in certain elements of the Catholic blog world.

Inaugurating the refurbished tabernacle and new chapel space where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Inaugurating the refurbished tabernacle and new chapel space where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

From my own episcopal ordination ceremony through the present moment, I have always been proud of our diocesan liturgies and this was no exception. At a time when other dioceses and archdioceses have cut back or eliminated their offices of Worship, I have believed that the office of bishop, which specifies the sanctification of his people, requires a well-staffed office with well-trained people.

The dedication liturgy was flawless, beautiful and followed the “mind of the Church” as specified in the documents to the letter. I take this moment to express again and publicly my gratitude to the Office of Worship and to the Diocesan Liturgical Commission for all their work throughout the last seventeen and a half years, especially last Thursday night.

Likewise the music was outstanding and appropriate to the occasion. Many thanks are due to Cathedral Music Director Chris Burke, Cathedral Assistant Director of Music Jo Mabini Greene, and Dr. William Pitcher, former Cathedral Music Director who returned to the Cathedral from Orlando to help with the evening’s music, and to the seventy-plus voice choir and the instrumentalists.

The wonderful Diocesan choir! Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

The wonderful Diocesan choir! Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Dedication day was a massive undertaking and a committee of highly talented people spent months preparing for it. Well done covers it all!

Finally, to Father Joseph Waters, Cathedral Rector, I reserve the final place of honor in closing this chapter of diocesan history. He ably led the final planning and construction phase while shepherding his parish gathering in the school hall for fifteen months. An occasional glance in his direction last Thursday night assured me that he was pleased and proud of all he had accomplished and well he should have been.

So, no more reports on St. Jude Cathedral in this space. It has been mostly a wonderful “ride” and thanks to all.

+RNL

NAILBITER

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

It’s Sunday night at seven o’clock in St. Pete. The four p.m. NFL football games are winding up and NBC’s Sunday Night Football America is beginning its way-too-long pre-game show. I think including Friday personally I have spent twelve hours total gathering tile dust on my previously immaculate black suit and have been through three black clergy shirts.

These days have had their ups and downs  in the final construction phase and some “command decisions” have required my presence and that of Father Joseph Waters, the Cathedral rector.

Instead of a long verbal commentary, I thought I would morph into being a photojournalist for this final, pre-dedication visit to the job site. All the pictures except the last one were taken with my personal camera by “yours truly” and since I suffer from at times serious moments of tremors, only God knows what these will look like if you click on them to enlarge them for greater detail.

So here goes, +LYNCH, THE PHOTOJOURNALIST:

The main altar was set in place also on Friday and this is a view of the sanctuary looking out into the name or what one would see after arising from a few moments of Eucharistic adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle.

The main altar was set in place also on Friday and this is a view of the sanctuary looking out into the name or what one would see after arising from a few moments of Eucharistic adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle.

 

The "portal" to sinlessness showing the Baptismal Font flanked by two confessionals on their side of the entrance. "Open to me, O Lord, thegates to holiness."

The “portal” to sinlessness showing the Baptismal Font flanked by two confessionals on their side of the entrance. “Open to me, O Lord, thegates to holiness.”

 

Entering the Cathedral through its main, East entrance one will be greeted by this view across the expanse of the nave to the west exit.

Entering the Cathedral through its main, East entrance one will be greeted by this view across the expanse of the nave to the west exit.

 

The new main stained glass window was installed by artist David Wilson and his son on Friday. This is what I was able to capture from the side.

The new main stained glass window was installed by artist David Wilson and his son on Friday. This is what I was able to capture from the side.

 

Same window, within a minute of the photo to the left but seen from the outside.

Same window, within a minute of the photo to the left but seen from the outside.

 

Looking from just in front of the choir area down the nave to the sanctuary, the altar, chairs, and altar of reservation.

Looking from just in front of the choir area down the nave to the sanctuary, the altar, chairs, and altar of reservation.

 

The mighty Wurlitzer (oops, Rogers organ console is shrink-wrapped and ready to go. Note the placard announcing its destiny on top: "SOLD"

The mighty Wurlitzer (oops, Rogers organ console is shrink-wrapped and ready to go. Note the placard announcing its destiny on top: “SOLD”

 

From the Studio in Ortesi in the Dolomite region of northern Italy, the four great medallions depicting the four great evangelists by their traditional symbols: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

From the Studio in Ortesi in the Dolomite region of northern Italy, the four great medallions depicting the four great evangelists by their traditional symbols: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

 

The hand carved Stations of the Cross were hung today but are here on the marble floor of the sanctuary awaiting placement Corey.

The hand carved Stations of the Cross were hung today but are here on the marble floor of the sanctuary awaiting placement Corey.

