Hello and welcome!
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!
I was very happy to be able to spend Thanksgiving with my family in Miami.
And, of course, it was the day after Thanksgiving that we saw the death of Fidel Castro.
The passing of Fidel Castro is certainly a very historic moment. Even though he has been out of the limelight and power for some years, his presence was certainly very important in Cuba and in Cuba’s relations with the rest of the world, particularly with Venezuela and the United States.
Being in Miami, it was interesting to see the spontaneous celebration on the part of the Cuban exiles. One of them who is a close friend of mine, Miami-Dade county commissioner and former Miami mayor Xavier Suarez, was interviewed by MSNBC and he gave a recounting of all the atrocities that his family suffered at the time of the Cuban Revolution.
A story similar to his is shared by many people who suffered the loss of loved ones, property or even the possibility of leaving their own country. In light of these experiences, we can see why the Cuban community in the diaspora was celebrating the death of Castro.
Meanwhile, in Cuba itself, it seems there were different reactions. I think there was a generation of people who were very supportive of Fidel Castro, but you get the impression from the reports that those of the younger generation are more indifferent to his death. It appears Fidel did not loom as large in their lives as he had in the lives of their parents. But his death does not cease to be a very symbolic moment, because in the last couple of years there have been great efforts, particularly those that were initiated by Pope Francis, to “open the world to Cuba and open Cuba to the world,” as Pope John Paul II said. The renewing of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States was a very important step forward. Hopefully, the passing of Fidel, together with the announcement that Raúl has said he intends to step down in a year or so, will truly mark a new beginning for the Cuban people and, hopefully, move them closer to the democracy and freedom that everyone is desirous of.
The fact that more and more Cubans are able to visit their families on the island has been a very important development in the last couple of years, but so much more needs to be done so that the hopes that people have for freedom and for prosperity will be realized.
I think that in this moment in history, we need to pray for the Cuban people. We should pray particularly that, as the transition continues, it not be marked by violence, but is one that will be marked by peaceful developments of greater freedom, movement towards democracy and religious freedom for the Cuban people.
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On Monday, I was visited by the founder of the Missionary Servants of The Word, Father Luis Butera. He came to visit me with Sister Belinda and her provincial along with Father Michael Harrington.
Father Luis is certainly a very charismatic figure in the life of the Church. He has founded a religious community that has about 500 members, counting both priests and sisters. It is a community that is very much focused on evangelization and training lay leaders to be evangelizers and to root their lives deeply in the word of God.
We are very grateful that the sisters are present here in our archdiocese. In fact, they are working here at the Cathedral Parish and do a wonderful job preparing our people for lay ministry and the many other apostolates they contribute to at the Cathedral the Holy Cross.
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On Tuesday, we had our fall convocation for priests of the archdiocese at St. Julia’s in Weston.
In the past, we had held a convocation only in the spring, but last year we added a fall meeting, as well, and it was so popular that we decided to repeat the practice this year.
At this convocation, we concentrated mainly on the survey that has been done of Catholics in the archdiocese. It was also an opportunity for other reports on the plans going forward for our pastoral plan, Disciples in Mission.
In my talk to the priests, I focused on Cardinal Martini’s book on how the five priorities of Jesus affected how Jesus managed his time. I also spoke about my own experience with parish priests, both in my life and the life of my family.
There was a great turnout for the event and I was so happy that so many priests were able to join us, including Father Frank Daly, who has returned to ministry after many years of absence with permission and will be receiving an assignment soon. We were also happy that Father Paul Hurley, the Chief of Chaplains of the U.S. Army, was able to be with us. We are very proud of the work that Father Paul and all of our chaplains do on behalf of our men and women of the Armed Services.
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Also with us at the convocation was my friend, Father Emilio Biosca, who was in Boston visiting this week.
Father Emilio is a Capuchin missionary, whom I ordained and who spent many years working in Papua New Guinea. For about the last 10 years he has been stationed in Cuba, where he works with two Brazilian Friars in a thriving parish in the city of Manzanillo — they have about 150 people in their RCIA program.
His parents were Cuban immigrants who came to Washington and his father, who is a dentist, helped me set up the dental clinic at the Spanish Catholic Center. I have always been very close to Emilio, his sisters (one of whom is a Poor Clare nun) and his parents, so it was a great joy to have him visit for a couple of days and catch up.
He was delighted to be able to accompany me to the convocation, where he had an opportunity to speak with a number of our priests. Many of them were interested to learn about the situation of the Church in Cuba.
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That evening, because it was the vigil of the Feast of St. Andrew, Father Emilio accompanied me to the Vespers Service at the Greek Orthodox Metropolis to celebrate their patronal feast day. Also with us were Father David Michael and Vito Nicastro of our Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
The custom of exchanging delegations between Rome and Constantinople on the feast of our patron saints dates back to the pontificate of St. John Paul II, and for 20 years we have observed a similar tradition here in Boston. I visit the Greek Orthodox Metropolis on the Feast of St. Andrew, and the Metropolitan attends our celebration of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
In fact, last June, Metropolitan Methodios was the representative of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I at the celebration of the feast of St. Peter and Paul in Rome. The Metropolitan spoke about that experience in his address during the Vespers Service.
I was pleased to see a number of people at the Vespers Service who accompanied us several years ago on our Catholic-Orthodox ecumenical pilgrimage to Rome, Constantinople and St. Petersburg, Russia.
During our visit, Metropolitan Methodios presented me with a portrait of me that he had commissioned. It was made from a photograph.
I was very touched by the gesture, which is just another sign of the mutual regard and affection that exists between the Metropolitan and myself and the Orthodox and Roman Catholic communities of Boston. We continue to pray for the day when the unity between our Churches will be fully realized, in accordance with Christ’s ardent desire.
Until next week,