Posts Tagged ‘Holy See’


Friday, February 7th, 2014

2014_Vatican_Survey_Results_blogAt the beginning of December, I announced in these pages and in a letter sent to all of our parishes and missions that our diocese would welcome any input from the faithful as they might wish to the questions sent by the Holy See at the request of Pope Francis on marriage and family life in our day.

Over 6,800 people responded, taking time to fill out the survey, often taking significant additional time to add comments to the online version or by filling out the survey on paper and submitting it (written submissions were subsequently entered into the online survey). What Gallup, Pew or the other polling companies would give for nearly 7,000 participants in what was basically an opinion poll!

The timeline was short, too short, but all the responses were received, reviewed by members of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, results shared with the Presbyteral Council and then in mid-January forwarded by me to the appropriate office in Rome which is planning for the two synods which will discuss marriage and family life in our day in October of this year and October of 2015.

At the time, I promised to share the responses with all who took the time to respond. That is what I will attempt to do here, though in something of “shorthand” since the print-out of everything exceeded 3,000 printed pages. Therefore, what is impossible to share in a medium such as this is all of the “free-form” comments which I would characterize as serious, lacking in polemics, sincere, and reflecting little of the polarity which exists in the Church today. I am very proud of what was said, how it was said and who said it.

Before you start looking at the numbers, there are several things which you need to keep in mind. The survey responses generally reflect the “choir,” those people who faithfully attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation, if not daily. They do not represent the feelings of those who have fallen away from the practice of their faith, are angry or frustrated or feel alienated by the Church. How I wish I could have heard from them as well, but given the short time line mandated by the Holy See for input, the only vehicle for informing God’s people of the survey was through those in church or some others who take the time to read this blog, the diocesan Facebook or Twitter, or our diocesan website.

Having said that, I think the thoughts of those who no longer practice their Catholic faith – particularly those concerning our pastoral practice on marriage – were well-represented by the people who did respond. Overall, the Church which I am privileged to lead has some real concerns about precisely the matters which the Holy Father wished tested. Our overall score as institutional Church calls for something of an overhaul of our “common core teachings” (couldn’t resist – sorry!).

Also, please keep in mind that we had to take the sometimes very foreign language of the incoming survey and translate it best as we could into words, terminology and concepts which educated American Catholics could understand. I would give our instrument a B+ or an A- in clarity. Please also note that the overwhelming majority of respondents are older-generation Catholics, most of whom are married and are regular church-goers. Young singles and married couples numerically are not as well-represented.

If you wish to see the statistical results from the survey in the diocese, simply click here.

Summarizing the free-form comments and responses was a more challenging exercise but I think I can do them justice with the following comments:

1. There was very strong support for the notion that marriage (which I believe they understood as sacramental marriage) is between one man and one woman.

2. Having said that, it was also clear that the respondents felt that the Church needed to be better prepared to respond to the reality of same-sex marriage.  In addition, many respondents felt that the people involved in such relationships believe that the Church has turned its back on them.

3. The respondents generally tended to suggest that the Church needed to be kinder and gentler to those who identify themselves as gay and lesbian, be less judgmental and more welcoming.

4. Very clearly stated was the opinion that an adopted child of same-sex parents should be treated in the Church exactly the same as a child born of a traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

5. The respondents felt very strongly that something needs to be done to reconcile and welcome back the divorced and remarried beyond the present annulment process, about which there seems to be confusion. The mistaken notions that an annulment renders children of the first marriage illegitimate and that simply being divorced excludes one from the sacramental life of the Church indicates that as a local Church we need to do something soon to educate our people better on these two points.

6. The media takes a hammering in the survey results, largely because it is seen as the force majeure for challenging traditional concepts about marriage and family life. They render alternate lifestyles legitimate in the eyes of our respondents and perhaps are so strong that they will effectively negate anything done to support traditional notions of marriage and family life.

7. The respondents strongly said that the Church needs “to wake up and smell the coffee” on cohabitation. It is commonplace and there are some reasons for it which can not be summarily dismissed, such as economic realities.