 

Rainbow over the Cathedral on the evening of September 4. Photo kindness of Kitty Labrador.

Rainbow over the Cathedral on the evening of September 4. Photo kindness of John Fox III.

PRAYING FOR PEACE IN THE MIDEAST

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

[youtube width=”400″ height=”300″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8p6qcjxvnA?rel=0[/youtube]Apropos of the previous blog and very desirous of responding in some way to Pope Francis’ call to prayer and fasting this Saturday, I have informed all the parishes that I would like them to include a special prayer for peace after the communion prayer and prior to the final blessing at the Saturday Vigil Masses. The Holy Father’s request includes the concept of fasting for peace as well and I leave that choice up to God’s people, hoping that they will participate that way also.

Pope Francis asked that the churches of the world use the time between 7pm and midnight European Daylight Time when he will be leading prayer in St. Peter’s Square to be united with him and with all gathered around him in this special moment. That exact time frame would be 1pm until 6pm EDT and even earlier in the Central, Mountain and Pacific time zones – right in the middle of our Saturday weddings, confessions and Vigil Masses.

So using the moment when the greatest number can likely be gathered in the churches of this diocese, I have suggested this manner of raising our voices in supplication with those of others asking our leaders to refrain from further military action and continue to pursue other paths to peace – however elusive they may seem at the moment.

Thanks to all who will use this moment well in the parishes of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

+RNL

NO MORE WAR, WAR NEVER AGAIN

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

With these words, Pope Paul VI in October of 1965 addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations. They were strong words from a seemingly meek and humble man but they caught the attention of a nation mired itself in a war in Southeast Asia that would continue for five more years and also of the global community.

This weekend we seem to be once again on the precipice of yet another military action with profound possible ramifications and steeped in uncertainty. This time the enemy is the President of Syria who already is a war-crimes criminal for his heinous poison gassing of his own people a little more than a week ago. Catch him alive, try the man in the international court of human justice, imprison him and throw the key away but for God’s sake and that of humanity, I pray that our beloved nation will not risk a wider war by singularly reacting to an event far more certain for sure than the illusive “weapons of mass destruction” which led us into Iraq. We’ve been there before and I for one do not wish to go again.

Neither the war in Iraq nor any action which we might take in response to the atrocity of the mass killing of citizens in Syria will meet the tests of the “just war theory.” And, morally, I believe that the United States needs to step back from attempting to be the world’s police force. Armed action when agreed upon by the family of nations and when many countries join in can perhaps survive moral analysis, perhaps, but one nation choosing to attack on its own is very dangerous.

Today Pope Francis in his “Angelus” address begged the parties not to go to war or even battle against one another. He knows that Syria’s military can not reach the United States in any retaliatory effort, but it can make its point known on Israel, our friend and ally. Attack Israel and they will respond – that one can be taken to the bank. Attack Israel, and the world will respond as likely will Iran and all the political armies of the mideast from Hamas to Hesbollah and many other forces in between.

I am ashamed to say that the Catholic Church in the United States sadly gave President George W. Bush largely a free pass on Iraq. It was a shame then and its consequences even now are incredible. The USCCB did not even react strongly in defense of Blessed John Paul II when he sent Cardinal Pio Laghi (formerly Nuncio to the United States and thought to be a friend of the Bush Family) to personally ask President Bush not to take that action and the President “blew him off.” Did the US bring peace to Iraq? I don’t see it. Did we bring stability to the Middle East? I don’t see it either. His father, the first President Bush, built an international coalition to free Kuwait from the invasive heel of Saddam Hussein and then, achieving his limited mission, he and the allies stopped having met their goal. Kuwait was most likely a just use of force, narrowly targeted to achieve a restoration of government to a small country without a military  to speak of. The search for the Taliban met the litmus test of justice when it began and has had certain success but soon we will leave an Afghanistan more divided than before and with a less than certain future. We are not a good international police keeping force and we lose lives, spend incredible sums of money in efforts which are hardly called successful, and sometimes end up making the alleged cure more deadly than the original disease.

I do not consider myself an isolationist and I do believe that there are moments in history when a nation such as ours joining with allies equally committed should act decisively to rid the world of evil – Hitler being example number one.We need to heed the words of Pope Francis today (click here for his Angelus address) and support him. We need to write to the President and to our two Senators from Florida and our elected representatives in the House of Representatives and ask them to vote no on any military action at this point. In doing so, we will demonstrate moral strength which will trump military might and once again echo the words of Pope Paul VI, “War no more, War Never Again!” The slightest provocation from one country in a world not united in its resolve to attack the evil dictator of Syria could lead to  more bloodshed, and enormous consequences.

ACT NOW, MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD, SUPPORT THE POPE OF PEACE

+RNL