Posts Tagged ‘Ecumenical Dialog’


Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

My brother bishops trying to stay awake at times. Photo furtively taken by me.

Today (Wednesday) is the first full day of the Spring meeting of the United States Conference of Bishops and we are in Seattle this year (Atlanta next year in June, then San Diego, then New Orleans). I had a ten hour meeting yesterday involving Catholic Relief Services and find that I am falling asleep around 830pm every night and waking up around 430am. I am not unhappy with that since I hope to somehow “trick” my b0dy into thinking it is still operating on Eastern Daylight Time for my return trip early on Friday morning (a 545am departure).

There are about 200 bishops present for the Spring meeting and the weather has been, well rainy, what else? We are not exactly meeting in Seattle but in a suburb called Bellevue which is the home of Microsoft. Lots of tall buildings, high end shopping stores, and not a McDonalds in sight. There is no view of Puget Sound to be had from Bellevue and no view of Mt. Ranier which has not been available since I arrived from any vantage point due to the very cloudy and overcast weather. So what else is there to do but sit in a meeting room, listen intently and look at one’s watch for the next break.

We passed a few items this morning which did not allow for amendments and listened to some oral reports. One of the more interesting was led by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, who has been appointed to work with communities of Episcopalians in the United States who wish as a congregation, including their priests, to come over to the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Benedict has reached out to these communities and their priests and will allow them to come into full communion, their priests to be ordained as deacons and priests and they can bring with them the treasured aspects of what is called the “Anglican Rite.” I listened with interest even though I know of no such movement of any parishes or communities in the Diocese of St. Petersburg wishing to come over.

There is one more hour of public session tomorrow and then we dive into the rest of the day in Executive Session which means I will not reveal any of the discussions which take place under that rubric. Overall it is a light agenda and to have come such a long way. Tonight I am invited to a farewell dinner for the departing General Secretary of the Conference, Monsignor David Malloy who will be returning to his home Archdiocese of Milwaukee after completing five years as the chief operating officer of the episcopal conference. Monsignor Malloy is the fourth occupant of that position since my own departure in 1995 (the term is for five years and it can be renewed as it was in my case but annually after five). It is customary that there is a dinner for the departing GS and all living former General Secretaries are invited. By my count there are exactly six of us remaining on this mortal coil. Monsignor Malloy has a priest brother who is residing and working in our diocese as a Chaplain at Bay Pines Veteran’s Hospital, Father Frank Malloy. His successor was elected last November and will assume office on Friday with the closing gavel of this meeting.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, our new President, is chairing quite efficiently and we are considerably ahead of our meeting agenda’s schedule going into the Executive Session.

So from the shadow of the Cascade Mountain range, greetings to all back home, leave the light on as I will return on Friday.



Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

The second visit of Pope John Paul II to the United States was radically different in many ways from the first. President Ronald Reagan had invited the Pope to make a pastoral visit this time and the United Nations was not involved. Since the last visit in 1979 both the Pope and the President were survivors of assassination attempts and so security concerns were ratcheted up significantly. More people and dioceses wanted the Pope even though the cost to the host diocese ran at least three million dollars a day and with nine years in office behind him, every US Church agency wanted a piece of the action. Disney World wanted him desperately for a meeting with the youth of the world at EPCOT (making me one of the few Floridians to ever say “no” to Disney and live to tell of it).

In Rome my dear friend Archbishop Marcinkus had been replaced by a new team of papal advance members led by the Jesuit head of Vatican Radio, Father Roberto Tucci, SJ who is now a cardinal. Assisting him were two of the finest men one would wish to work with, Monsignor Emil Tscherrig from the Secretariat of State and Dr. Alberto Gasbari from Vatican Radio. But John Paul remained the same, just a little older. There were two preparatory meetings with him, which included lunch in his apartment, and a meeting of all the host bishops and the archbishops of the United States with him in Rome in advance of the meeting. Tensions were running somewhat high as agendas were beginning to emerge in the United States. In the visit of 1979, only an address by Sister Theresa Kane, the head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious had raised some concerns but I am certain that the Pope did not hear her. Little known to anyone at the time was that the young pope was near deaf in one ear and the sound in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was not advantageous for him to hear. Almost every picture ever taken with him never shows him looking at the person but turned so he could hear with his good ear.