8. Finally, on the matter of artificial contraception the responses might be characterized by the saying, “that train left the station long ago”. Catholics have made up their minds and the sensus fidelium suggests the rejection of Church teaching on this subject.

So, a natural question is “What next?” The survey results raised issues that can only be resolved by the universal church and ultimately by the Holy Father himself. I gather from what I read that our results are not markedly different from those being reported elsewhere around the world. I hope that the effort to canvas the thoughts of the People of God in this diocese, which was unique in Florida, will be helpful to those who will soon gather in synod with the Holy Father.

But there are pastoral results from the survey which we can attend to and I hope we will. I have made it known that I will not tolerate any discrimination or anything which smacks of the punitive to children of same-sex couples. I think all representatives of the Church’s many ministries can be kinder, gentler, more welcoming and less judgmental of those who find our praxis and preaching on marriage and family life to be at odds with their experiences. We need to address clearly that divorce itself is not something which bans a person from reception of the sacraments and that annulments do not illegitimize children born of previous marriages. Working with our diocesan Marriage and Family Life Office and with our priests and deacons, we can either begin or strengthen the process of healing for many in the Church.

Finally, if the “choir” is singing this anthem, imagine what we might have heard had we had the time and access to those alienated, fallen-away, hurt or frustrated. Pope Francis’ call to hightail it to the trenches, to the difficult and smelly parts of the people of God to bring the love and hope of Jesus Christ is not only a call to serve the economically impoverished but the spiritually impoverished, so often of our own making. God bless you and our efforts.



Thursday, February 6th, 2014

I always try to be both truthful and forthright in my remarks in this space so I had better start this entry with the admission that I have never been a fan of the United Nations as it exists, although I like the idea in its origins. The root of my distrust arose in 1979 when I was the national coordinator of the first papal visit to the United States of Blessed John Paul II. While the time the new pope would spend at the United Nations was really within the province of the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the UN, I attended the meetings in New York at the UN in advance of the pope’s presence. There was a certain arrogance which I felt when the Protocol Office of the United Nations dealt with the representatives of the Holy See, from which I have never quite recovered.

So yesterday when a Committee of the United Nations took it upon their shoulders to criticize almost everything which the Catholic Church believes and teaches, I first treated it like water off the proverbial duck’s back. We deserve to be castigated for the manner which we dealt with the sexual misconduct of priests, religious and lay employees in the past and we were and are. While I do not believe the finger of blame can totally fairly be pointed at the Pope or the Holy See, however when the national piñata has been beaten to death of its contents, then one tends often to look to some other source and eventually all roads seemed to lead to Rome. The UN’s outrage at this sorry aspect of ecclesial  behavior is not out of line in general but some of its specific applications are unfair in their report.

However, as time passed since yesterday my blood boiled at the overall assault on the Church contained in the report with demands for reform and change which can not and will not happen. They don’t like our opposition to abortion. They don’t like that we don’t teach contraception to elementary school children. They don’t like this and they don’t like that about the Church until all of a sudden they are demanding that we forfeit for the common good some common ground of who we are and what we believe. They do not understand the Church and they made no attempt to understand the Church prior to filing this polemic which has gathered much more attention than perhaps it normally would and should (our own Tampa Bay Times this morning put it on the front page). If you hate the Catholic church, you will love this report. If you love the Catholic Church with all its apparent warts and wrinkles, you just may grow to hate the United Nations after this verbal deluge. As an institution the Church is not perfect and we know it needs work and attention which I believe it is getting under the vision of Pope Francis.

Without the help of the United Nations, the Church needs to continue to work on healing those victimized by sexual abuse by priests and others. We need to continue to strengthen our oversight of those who come into contact with children and the church needs a way of judging whether its leaders are fulfilling the promises made in this country more than a decade ago. On one matter of sex, I would say the Church in the United States far outshines the United Nations and that is in combatting and dealing with human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors and women especially. Where are you “family of nations” on some of our neighboring countries who aid and abet this form of wickedness?

Finally, how is it that the very organization which thinks so poorly of the Church is so intent on having its leader, the Pope, come as soon as possible to appear before the General Assembly? Read that report and one would think the Committee might construe the initiative as something like a  modern day invitation to the likes of a Marcos of the Philippines, Pinochet of Chile, Duvalier of Haiti, Kaddafi of Libya, Amin of Uganda, to name a few that the same United Nations never really saw fit to excoriate like they did the Church in this report.

I am sure the authors of the UN report were thinking, “Gotcha” about the Church. I hope some of the worldwide reaction might be more like, “you think?”



Monday, January 6th, 2014

I find myself afflicted with yet another monster cold which has slowed me down slightly from things I intended to do this past week, including updating this blog site with a new post or two.

In the area of old business, I am deeply touched to once again point out to the readership how greatly generous the people of this diocese are when asked to help other people in desperate need. Remember Typhoon Haiyan (aka “Yolanda”) which devastated several islands in the Philippines? On the 23rd of December I was able to forward to Catholic Relief Services a second check in the amount of $500,000 (added to the $100,000 I had sent one day after the Typhoon passed). We have therefore sent $600,000 to CRS so far with a few parishes not yet reporting. Catholic Relief Services has responded with great gratitude for a level of generosity which ranks among the highest of any monies sent to them for this purpose. Please keep in mind that monies collected for disaster relief are forwarded in total to CRS and not sent to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Just prior to the beginning of the year, we closed out our consultation on the questions proposed by the Holy See on Marriage and Family Life in the United States. As most of you know, we used an on-line survey instrument. Once again I am proud to report the response of the faithful of this diocese to the survey questions: 6,462 people responded to the survey (4% were between the ages of 18-28), 21% were between 30-49 years of age, 47% were between the ages of 50-69 years, and 28% were seventy or older). 36% of the respondents were male and 64% were female. An amazingly high percentage of the respondents indicated that they were registered parishioners (85%) and 87% said they attend Mass: daily (9%), Sunday and Holy Days and some weekdays (37%), and Sundays and holy days (41%). 11% of the survey population indicated that they were single and never married, 61% currently married, 9% divorced and never remarried, 4% divorced and remarried in the Catholic Church, 4% divorced and remarried outside of the Catholic Church, 9% widowers. This is the easy part of summarizing the results.

At the outset there were questions about whether or not the Holy See wanted a broad consultation in the local Churches or were just expecting bishops to consult with Presbyteral and/or Pastoral Councils. That seems to me to have been answered, as broadly as one can given the time constraints. Then of late there has been a question of whether or not the results can be shared outside of the Synod office in Rome. The present answer seems to be a solid “no” to that at this moment. That raised a problem for me since when making the decision to go online (and make a paper survey available to those who could not access the on-line instrument) I said I would share the results. While I work on that an Executive Summary is being prepared by the Diocesan Pastoral Council which will be reviewed by the Priest’s Council and off the results will go to Rome. Stay tuned.

Finally, this afternoon (Sunday, January 5th) we held an Evening Prayer Service at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle for those who were baptized into the Church at the 2013 Easter Vigil. You may recall that because the Cathedral was under construction the important annual ceremonies of the Rite of Election were held at St. Catherine of Siena parish in Largo. I promised those in attendance at that time that when the remodeling project was complete, I would invite them to return to the Cathedral for a “Neophyte” gathering. I attach here my homily for that occasion.

Thirty archbishops and bishops from Wilmington, Delaware to Miami along the eastern seaboard and the Military Archdiocese will be gathering tomorrow for our annual retreat at The Bethany Center. I hope they bring their winter clothes because it, as you know, is supposed to get very cold tomorrow afternoon [Monday] and night. I know I will have to listen to a few voices which will say “why did we have to come all the way to Florida to freeze?” But by Thursday, they will know why. Pray for us as I shall for all of you. Happy New Year.



Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

This morning along with a crowd estimated in excess of 110,000, I saw the Holy Father up close and personal. My reason for being in Rome this morning I will share with you momentarily, but for the first time in a long time I had that sense of “chills” of being in the presence of the Pope. It is a sense I first had when as a layman I was introduced to Pope Paul VI but left me after repeated time spent with Blessed Pope John Paul II, on the road during three papal visits to the United States and and many, many other occasions with he and Pope Benedict. Perhaps I “overdosed” on Popes in my life but over time while holding the deepest respect for them and the office they held, awe gave way to “ho hum” perhaps.

Well “awe” returned with a vengeance this morning. First, when I arrived at my place reserved for all bishops and looked out over the sea of people in front of me. I have been in the square when it has been full but I have never been there when the square was full and there were thousands shoulder to shoulder down the Via Conciliatione, the Main Street leading up to the square. I had heard last night there were 92,000 requests for tickets for today’s audience, in mid-October, folks, when schools are finally reopened in Europe and everyone is supposed to be back to work but in front of me was this wave of humanity, all waiting for a glimpse of one man.

Looking out at the sea of people. Photo by yours truly.

Looking out at the sea of people. Photo by yours truly.

It’s too facile to say that all new popes draw big crowds. They do. But not this big. Ask the shopkeeper near the Vatican and he shouts “bella”or ask the cab driver trying to make his way through the area and he says “bruta.” Ask any person and they say they have never seen anything like it.

The audience is supposed to start at ten o’clock but precisely at 940am a roar goes up and out he comes on the jeep, smiling, waving, stopping for wheelchairs and babies. And they drive everywhere throughout the square and then, as I suspected, out into the deep of the Conciliatione where there were no barriers holding people back. They came to see him so he was not going to disappoint them.

Pope Francis greeting the people. Photo kindness of Msgr. Robert Morris.

Pope Francis greeting the people. Photo kindness of Patty Morris.

For forty minutes he drove throughout and outside of the square, keeping we bishops waiting and everyone else at the “front of the line.” I have a feeling that he does it on purpose. Those who have the smallest or no connection with how to get tickets for one of the 90,000 chairs get just as much of his time and attention as those of us in the “orchestra” who hold jobs that ensure proximity or know someone who can land the best seat.

He walks up the incline plane from the car to the platform not like a 75 year old with one lung but like a younger man delighted to be there.

Pope Francis. Photo taken by yours truly.

Pope Francis. Photo taken by yours truly.

The formal part of the audience took, you guessed it, the same forty minutes it took him to drive through the crowd.

Pope Francis. Photo kindness of Msgr. Robert Morris

Pope Francis. Photo kindness of Patty Morris.

He spoke of the centrality of Mary in the life of the Church in Italian – an Italian spoken so slowly that even I understood most of it.

He dropped his text and spoke extemporaneously three times this morning, each time drawing laughter from the Italian speakers and scattered applause. He does not attempt any other language but Spanish and after one Our Father and the blessing it is over. You can read his written text by clicking here or by watching a summary video below.


We bishops were first to greet him and have our picture taken with him. It’s a shame that others wait so long because this morning Cardinal Meisner of Germany and forty-one of we other “red caps” were there.

I thanked him for all he has done so far after first telling him I was from St. Petersburg, Florida, in the United States and smiling he said to me in perfect English, “Please pray for me, I have only just begun and I need prayers.”

Meeting Pope Francis. His reply to me, "Please pray for me, I have only just begun and I need prayers." Photo kindness of Msgr. Robert Morris.

Meeting Pope Francis. His reply to me, “Please pray for me, I have only just begun and I need prayers.” Photo kindness of Patty Morris.

I didn’t want to take any more time and my knees were shaking anyway. I left the upper platform looking at the recent brides and grooms in their wedding attire waiting to meet him and get a picture. One couple yelled out to me by name so someone was there from St. Petersburg. I know Monsignor Morris and his brother and sister-in-law were there in the crowd somewhere as well as Father Craig Morley and a pilgrimage group but finding other people in that Mass of humanity was like looking for a needle in the proverbial haystack. I have shared whatever free time they have the last two and a half days with our two seminarians, Ryan Boyle and Alex Padilla, but they had class this morning. Rome is beautiful right now.

I was on my way back to the North American College where I am staying by 1135am. I am in Rome for three days only because a man whom I deeply admire and with whom I worked for seventeen years, Kenneth Hackett, former President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, presented his papers to Pope Francis on Monday as the new Ambassador of the United States of America to the Holy See, appointed by President Obama. It was an honor to share these moments with Ken and Joan, his wife, and their two children.

I am home again tomorrow (Thursday) and back at it in the diocese where I belong. I shall not soon forget that warm, smiling, welcoming face of Francis and the energy of the crowd who love what he is doing to and for our Church.



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.



Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Monday I received official confirmation from the good office of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America, that twenty-two of our diocesan community have been selected to receive the Pontifical Award PRO ECCLESIA ET PONTIFICE, the highest award conferred upon members of the laity by the Holy See. This year’s recipients will receive their medals and parchments at a special ceremony to be held in St. James Chapel at the Bethany Center on Sunday, December 15, 2013. Listed below are the recipients and their home parishes. Short biographies of their engagement with the life of the Church and this diocese will appear prior to the awarding of the medals in December.

1. Robert E. Biasotti, Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Gulfport

2. Diane Brown, St. Cecelia Parish, Clearwater

3. Herbert Brown, St. Cecelia Parish, Clearwater

4. Jay E. Carpenter, MD, St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Clearwater

5. Elizabeth M. Deptula, Espiritu Santo Parish, Safety Harbor

6. Joseph A. DiVito, St. Paul Parish, St. Petersburg

7. Eleanor A. Foynes, Espiritu Santo Parish, Safety Harbor

8. James Hillman, MD, Christ the King Parish, Tampa

9. Richard Hoffman, MD, St. Timothy Parish, Lutz

10. Catherine A. Kaiser, St. Cecelia Parish, Clearwater

11. Gregory Kieler, St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Clearwater

12. Anthony Lazzara, MD. Christ the King Parish, Tampa

13. Joseph D. Magri, St. Cecelia Parish, Clearwater

14. Emil M. Marquardt, St. Cecelia Parish, Clearwater (posthumously)

15. Carol J. Marquardt, St. Cecelia Parish, Clearwater

16. John J. Moroney, MD, Christ the King Parish, Tampa

17. Mary Sue Oliver, St. Jerome Parish, Largo

18. Sister Sara Catherine Proctor, D.W.

19. Nancy M. Ridenour, St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Clearwater

20. Gail F. Whiting, Christ the King Parish, Tampa

21. Paul L. Whiting, Christ the King Parish, Tampa

22. Sister Marlene Weidenborner, O.S.F.

I rejoice with the families and friends of those receiving this honor and thank the Holy Father for his kindness in confirming these witnesses to the faith.



Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

My earlier blog post on the situation between the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) engendered more than its fair share of disagreement from usually friendly sources. As a follow up, I would like to add some additional reflections which follow on events since the publication of the Doctrinal Assessment by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

Last week the LCWR concluded its annual meeting, held this year in St. Louis, Missouri. At its conclusion, its leadership issued a statement which can be read by clicking here. I can not compliment the leadership enough for their thoughtful, reflective, and very ecclesial approach to a very difficult moment in Church relations. At no time did the elected leadership react in an angry manner, flame the fires of a potential fight, or descend into name calling. They kept their calm and showed real class. In a long interview on the public radio program “Fresh Air,” their president, Sister Pat Farrell, expressed her (and presumably her fellow leaders) bewilderment and hurt at the Vatican Declaration, but it was done in a respectful manner. However, what I admire the most at this moment is that going into and during their national meeting, the sisters prayed and dialogued among themselves, with no leaks and no search for grabbing headlines. I am not sure my own United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) could have accomplished that on an occasion which did manage to garner considerable national attention. The final statement indicates that the LCWR is willing to open a dialogue with the three bishops while hoping that they are not asked to compromise on what they hold important in their life and ministry.

On the PR front, the sisters gained a lot more support than “the bishops” did, or so it would seem. Bishop Leonard Blair, one of the three appointed bishops, also appeared on an interview with “Fresh Air” and did the best he could. I say this because I thought a lot of time was spent questioning the bishop on the question of the credibility of the bishops in light of the sexual abuse scandals rather than on the LCWR issue – dots that are difficult for me to connect, perhaps, because I am a bishop. I know of no bishop in this country who does not admire, love and support the women religious in his diocese. I also believe that the bishops have been somewhat restrained in their comments on the matter, except to do as I did and hope and pray for a sucessful conclusion. I also do not wish to waiver from my belief that from the Holy See’s perspective, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain is a great choice to chair what I hope will be a successful dialogue with the leadership of the majority of religious sisters.

Thanks to the leadership of the sisters, the true work of dialogue and reconciliation can now begin.


AD LIMINA APOSTOLORUM – DAY SIX, Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Mass this morning at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Cathedral Church of Pope Benedict XVI

The sun begins to show itself here in Rome right now around 530am and I was up by 600am as the bus left for St. John Lateran Basilica at 645am for a 730am Mass. I was the celebrant and homilist this morning at what is in reality the Cathedral Church of the Pope in Rome. One of the four major basilicas, St. John Lateran is a beautiful place and we were in and out before the daily hoard of visitors arrived. You can view photos graciously taken and shared by SueAnn Howell with The Catholic News Herald, the Diocese of Charlotte’s newspaper, here. After returning to the North American College for a quick breakfast, we were back on the bus for our first visit to the Congregation for Religious (its abbreviated title). The prefect was not present but Archbishop Joseph Tobin, CSSR, the Secretary was present. The Congregation is very much pro-religious and understands well religious sisters, brothers and priests.

My group went on to the Pontifical Council for the Family but for the first time I absented myself so that Monsignor Morris and I might meet with another Council for a discussion of some plans, which I have for the diocese. Time is getting so short now for us (tomorrow is our last day and most of the morning will be taken up with meeting the Holy Father) that if we need to see someone else, it has to be at the expense of something scheduled for the whole group. I had lunch with an old friend who works in the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments and came home to be subjected to two different interviews, one with Catholic News Service and the second with Vatican Radio.  Tonight I am meeting Father Richard Warner, CSC, Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross at their worldwide headquarters, hoping and praying for nothing more than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

My feet hurt. Indeed, my feet ache. One does a tremendous amount of walking here in Rome, even if one is bussed to a certain site. For example, yesterday at St. Paul Outside the Walls, the bus parks about a half mile from the sacristy so there is a mile and walking down the hill from the North American College using a moving sidewalk built by the Vatican (which never moves when you wish to use it) is about a mile. I know I have lost several pounds since arriving.

Our meetings continue to go well, some obviously more interesting than others and some better than others. If they are faking and I do not believe that they are, the congregations and councils seem to enjoy these moments. They not only hear some of the things, which are on our minds, but share their concerns as well. To anyone who thinks we are called upon the carpet on these occasions, it just does not happen. They are more of a “love feast.” We serve and love the same Church. I wish more of my diocese would have an occasion to meet here with those whom we are visiting. We pray well together and quickly learn how to pass the butter and jam down a thirty-foot table in the dining room.

Ryan Boyle, Seminarian for the Diocese of St. Petersburg and in his first year of theology at the North American College, Rome, is the Lector for the Mass at St. John Lateran this morning

Tomorrow we wrap it all up with an audience with the Holy Father, two more meetings, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and then it will be time to pack for the return trip.


