Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán shares his reflections & experiences.

Archive for 2013/09/13


Praying for peace in Syria

Last week, I visited Bridgewater State Hospital, part of the prison system of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, to celebrate Confirmations in Spanish. We celebrated Mass in the gymnasium for about 200 men and they decorated the altar with collages the men had made. 1

We are so grateful to the chaplain there, Peggy Newman for all the good work she is doing.

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Also last week, John and Ginny Kaneb sponsored a reception to support the Clergy Funds at their home in Manchester by the Sea. It was a lovely afternoon to be gathered by the ocean.Photo_20130905_1820009

John Kaneb, Joe D’Arrigo, Monsignor Dennis Sheehan and I addressed the many benefactors and potential benefactors who were in attendance.Photo_20130905_1819548

We are very grateful for the work of the Clergy Funds and look forward to the upcoming Celebration of the Priesthood Dinner that will be held September 26 at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston. I encourage you all to attend and support our priests through sharing in this special evening.

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Anna Baione has worked for over 30 years at the Cathedral in a number of different capacities and is now retiring. So, on Saturday we had a retirement gathering for her and a number of her friends and relatives were able to join us.

Photo_20130907_10242413It was a lovely tribute to a great woman who has served the Cathedral community so faithfully for so many years. She will be sorely missed.Photo_20130907_10044811

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And speaking of the Cathedral, I thought I’d share this photo with you: Photo_20130908_09485214

We had a surprise visit from Pope Francis and Father Kevin O’Leary greeted him in the vestibule of the Cathedral near the gift shop!

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On Saturday afternoon, I celebrated the Mass to conclude the five-hour vigil for peace in Syria and the Middle East that was held at the St. John’s Seminary.Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley celebrates Mass Sept. 7, 2013 to conclude a 5-hour prayer vigil for peace at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass. The vigil was held in response to Pope Francis’s call for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and the Middle East.
Pilot photo/ Christopher S. Pineo  
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley celebrates Mass Sept. 7, 2013 to conclude a 5-hour prayer vigil for peace at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass. The vigil was held in response to Pope Francis’s call for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and the Middle East.
Pilot photo/ Christopher S. Pineo  
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley celebrates Mass Sept. 7, 2013 to conclude a 5-hour prayer vigil for peace at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass. The vigil was held in response to Pope Francis’s call for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and the Middle East.
Pilot photo/ Christopher S. Pineo  
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley celebrates Mass Sept. 7, 2013 to conclude a 5-hour prayer vigil for peace at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass. The vigil was held in response to Pope Francis’s call for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and the Middle East.
Pilot photo/ Christopher S. Pineo

The vigil was held in response to the Holy Father’s call for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, the region and the world.

We are very grateful to the many people who came to join us.Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley celebrates Mass Sept. 7, 2013 to conclude a 5-hour prayer vigil for peace at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass. The vigil was held in response to Pope Francis’s call for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and the Middle East.
Pilot photo/ Christopher S. Pineo  
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley celebrates Mass Sept. 7, 2013 to conclude a 5-hour prayer vigil for peace at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass. The vigil was held in response to Pope Francis’s call for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and the Middle East.
Pilot photo/ Christopher S. Pineo  
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley celebrates Mass Sept. 7, 2013 to conclude a 5-hour prayer vigil for peace at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass. The vigil was held in response to Pope Francis’s call for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and the Middle East.
Pilot photo/ Christopher S. Pineo

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley celebrates Mass Sept. 7, 2013 to conclude a 5-hour prayer vigil for peace at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass. The vigil was held in response to Pope Francis’s call for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and the Middle East.
Pilot photo/ Christopher S. Pineo  
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley celebrates Mass Sept. 7, 2013 to conclude a 5-hour prayer vigil for peace at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass. The vigil was held in response to Pope Francis’s call for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and the Middle East.
Pilot photo/ Christopher S. Pineo  
During the closing Mass of the vigil, I read the letter sent to the president by Cardinal Timothy Doan and Bishop Richard E. Pates on the situation.

September 4, 2013

President Barack Obama

The White House

Washington, DC 20270

Mr. President:

As our nation contemplates military action in Syria, we want to assure you and your Administration of our prayers. We know that the situation in Syria is complex and appreciate the patience and restraint that your Administration has exercised to date. We affirm your decision to invite public dialogue and Congressional review of any possible military action, and want to contribute to that discussion from our perspective as Catholic pastors and teachers.

We join you in your absolute condemnation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. These indiscriminate weapons have no place in the arsenals of the family of nations. With you we mourn for the lives lost and grieve with the families of the deceased. At the same time, we remain profoundly concerned for the more than 100,000 Syrians who have lost their lives, the more than 2 million who have fled the country as refugees, and the more than 4 million within Syria who have been driven from their homes by the violence. Our focus is on the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Syria and on saving lives by ending the conflict, not fueling it.

We have heard the urgent calls of the Successor of Saint Peter, Pope Francis, and our suffering brother bishops of the venerable and ancient Christian communities of the Middle East. As one, they beg the international community not to resort to military intervention in Syria. They have made it clear that a military attack will be counterproductive, will exacerbate an already deadly situation, and will have unintended negative consequences. Their concerns find a strong resonance in American public opinion that questions the wisdom of intervention and in the lack of international consensus.