But it seemed in 1987 everyone wanted an opportunity to speak to him, hoping to elicit a favorable response. So Monsignor Frank McNulty of Newark addressed him on behalf of priests in Miami, Donna Hanson, a lay woman from Spokane, Washington addressed him in San Francisco, Cardinal Bernardin, Archbishop Quinn, Archbishop Pilarczyk and Archbishop Weakland addressed him in Los Angeles, the National Catholic Education Association, the Catholic Health Association, and many others spoke their concerns. The Holy Father always had a prepared response as those writing for him had advance looks at the texts.

The Native American Blessing with an Eagle's Feather

Three things gave him special energy in this visit. Although earlier in the day for the first and only time in his entire pontificate his Mass was interrupted and rained out in Miami, he was at his best that day in Columbia, South Carolina on the campus of that state’s University. He could lot believe the tens of thousands of students in a state he knew to be 1% Catholic would gather on the quadrangle and cheer for him and remain while he conducted a ninety minute ecumenical and interreligious exchange with religious leaders from throughout the United States. There were as many students still there when he exited as when he went in and he commented to me, “These young people, they are not Catholic?”  Later he and Billy Graham were to share the stage in the football stadium for a truly ecumenical prayer service, which was frowned upon by some of those travelling with him from Rome.

He also enjoyed a meeting with Native Americans in Phoenix, which included their ritual blessing with an eagle feather, also causing some alacrity with his travelling party that a largely pagan sign would be used with him but something, which clearly he enjoyed.

The Holy Father Meeting Young People at the Superdome

And as in 1979 at Madison Square Garden, in 1987 the meeting with the young people of New Orleans and elsewhere who would fill the vast Superdome brought him special happiness. He was more comfortable and at ease with kids than with bishops by far. Their spontaneous response to his obvious thrill of being with them and their love for him drew them closer to him always.

Popes carry burdens of soul, which few others have to carry. The 1987 visit was right when the AIDS pandemic was spreading and becoming better known in the U.S. Church teaching on condom use and abstinence were not well received in many quarters and to those involved in AIDS ministry and even to those suffering from the disease, the Church in general and the Pope especially seemed insensitive, uncaring, even cruel. When at the old Serra Mission in San Francisco at a prayer service for those with AIDS the pope picked up a child with aids and hugged an adult and embraced him, hearts melted and compassion marked the Gospel. It was quite a moment for me, one that I had helped arrange with the assistance of my Roman colleagues but somewhat looked askance at by others.

John Paul II arrived in Miami with a long and warm meeting between two men nearly killed by an assassin’s bullet and it ended with Vice-President George H. W. Bush offering farewell remarks in Detroit, a city added at the insistence of Archbishop Edmund Szoka which required flying back two thirds of the way across the U.S. and then West again into the Northwest Territory to Fort Simpson in Canada to keep a date he had to cancel several years prior due to fog precluding the landing of his plane at that time. The Holy Father was clearly weakened by his horrible moment with history and not exactly the same as in 1979 but he kept a hectic daily schedule nonetheless and there was always that time for meditation and prayer. Bone tired at midday, on this trip with a scheduled brief rest he would recover well enough to keep a schedule that would kill me at his age, drawing strength from inside himself and at prayer, never wishing to disappoint anyone, and renewed by the adulation of the masses of people who came to pray, listen and reflect with him, especially the young. On both occasions he was impressed with the vitality of the Church in the United States and liked the manner in which we prayed. He mentioned this to the officers and I after his trip in the Fall of 1987 at lunch with him in Rome. For this trip I asked Bishop Larkin if I could have the services of Father John Tapp to assist essentially in the care and feeding of the papal entourage who came with the Pope from Rome and he had his hands full. Also I hired a young lay man from Indiana to work for a year and a half with the Secret Service and the USCC Communications office in arranging for the needs of the local and traveling press (about 300 travelled with us on the full ten day trip). His name was Paul Etienne and he is now the Bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

On the TWA 747 in Detroit I climbed the steps once again. This time he was ready for me having been reminded by someone of my quip in Washington in 1979 that he could come back but not too soon. He gave me that half smile and said, “Father, will I be welcome again?” Off he went to Fort Simpson and my life returned to normal.




Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

As they often say on Sunday afternoon between 350pm and 415pm, but slightly paraphrased from the NFL games, “We would like to welcome those people who have been watching the Church in the US and the world through Whispers in the Loggia to our humble little commentary on a great local Church, the Diocese of St. Petersburg.” If this is the first time you have taken a peep at this blog, maybe a small introduction would help. For the first nine or ten years I was here as bishop, I communicated on a regular basis with the people of the diocese in two ways: with a daily radio program of five minutes of something less than pearls of great wisdom entitled “On the Air with Bishop Lynch” on our powerful and gifted 100,000 watt SPIRIT FM. Then I also wrote a fairly regular column for the diocesan edition of the FLORIDA CATHOLIC entitled “Out of the Ordinary.” The paper is no longer a part of our diocesan communications opportunities. After ten years of deadlines for submission to the paper and recording sessions, I was fairly worn out and found myself writing and talking about what I and others considered minutiae of Catholic Church life.

The electronic media began to catch my attention and this blog, soon to celebrate its first anniversary, is the result. I write only when I have something to share or teach. The average time it takes me to prepare a 500 word blog entry is between 20 and 30 minutes (sometimes they read like “haste makes waste”) and there is only the moment when the muse suggests I write, not a deadline. Do I reach as many people as the former column and radio show – not even close, but “hits” on this blog were rising until my five week confinement in late July and August. Now in recuperation, I am beginning to get my energy back and have time, lots of time every day, to share reflections on our lives as Catholics.

I read your comments personally but do  not answer them because in some instances I wish to avoid useless polemics and in other instances some are very personal to the person who comments. Many have offered me new perspectives in challenging pastoral problems.

Now some news. Bishop-elect Etienne has asked me to deliver the homily at his episcopal ordination on December 9th in Cheyenne. I am grateful to Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap, of Denver who as the principal consecrator  has allowed me this privilege. Most of my diocesan family remember that in the year of his death, 1996, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin preached at my episcopal ordination. I am not much more agile at this moment than the Cardinal was that January 26th but it will be a labor of love.

I promised myself and my doctors that I would not make trips outside of the diocese until after my ileostomy is reversed soon after the first of the year, but I will make an exception in this instance. I will be unable to attend the November Bishops’ meeting in Baltimore but should be back to full form to welcome the USCCB to St. Petersburg in June for their special assembly.

Finally, John Barry of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES does a second wonderful job in four days in today’s paper’s coverage of the Holy See’s announcement about the offer to the Anglican Communion. I could take no exception to his conclusions. I will return to this topic myself in a few days when by mind is better capable of dealing with what was for myself a total surprise.



Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

The late Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston was fond of saying about the Church he served, “we may be difficult but we are never boring.” That was my first thought yesterday with the news from Rome that Pope Benedict XVI would soon issue an Apostolic Constitution allowing Anglicans who are seeking unity with Rome to come over while retaining some of their traditional liturgy, prayers and practice. To accomplish this, some personal prelatures would be established around the world where governance would be by a person selected by the Pope from among the former Anglican clergy now ordained and serving in the Roman Church. So, the bottom line is that there may well be a new “rite” within the Catholic Church for these people who seek this form of union, similar to the Pope’s decision to allow the celebration of the former or Tridentine Mass several years ago. In return for this concession, the Anglicans would have to accept the authority  of the Pope as universal pastor and abide by the same rules and norms as you and I do.

In announcing this concession for the sake of unity, the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the U.S.’s Cardinal William Levada and the new secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, the U.S.’s Augustine Di Noia, OP made it very clear that our Church has no intention of going “fishing” in the Anglican communion for converts but rather were simply providing an option to those who had decided to separate themselves already. In London, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams was characteristically kind in response, but it had to be painful for him and for others of our Anglican/Episcopalian friends. The issues driving those who might take advantage of this new concession by the Pope are the ordination of women priests and bishops, of gay and lesbian priests who are openly so, etc.

I could be wrong but my sense is that not an awful lot of our brothers and sisters will take advantage  of this attempt at outreach. Here in this diocese I would be surprised if any Episcopal community would come over as there are many things about our governance structure that they do not like. We should also humbly acknowledge that there are a good number of disaffected Catholics who have become Episcopalians and are quite comfortable in their new home. Also, I can assure you that the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida has far more former Catholic priests serving as clergy than either our own or the Venice dioceses have. I have always been grateful that neither of our Churches “crow” about this reality and I assure my Episcopalian friends that it is not my intention to proselytize among their number. However, should a community wish to “come over to Rome”, it appears that it will be outside my competence and will be the business of the new prelates chosen for this purpose.

If you are interested in learning more about this announcement, today’s NEW YORK TIMES covers the story well as does the mother of all Catholics blogs, WHISPERS IN THE LOGGIA.


WERE YOU THERE WHEN THEY CRUCIFIED MY LORD? Good Friday Ecumenical Service at Pinellas Hope

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Here are some pictures from an Ecumenical Good Friday Service at Pinellas Hope. This photo essay was taken by Mack Reeves, a junior at St. Petersburg Catholic High School.

The evening meal arrives for the residents of Pinellas Hope

The evening meal arrives for the residents of Pinellas Hope

St. Petersburg Catholic's Baseball Team volunteers to serve the Good Friday meal

St. Petersburg Catholic's Baseball Team volunteers to serve the Good Friday meal

The reading of the Passion of our Lord according to Mark - Two residents join me in proclaiming the Gospel

The reading of the Passion of our Lord according to Mark - Two residents join me in proclaiming the Gospel

An overflow congregation for the Ecumenical Service

An overflow congregation for the Ecumenical Service

Listening intently to the story of our redemption

Listening intently to the story of our redemption

Reverencing and embracing the wood of the cross on which hung our salvation

Reverencing and embracing the wood of the cross on which hung our salvation

The Pinellas Hope Resident's Choir led by Eric volunteering from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish

The Pinellas Hope Resident's Choir led by Eric volunteering from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish

One word, also nailed to a tree, that captures the end of Good Friday at Pinellas Hope

One word, also nailed to a tree, that captures the end of Good Friday at Pinellas Hope


Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Tonight is the Feast of Passover throughout the Jewish world. This is one of those years when as we read, “Jesus went up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Passover” it applies tonight as it did historically two millenia plus ago. Our brothers and sisters of the Jewish faith will gather throughout the world today and tonight to hear again the wonderful story of God’s intervention in the lives of their ancestors, how God saved them, delivered them, favored them. For the Jews tonight is a very Holy Thursday night. Since the first Passover celebration, the Jewish people have suffered much and have been the victims of the worst genocide in human history, the shoah, the holocost. On the receiving end of vile and evil forms of prejudice, they have remained faithful throughout the centuries and have formed a strong bond to protect their faith. Those of  us privileged to have close Jewish friends know how much their faith sustains them and tonight in a special way will bring families together at synagogues and in homes as have the days leading up to this moment. Let us pray for our Jewish friends, our ancestors in faith and deep believers in the same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as ourselves. Blessed Passover, dear friends.


Thursday, March 12th, 2009

I received a letter today from Pope Benedict XVI. It was not exactly a personal letter but rather one which he has written to all the bishops of the world. Its content has been widely circulated in the media so I will not go into the matter of its contents as much as what it meant to me as one of those who shares the burden of shepherding God’s people like the Holy Father. In the letter the Holy Father admits that prior to taking the action of lifting the excommunications of the four schismatic bishops, research into one of those freed of this worst of all ecclesiastical penalties would have suggested that there were problems with the public statements of Bishop Williamson. When those statements came to light, the Holy Father admits of the embarrassment he felt. But he then goes on to lament how hurt he personally was by those, including those whom he counted as “friends”, who rushed to judge him as embracing or condoning the horrible propositions of Bishop Williamson. He reaffirms once again his horror at the shoah and his dedication to advancing the course of the relations between our Church and the Jewish people and Jewish leaders. To have jumped to the conclusion that he himself could abide the opinions of Williamson simply because he was seeking to cure a schism in the Church today hurt him deeply. It is clear to me that had he known in advance of the opinions of Williamson, while he still would have lifted the excommunication, he would have made it more clear that in so doing he was in no way condoning the former’s political, historical or even religious positions.

It’s often lonely at the top and I felt for Pope Benedict as I read the letter today. It was clear that the controversy Bishop Williamson introduced into what the Holy Father saw as a pastoral outreach was both embarrassing and unexpected. Even Popes can hurt from time to time in the face of seemingly endless criticism.



Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Some updates on subjects taken up recently on this blog.

The Holy See press officer acknowledged this week that its handling of the lifting of the excommunication of the four Society of St. Pius X bishops did not serve the Church well and that Pope Benedict had taken the action without the knowledge of the comments of Bishop Williamson on the Shoah. The Holy Father himself engaged the issue at a Wednesday audience and the Holy See has made it clear that the England born now in Argentina Williamson must totally recant before any other action, at least in his case, can be taken. The other three bishops have either distanced themselves or disavowed Williamson’s preposterous statements. In the end, we look foolish, nonetheless.

Contacts between senior curial personnel in Moscow for the enthronement of His Holiness, Kiril, as patriarch of Moscow were warm and cordial and Pope Benedict gave a chalice to the new head of Russian Orthodoxy.