AD LIMINA APOSTOLORUM – DAY FIVE, Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Our day began with a visit to the first new Council created by any Pope in probably at least thirty-five years, the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. Pope Benedict XVI established and appointed as the President of the Council, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who made a believer of me in about thirty minutes. His passion for the task, his real world sense of the obstacles which would be met and his methodical approach to the task left me leaving his presence sensing that this man, give time, treasure and support, could make it happen. If we are to spread the Gospel successfully in our time, we must have a plan, which targets our own first, making missionaries of them. Successful at that, then it makes sense to go after those who have left our Church and those who are unbaptized or uncatechised or searching for the one, true Church. The three tools which must be put at the disposal of a successful New Evangelization are formation, homiletics, and lifestyle.  We can no longer take for granted that Catholic children even know how to make the sign of the cross, much less understand Jesus as Lord. The delivery systems of the past are not present to the same extent as they once were. The principal moment of catechesis for people who are in Church is the homiletic moment. And what we do as fully committed Catholics for the communities, in which we live, work, pray and play must be welcoming to those to whom we reach out. It was a fast hour and I would wager that my brothers and I left inspired and desirous of now working in our local Churches to make this initiative alive.

Our next stop was at the Congregation for the Clergy and our dialogue there centered on the priests’ relationship with their bishop and questions concerning the permanent (married) diaconate.

We ended up the morning with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith where our own Cardinal William Levada greeted us as Prefect of perhaps the most important congregation in the Curia. It was a pleasure to spend the time listening in our native language of English.

Mass at the Altar of the Chair, St. Paul Outside the Walls, Photo kindness of Ryan Boyle

In the afternoon, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami was the principal celebrant and homilist for our Mass at St. Paul Outside the Walls, one of two basilicas where each bishop must visit and offer Mass since it and St. Peter’s are the grave sight of the apostle/martyrs to whose threshold (limina) we have come. You can view photos graciously taken and shared by SueAnn Howell with The Catholic News Herald, the Diocese of Charlotte’s newspaper, here. Monsignor Morris, myself and my six pilgrims then travelled back to the North American College where we sat on the rooftop, which overlooks all of ancient Rome. It was a spectacular evening and sunset.  Dinner was at a local neighborhood restaurant and bedtime was early for me as we have to be on that darn bus at 645am in order to celebrate Mass at the Church of St. John Lateran tomorrow morning at 730am. Since I am to be the celebrant and homilist for that liturgy, I need my “beauty” rest!




Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

A famous quote always attributed to Blessed Pope John XXIII was when asked “how many people work at the Vatican?” he responeded, “about half.” Well today is a long work day at the Vatican and we visiting bishops on ad limina participated in the full day’s work. Normally, Monday though Saturday, Vatican offices are open from 8:30am until 1:00pm at which time they close for lunch and the day. However, on Tuesday and Friday, the offices of the Holy See reopen at 4:30pm and remain open until 7:00pm for a total thirty one and one half hour work week. But gosh do they get holidays and holydays and birthdays (at least the Pope’s), anniversaries (at least the Pope’s), and election days (at least the Pope’s)? Last week, Region XIII sat for a day while the Holy See shut down for the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. And by the way, I think that they get paid for fourteen months, not twelve. How did that happen, you might ask? Long ago all Italians started receiving an extra check at Christmas time and another at vacation time from their employer and the Holy See had no choice but to offer the same. They also have something entitled “severance” which accumulates for every year worked and is given at the time of departure from their employment for whatever reason and it is in addition to a pension plan. Please let me be clear that total salaries here are probably on par with the US but divided differently. How did I get off on this tangent anyway?

Concelebrating Mass at the Altar of Blessed John XXIII with bishops from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina . Photo kindness of SueAnn Howell with the Catholic News Herald.

