The media reports on the situation of the Church in Europe and on the Holy Father have been very disturbing to all faithful Catholics. We are saddened by much of the news and also saddened knowing that victims of sexual abuse in our own community are, in a sense, re-victimized every time this issue comes to the fore.
Since being named Bishop of Fall River in 1992 and subsequently as Bishop of Palm Beach and Archbishop of Boston, I have had the painful but privileged opportunity to meet with hundreds of survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their loved ones. During the course of Pope Benedict’s visit to the United States in 2008, at a meeting with survivors from the Archdiocese of Boston, I presented the Holy Father a book inscribed with the first names of 1500 children who had been sexually abused by clergy and shared that the names marked with a gold cross were children who had died under tragic circumstances. The Holy Father was visibly moved as he read the names.
There is much confusion and misinformation about the Holy Father’s historic role in dealing with the problem of sexual abuse of children by clergy. What is very clear to me — and I think to all who are fair-minded — is that Cardinal Ratzinger and later Pope Benedict has been dedicated to eradicating sexual abuse in the Church and trying to rectify the mistakes of the past. Until the sexual abuse crisis really became part of the consciousness of the Church in Europe, there were many who were unsympathetic to our efforts in the U.S. to deal with the problem in a transparent way and assure that our Catholic schools, parishes and agencies would be safe for children.
During this period of at least a decade, the strongest ally we had in this effort was Cardinal Ratzinger. As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he allowed us to move forward with the Essential Norms which became local Church law in the U.S. and facilitated the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
The Norms allowed for mandated reporting to civil authorities and embraced a zero-tolerance policy for abusers. In addition, the Charter called for abuse prevention training that has been attended by literally millions of Catholics. It also requires yearly public audits to ensure that dioceses are in compliance with these requirements.
During this Holy Season I urge all of our Catholics to pray for the survivors and all who have been impacted by the tragedy of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy. I also hold in my prayers and ask us all to pray for those persons for whom this crisis has been an obstacle to the continued practice of their faith. Let us pray, too, for our Holy Father, that God will grant him the light and wisdom he needs to guide the Church. And during this Year for Priests, let us pray for our priests, who labor quietly everyday doing the good works of the Lord.
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Last Friday, I went to St. Michael’s in North Andover for the tenth in our series of vicariate dinners with the priests. It is a way that we’re celebrating the Year for Priests and an opportunity for me to get together with the priests in an informal setting.
St. Michael’s is an extraordinary parish. The team ministry there of Fathers John Delaney, Paul Keyes and Jerry Hogan is doing a fantastic job.
They invited me to see the Stations of the Cross that the young people were putting on. It was a beautifully artistic presentation using screens and lights so that people would see the silhouettes of the different scenes of the 14 stations.
They do this every Friday during Lent, and different classes from the school participate. The church was full of people. It was a very beautiful and moving experience.
Father Jerry is the chaplain for the circus and his office is full of photos and circus paraphernalia.
I really got a kick of the photo of him presenting a sequined top hat to Pope John Paul II.
A photo of the hat presented to the pope
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On Saturday, members of the Brazilian Apostolate media team in the archdiocese came for a visit.
With the Brazilian Apostolate Media team, Hercules Werneck, Sebastião Alcântra and Ricardo Garcia
They asked me to tape this Easter greeting that will be posted on their web site and also an invitation to the Brazilian community to join us again this year for a celebration of Confirmations at the Cathedral.
It was a fascinating to learn about how these lay volunteers are using the Internet to evangelize in such an effective way. I was impressed to learn that their site is popular, not just here in Massachusetts, but also in Brazil!
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That afternoon, I had confirmations for our college and university students at the Cathedral.
Each year, we gather in the Cathedral with university students from the various campus ministries who, during the course of the year, have been preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation. It’s always an extraordinary moment.
This year we had 40 students from several schools including Bentley, Boston University, Bridgewater State, Emmanuel College, Harvard, MIT, UMass-Boston, UMass-Lowell, Salem State, Northeastern and Wellesley.
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I celebrated Palm Sunday at St. Paul Parish in Cambridge. We began with the Blessing of the Palms and procession followed by a very beautiful Mass.
Of course, the music was wonderful.
Father Michael Drea is doing a wonderful job there
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Later that day, I was invited by the Franciscan friars at St. Anthony Shrine on Arch Street for vespers and dinner.
They were very pleased to show me the renovations to their friary chapel, including this beautiful San Damiano cross and painting of the Holy Family by artist Gordon Daugherty.
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Monday, I celebrated an Incardination Mass for Father Christopher Gomes.
Father Gomes, after a period of discernment, has been incardinated into the archdiocese. We had a very nice Mass at the rectory chapel.
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On Tuesday, I celebrated the annual Chrism Mass at the Cathedral.
The Chrism Mass is a very important sign of unity in the Church where we bless the sacred oils that will be used for the sacraments in the coming year.
It is also a day to gather together with our brother priests and bishops for a day a fraternity.
During my opening remarks I spoke about the important sign of the Chrism Mass and asked our guest, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Methodios, to say a few words.
I was also happy to announce that, earlier in the week, we had hung a galero in the cathedral in memory of Cardinal Humberto Medeiros. The galero is the “red hat” with tassels cardinals received years ago from the Holy Father. Tradition says that when the galero falls from the ceiling, the cardinal has entered into heaven.
You can hear my comments and the comments of Metropolitan Methodios here:
In my homily I spoke about the challenges facing the Church today and the need for holy priests.
And then, of course, there was the blessing of the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens and the Chrism Oil, from which the Mass draws its name.
Following Mass, as we always do, we continued the day of fraternity by sharing a lunch together.
During the Mass we had an excellent talk by Father John Connelly of Sacred Heart in Newton.
With Father Connelly
Father Bill Kelly, who after many years is moving on from his assignment as director of Clergy Support and Ongoing Formation, did a wonderful job organizing the day and luncheon. We wish Father Bill well in his new assignment as pastor of St. Mary in Dedham.
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As you know, every Wednesday during Lent this year, confession was available in every church across the archdiocese as part of our “The Light is on For You” initiative. This past Wednesday at the Cathedral, I was one of three priests hearing confessions.
That was followed by our celebration of Tenebrae, which is celebrated at the Cathedral on Spy Wednesday. The celebration consists of readings telling the story of Jesus’ betrayal and death. With each reading, a candle on a large candelabra, called a hearse, is extinguished. The service ends in total darkness.
In fact, the office is for Holy Thursday and it is something of an initiation into the Sacred Triduum, the three holiest days of the year in which we commemorate the Paschal Mystery — the Last Supper, Crucifixion and Death of our Lord, and his glorious Resurrection on Easter day.
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Finally, remember that all the collections taken up at parishes this Easter to go benefit our retired priests.
I invite you to watch this video highlighting the importance of this effort and please be generous to those who have been so generous in giving their lives in the service of God’s people.
I wish you a blessed Triduum and Easter!