There is still no Freedom of Choice Act introduced in this Congress but in all likelihood there will be. The giant postcard campaign in Catholic Churches against FOCA has now been refocused by the USCCB Pro-Life Committee and directed to all legislative initiatives which would broaden abortion access or challenge conscience clause protection currently in place.

Beautiful Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago where I once took Pope John Paul II (in October 1979) suffered significant fire and water damage on Wednesday from an early morning roof fire. It will be closed for repairs for an indeterminate time.



Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

It’s February obviously. When I was in the seminary and running a seminary this month was always referred to as “the tunnel month” because even in Florida the weather can be dicey, it is a long way to vacation (or so it seems), Lent is around the corner, and some groundhog saw his shadow and even we have some more “winter” to cope with.

I had dinner last night with the four principals of our Catholic High Schools and with the Presidents of the two schools that have this position. They are deeply dedicated to the mission of teaching and forming our high school students and most of our conversation was spent on teaching the faith. We discussed textbooks in religion, the sacraments in the schools, financial challenges facing school parents and then the schools themselves and many other issues. I was impressed with the group whom I have always admired. One strong new initiative which came from last night’s conversation is that starting next year, every school will begin a senior retreat program – two overnights at the Bethany Center for seniors prior to their graduation. The senior core team and leadership groups will have a retreat in the Fall so that they and others can prepare for the whole class experience in the Spring.

I have edited the blog on the Society of St. Pius X to correct an impression I left about the chronology of their Bishop Williamson’s statement on the Shoah. The bottom line remains the same, however, and the outcry within our own Church escalates with the German bishops weighing in. The other three Society bishops from whom the excommunication was lifted have taken strong exception to their colleague’s statement and separated themselves from it and Bishop Williamson himself has attempted a clarification.



Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Lost amidst yesterday’s Super Bowl hype but very significant in the theatre of ecumenical relations was the “enthronement” in Moscow of the new Russian Patriarch, Metropolitan Kirill of Moscow, head of the huge Russian Orthodox Church. Pope Benedict XVI has gone to extraordinary lengths in the last week since Kirill’s election to praise the moment and congratulate the man. Why? Because of the possibilities this change in leadership offers.

Roman Catholicism has never in modern history been strong in what was once the Soviet Union. Russian orthodoxy prior to the communist revolution in the last century was the official state religion and was protected as such by the Czars and Czarinas. The Czars saw their role as the protectors of orthodoxy.  Moscow and its patriarch were the organizational centers of Orthodoxy and practically everyone in Russia was baptized “orthodox.” Catholic churches existed in the major cities nominally and usually as a concession from the Czars and the various patriarchs for foreigners and diplomats. Stalin hated all religions and continued the initiative of his predecessors to force organized religion of any kind into suspension (Russian Orthodoxy included). Churches were turned into museums or police stations, anything which would desecrate the sacred space. Moscow had two Catholic churches open from 1940-1989, St. Petersburg (aka Leningrad) had three and the KGB closely monitored the comings and goings of people attending all Christian Churches. There were and never had been any Catholic dioceses in all of what was once mighty Russia.

With the Russian revolution of the late 1980’s, the state relaxed its hold on organized religion and Orthodoxy came out of the shadows and into the light. With their new freedom, the head of Russian orthodoxy, Patriarch Alexii felt threatened by the rapidly increasing presence of other Christian religions in what he felt was historically Orthodoxy only turf. When Pope John Paul II created four dioceses in Russia, Alexii responded in anger. When John Paul II made Moscow an archdiocese and named its first archbishop, Alexii got even more angry. He refused to meet the Pope and knowing that Pope John Paul II wanted to visit Russia before he became too weak to do so, Alexii steadfastly prevented it.

Our Church never takes “no” for a final answer and throughout these years there were close and cordial conversations and relations with the Russian Orthodox Archbishop responsible for inter-Church relations. His name, Kirill. He came to Rome. He met with both Popes. While cautious and careful as he needed to be, he evinced an understanding of the possibilities of closer ties.

With the death of Alexii, Russian orthodoxy gathered last week for an election of its new leader. Whike Kirill was the odds-on favorite to succeed, some suggested that he was too soft on inter-Church relations and cooperation so he gave a few statements to indicate that he would hoe his predecessors line. Overwhelmingly chosen on the first ballot, yesterday His Holiness (the title used by orthodoxy for its head patriarch) was enthroned in the presence of Cardinal Walter Kasper representing the Pope and a senior delegation from the Vatican. The thaw of Springtime in Russia may have come in the middle of an ecumenical winter. Let’s hope so and pray for that.