Ah,  now I remember. Our day was supposed to begin with Mass at the Altar above the remains of Blessed John Paul II, now transferred from the crypt of St. Peter’s into the basilica itself. Including the priests travelling with us, precisely at eight a.m. we forty bishops and priests processed solemnly from the sacristy to the altar for Mass. Little did we know that a priest had just taken it upon himself to start Mass at that altar without permission and we heard the few people with him singing the Alleluia before the Gospel as we approached. So long to Mass at the tomb of Blessed John Paul II. Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte, North Carolina was the celebrant and homilist this morning. So what was planned for most of we bishops whom he had appointed and interacted with in so many ways during his pontificate, as an especially poignant moment found us scurrying to the Altar below which the remains of Blessed John XXIII rest. You can view photos graciously taken and shared by SueAnn Howell with The Catholic News Herald, the Diocese of Charlotte’s newspaper, here. Blessed John Paul II’s tomb is at the moment the most visited spot in the Basilica I would say, at least for prayer. More tourists take pictures of Michaelangelo’s “Pieta” just a few feet away but if there is a Hail Mary being prayed, it is more likely at Blessed John Paul II’s tomb and altar. Unlike yesterday’s chapel at the Tomb of St. Peter, this is right out in the middle of the Basilica and even though the church does not open for day-trippers until nine a.m. after the private Masses are concluded, there is still enough traffic near this altar to be aware of it.

From there it was a quick trip to the first of three congregations to be met today and an important one at that, the Congregation for Bishops. This congregation is solely responsible for processing nominations for bishops to serve as ordinaries in dioceses, as auxiliaries in dioceses, and as coadjutor bishops in dioceses (this category means that when the bishop dies or resigns or retires, he is immediately replaced by his coadjutor bishop). It was noted that the very table at which we sat and room in which we met was the “birthing” table on which we bishops were “born.” Now, the Congregation for Bishops is not the only “game in town” when it comes to making recommendations to the Holy Father for his ultimate decision on who gets what or goes where. A large portion of the world considered mission territory has its bishops processed and recommended by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Almost all of Canada, for example, is under the Congregation for Bishops, but parts of the far northwest Canada, like the Yukon Territory remains the province of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.  A French-Canadian is presently the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, and he was bishop of Quebec City prior to being brought to Rome for his current responsibilities of Pope Benedict. He spent a goodly amount of time this morning meeting with us and we spoke openly and honestly of things which either concerned or were of interest to us. The Congregation, as you might expect and as I hope you pray for, is interested in receiving from all bishops good, holy, smart, gifted, compassionate, patient, loving, energetic and hardworking candidates. In earlier blogs I have described the process by which bishops are chosen so I will not repeat it here. I enjoyed the conversation with Cardinal Ouellet and the time spent together.

From there we walked to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity nearby. Cardinal Kurt Koch is the President of this Pontifical Council (Congregations are led by Prefects, Councils by Presidents). If there is a more sympatico Council in all of Rome, it has to be this one. It is extremely lonely most of the time out on the ecumenical limb and the Cardinal carries not only the responsibility of being the Holy See’s liaison to Protestant and other Christian religions, but also for Interreligious Relations with the worldwide Jewish population as well as Dialogue with the Orthodox Churches of the world. As a Church it always seems to some that we are doing something offensive or at least insensitive and Cardinal Koch and his staff are our first line of offense to mend broken fences and soothe raw nerves. Most bishops, I suspect, wish we had the time and the talent to be more ecumenically engaged in our dioceses and I know the Council would like this as well. We spoke generally about relationship with Churches, the bi-lateral dialogues which are still taking place between ourselves and some of the Protestant churches, and our continuing desire to strengthen the bridges built with our Jewish sisters and brothers. All in all, a great morning.

The North American College on the hill where I am staying did not begin up here. As a matter of fact this building was constructed on land given by Pope Pius XII following the end of the Second World War. It began under Pope Pius IX downtown very near the Trevi Fountain on via dell umilta (Humility Street – a nice place for those studying for the priesthood). That building is still in use by the College and is used for ordained priests from the United States getting their advanced degrees at Roman Pontifical Universities. Originally a convent for sisters, The Casa Santa Maria now is home to about 60 graduate priests and they invited us for lunch today but I chose to spend time catching up and preparing for the afternoon meeting with the Congregation For Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments for which I am the facilitator.

Our conversations so far with all whom we have met have been cordial to a fault and in some instances quite helpful.