Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán shares his reflections & experiences.

Archive for 2009/01/23


World Meeting of Families and the March for Life

Welcome!

This has been a busy week with quite a lot of traveling.

Last weekend, I participated at the Sixth World Meeting of Families in Mexico City and then flew to Washington, D.C. Wednesday for the March for Life.

The World Meeting of Families took place in a very modern convention center in Santa Fe — which is a new area of Mexico City. More than 10,000 participants from all over the world, including 300 bishops and cardinals, attended the Meeting of Families, which was organized by the Holy See.

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The exhibition hall where there are various booths set up, all involving groups and Ecclesial movements that are connected with supporting the family

Cardinal Tarsicio Bertone represented the Holy Father at the event.

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Cardinal Bertone

This Conference was Cardinal Antonelli’s first as the new Prefect of the Pontifical Council for the Family. He replaced Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo who passed away last spring, and who did an outstanding job particularly in promoting the Gospel of Life.

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Cardinal Antonelli greeting Cardinal Rivera of Mexico City

Being in Mexico, I had an opportunity to see many wonderful pro-life leaders again, like Leonardo and Marta Casco from Tegucigalpa. I met Leonardo and Marta in Washington, D.C. many years ago when Leo was studying law at Georgetown. I baptized their first child, and they used to come to the Spanish Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral. Martha and Leo are both very involved in the pro-life movement in Honduras and were invited to participate in the Politics and Law round table discussion at the conference.

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I also met Sister Josephine and Sister Nieves there , both Sister Disciples of the Divine Master who have been in the Archdiocese of Boston for years, who also happened to be in Mexico City this week. Sister Josephine is the superior of the house on West St. in downtown Boston, and Sister Nieves, who used to be on West St., is now serving as the Provincial for the Order and lives on Staten Island.

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It was a very important event to energize all of those working in family life ministry and in pro-life offices throughout the world.

I gave one of the talks on Friday morning during the Lectio Divina, meditating on the Gospel of the Good Samaritan.

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Right after that talk I was interviewed in Spanish by Eduardo Martinez of TV Arautos.

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On Saturday, we had a very moving vigil service at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe — it was the most beautiful testimony I have ever heard from families throughout the world.

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Inside the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Then we had the closing Mass on Sunday morning. We had a huge crowd of people outside of the basilica and we received a message from the Holy Father and received his blessing at the end of the Mass. It was then announced that the next conference will be held in Milan in 3 years.

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On Monday, we went to bless the new building dedicated to San Juan Diego at the Seminario Hispano, a seminary sponsored by the Archdiocese of Mexico City, to supply priests to work with the Hispanic population in the United States.

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Also, we went to visit the Capuchins Poor Clare, the “Capuchinas,” at their very famous monastery designed by Luis Barragan — one of the most outstanding Mexican architects.

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One night, we celebrated Mass at the Iglesia de San Josemaria Escriva. The church is magnificent, and was designed by an architect in Spain to resemble praying hands.

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We were joined by an archbishop, a bishop and four priests — all from Nigeria. A group of pilgrims from Nigeria attended the Mass, and they sang beautifully. It was a wonderful celebration, and showed how universal the Church is.

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The Chapel is run by the priests and laypeople of Opus Dei. In the sanctuary they had a stunning painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as well as an original painting of St. Josemaria by artist Martha Orozco.

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We also had another wonderful celebration of the Mass at a brand new, very modern, chapel next to the Convention Center with the group from Valencia, Spain. The Cardinal of Valencia, Agustin Garcia Gasco was there as well as the Bishop of Murcia, Juan Antonio Reig. Following the Mass, we all had lunch togather.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, one of the more comic experiences for me was that, all throughout the week, people kept on asking for my autograph and telling me how much they enjoyed my books, because they all thought I was Father Raniero Cantalamessa!

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From Mexico City we had planned to fly to Washington on Tuesday, but our flight was canceled due to mechanical problems, so we had to stay an extra night in Mexico City. Fortunately, however, I was still able to arrive in time to participate at the traditional Vigil Mass that takes place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception the evening before the March for Life.

The Basilica was, of course, very, very crowded for the vigil. The procession of seminarians, priests and bishops took about 20 minutes to get us all into the basilica.

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Thursday morning we were supposed to go to the Verizon Center for a pre-march rally and Mass with the youth, but by 7:30 it was already filled.

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So the Boston group was unable to get in. We had over 100 seminarians there from Boston as well as several bus loads of young people from parishes but our group couldn’t get in. So we went to nearby Holy Rosary Parish and had Mass for them there.

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Afterwards, I met the Blessed John XXIII seminarians for lunch, and then went to the march. We had a beautiful day for it. People were very enthusiastic.

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Nellie Gray, founder of the March for Life

The rally on the National Mall ended with Cardinal Justin Rigali — the chairman of the USCCB’s pro-life committee — introducing the bishops who were there. Then Bishop Knestout, the new auxiliary of Washington, concluded with a prayer.

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Then we marched to the Supreme Court, there was a huge crowd.

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As I mentioned, one of the measuring sticks of the attendance was how quickly they had to start turning people away from the Verizon Center. The 23,000 seat arena was already filled at 7:30 in the morning to attend the 10 a.m. Mass!

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At the march, we did not get a call from the president this year. We were all praying for that miracle, but that didn’t happen.

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Everyone is praying that the new administration will come to realize how important the pro-life cause is, and will begin to understand the obligations of government to protect the most vulnerable of our society, especially the unborn.

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As our young people and seminarians were traveling by bus to the March, thousands of Catholics across the archdiocese were attending “Holy Hours for Life” at their local parishes. A total of 188 parishes joined in this prayer effort that was sponsored by the newly established “Boston Deacons For Life” in collaboration with the Office of Clergy Support and Ongoing Formation, and the Pro-Life Office.

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Deacon Kenneth Ryan from Sacred Heart Parish in Weymouth

It was wonderful that so many people, especially the elderly and parents with young children who were unable to go to Washington, were truly united together as a Church in prayer for respect for the dignity of human life from conception to natural death, for those who have been wounded by abortion, and that those who govern us may be guided by justice, truth, and a love for the gift of life. Services were conducted in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole and Polish.

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Deacon Robert Breen from St Joseph Parish in Medford kneeling in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament

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Parishioners at St. John the Baptist in Quincy praying

I am deeply grateful to the “Boston Deacons for Life” who have committed themselves to study more fully the many facets of the Gospel and Life and preach the truth of the dignity of the human person in their parishes. These deacons and their wives have already participated in two training sessions and will be attending another in February on end of life issues. The deacons have also offered to serve as spiritual advisors to their parish pro-life committees.

Until my next post,

Cardinal Seán