We make our own the appeal of Pope Francis: “I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people. May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries.”

The longstanding position of our Conference of Bishops is that the Syrian people urgently need a political solution. We ask the United States to work urgently and tirelessly with other governments to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities.

Please be assured of our prayers as your Administration faces the complex challenges and humanitarian catastrophe that have engulfed Syria.

Sincerely yours,

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Most Reverend Richard E. Pates
Bishop of Des Moines
Chair, Committee on International Justice and Peace

As of today, it seems that our prayers are being answered, with new non-military solutions being pursued in Syria. We continue to pray that all involved will continue to work together to bring peace and stability that part of the world.

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On Sunday, I went to Sacred Heart Church in Newton to preside at Mass during which three young women entered the novitiate of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth, a new community founded to follow the spirituality of Charles de Foucault.

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We were very happy to see the large number of people and priests who turned out to support the women on this important moment in their lives. 20

About 20 priests concelebrated the Mass212224

We commend Mother Olga for all she has done. We were also very glad to welcome Father Robert McCreary, who has been so helpful in preparing the sisters and in working with them on their foundational documents.25

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Each year, about 300 of the financial directors of dioceses throughout the United States gather in a different city for the Diocesan Financial Management Conference. This year, we were very happy to host them in Boston for their conference, which was held from Sunday through Wednesday. Kevin Kiley and a number of other people from our Finance Office and the Parish Services Office represented us there.

On Sunday, I delivered the keynote address to open their conference.

We are very grateful for their dedication and the sense of mission they have in their important role of helping us use the material resources of the Church in the service of evangelization.

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Finally, for several day this week, I was in Washington D.C. to attend a meetings of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Administrative Committee and the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

At Pro-Life Committee we reviewed our plans for Respect Life Month, heard reports on the Pro-Life Congresso in Texas (that I mentioned last month), and spoke about the mission of promoting adoption in our culture. Photo_20130910_0915301

There was also considerable discussion about the HHS mandate, particularly the implications for conscience rights in Catholic health care facilities.

Among the items we discussed in the Administrative Committee was the ongoing situation in Syria and issued the following statement:

Administrative Committee
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
September 10, 2013

The Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is gathered for its September 2013 meeting in Washington, DC, just three miles away from the Capitol where Congress is debating a resolution to authorize the use of military force in Syria. Today we prayed for our nations’ leaders and for the Church and people of Syria. Having just participated, with our people, in the Holy Father’s Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace in Syria, the Middle East and the world on September 7, we commit ourselves to continued prayer and action for peace in the days ahead.

As our nation contemplates military intervention, we stand in solidarity with the Church and people of Syria, and with our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and the bishops of the Middle East. We affirm the actions and messages of our President, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and the Chairman of our Committee on International Justice and Peace, Bishop Richard E. Pates, and now add our own collective voice to theirs in the national debate.

Chemical weapons have no place in the arsenals of the family of nations. There is no doubt that the use of chemical weapons in Syria was a heinous crime against humanity. As Pope Francis declared: “With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which are inescapable!”

Tragically, the deaths from chemical weapons are only part of the grievous story of Syria these days. More than 100,000 Syrians have lost their lives. More than 2 million have fled the country as refugees. More than 4 million within Syria have been driven from their homes by violence. A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Syria. We call upon our nation and the international community to save lives by pressing for serious dialogue to end the conflict, by refraining from fueling further violence with military attacks or arms transfers, and by offering more humanitarian assistance.

We have heard the urgent calls of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and our suffering brother bishops of the venerable and ancient Christian Churches of the Middle East.  As one, they beg the international community not to resort to military intervention in Syria. They have made it clear that a military attack will be counterproductive, will exacerbate an already deadly situation, and will have unintended negative consequences. Their concerns strongly resonate in American public opinion that questions the wisdom of intervention and in the lack of international support.

We recall a decade ago when the Holy See and the Church in the Middle East urgently warned of the “unpredictable” and “grave” consequences of a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, concerns we shared with our government. Although Syria is not Iraq and the resolution before Congress calls for a limited strike, not an invasion, the warnings we are hearing from the Holy See and local bishops of the region are similar; they question the probability of success of the use of military force in shortening the conflict and saving lives. We are also aware of the heavy burden already borne by the military and their families.

For this reason, we make our own the appeal of Pope Francis: “I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people. May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries."

The Congressional resolution acknowledges that “the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement.” Instead of employing armed force, our nation should work with the international community and direct all of its considerable diplomatic capabilities to initiate dialogue and negotiation. The use of force is always a last resort, and it should only be employed by legitimate authority in accordance with international norms. The lack of international and domestic consensus in this case is deeply troubling. Recent international proposals to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons deserve serious consideration, evaluation and encouragement.

We affirm the longstanding position of our Conference of Bishops that the Syrian people urgently need a political solution. We ask the United States to work with other governments to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities.

As Congress struggles with the complex challenges and humanitarian catastrophe that have engulfed Syria, we offer the voice of the Universal Church and our prayers for peace.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán