Hello and welcome,
I want to begin this week saying that we are all very saddened by the renewed violence and the terrible loss of life suffered in the attacks at the airport in Istanbul, Turkey this week. This terrible attack comes only a week after the new Apostolic Nuncio to Turkey, Archbishop Paul Russell who is from Boston, arrived at that very airport.
We must all continue to pray for peace and try to encourage those people whose lives are being threatened by terrorism, hatred and sectarianism. The message of Pope Francis has always been one of reconciliation, mercy and bridge building. This is what the world needs if we are going to have a true and lasting peace.
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This week I have been in Portugal, where the bishops asked me to be part of a theological symposium on the gift of life that they were holding as part of their year of preparations for the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, which will take place on May 13, 2017.
I was accompanied on the trip by Bishop Donald Lippert, OFM Cap., who is the Bishop of Mendi in Papua New Guinea. He is on home leave for a couple of weeks, so he came to Fatima with me.
I celebrated Mass at the Basilica of the Fatima Shrine on Sunday morning.
The new basilica is very beautiful. There is a huge crucifix and, behind it, you see the mosaic of the lamb. This mosaic, along with the mosaics on the front of the church, was created by the famous Jesuit artist, Father Marko Rupnik.
By the main entrance, the panels are dedicated to the mysteries of the rosary. Outside there are large statues of Pope Paul VI, who was the first pope to visit Fatima, and Pope John Paul II.
The Mass was very well attended. The Basilica can hold about 10,000 people at capacity, and though this was just a regular Sunday Mass, there were still several thousand people in attendance — and, of course, this was only one of several Masses being celebrated that day. Truly, the numbers of those who visit Fatima are impressive.
Following the Mass, we went to the symposium where I gave one of the keynote addresses entitled “The Church at the service of life in abundance.” Bishop António Marto of Leiria-Fátima and Father Carlos Cabecinhas, the rector of the shrine, were with me on the stage.
At the same time the symposium was going on, there was also a Bible conference sponsored by the Capuchin order. The Capuchins in Portugal have a very strong commitment to biblical studies and spirituality. So, every year they have a very large Congress on Sacred Scripture. In fact, when I was in Fall River they would send men to give Bible courses and speak on the Portuguese language television station there.
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Following the conference in Fatima, we traveled to Lisbon where I was asked to give a speech at the Catholic University of Portugal. It was part of a conference on Pope Francis and the challenges of the Church today.
The Catholic University was founded after the Portuguese Revolution, and the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon at the time was Dom António Ribeiro. He reached out to Cardinal Medeiros, who started the Association for the Development of the Catholic University of Portugal, also known as ADCUP, which was a group of U.S. supporters of the Catholic University. Portuguese-Americans from Fall River, Providence, Boston and the whole area attended annual fundraisers for many years to support the University.
Today, the Catholic University is perhaps the finest university in Portugal. They have several different campuses throughout the country and have even helped to establish Catholic universities in mission countries, as well. I know they remain very, very grateful for all the help they received from those in the United States, and particularly from the people of Boston and Fall River. In fact, the main auditorium at the University is dedicated to Cardinal Medeiros as an expression of that gratitude.
As I have mentioned in the past, the president of the university, Dr. Maria da Glória Garcia, had visited Boston with a group from the administration and faculty of the Catholic University of Portugal. Their tour of the United States was not so much to raise money, but to thank the Portuguese-American community for their support in the past, and to invite them to consider sending their children to the University to study. I think this is a wonderful idea, given how expensive higher education is in the States and the wonderful reputation that the Catholic University of Portugal has. Of course, there is also the added benefit of giving Portuguese-American children an opportunity to perfect their mastery of the language.
At the conference I gave about an hour talk on the ministry of the Holy Father.
I was very impressed that for an afternoon lecture, at a time when the University is already on break for the summer, there were over 600 people in attendance. In fact, the nuncio, the Patriarch of Lisbon, a number of the Portuguese bishops, and the U.S. Ambassador were all there. I have to say I was “blown away”. Before I arrived I thought I was going to deliver talk to about 50 people in a classroom!
After my talk, there was a ceremony at which the President of the Portuguese Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, presented me with the Grand Cross of Prince Henry the Navigator, one of the highest awards the government of Portugal can bestow.
I was very honored and, as I said at the ceremony, I accepted it in the name of all those Luso-Americans who have enriched my life as a priest and as a bishop.
Following the ceremony there was a reception at which I saw a number of good friends. Among them was Deacon João Costello who was the deacon at my Portuguese parish in Washington. Much of his family lives in Stoughton, Mass. and are parishioners at Immaculate Conception Parish.
I also had lunch with some young Portuguese Jesuits, among them was Deacon Bruno Nobre who works at St. Anthony’s Parish in Cambridge and is being ordained a priest next Saturday. We were joined by another deacon and a young Jesuit priest who had both worked at parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston, as well.
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Every time I’m in Lisbon I’m very impressed by the statue of Christ the King across the river from Lisbon. The statue was constructed in thanksgiving that Portugal was not drawn into World War II. It is one of the largest statues of Christ in the world and, as you may be able to tell, is inspired by the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.
Here are a couple different views. One by day, and another by night.
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Finally, I want to mention a couple of events that took place in the archdiocese this week.
This Thursday we welcomed to the Pastoral Center 14 priests from Africa, all members of the Society of African Missions (SMA), who have come to the Archdiocese of Boston to assist at our parishes during July and August.
The SMA was founded in France more than 150 years ago and the American Province was established in the 1940’s, including a seminary opened in Dedham at that time. The Society now continues the long-standing relationship with the Archdiocese through their Pastoral House in Dedham and by way of bringing the universal church together in our parishes. We are very grateful for the SMA priests’ generous service during the coming months and pray that the pastoral experience will be enriching for both them and the parishioners they serve. Also, I wish to express my gratitude to Father Paul Clifford, pastor of St. Francis Parish in Braintree, for his many efforts in support of this good work with the SMA Fathers.
And I want to end this week with a word of thanks to Father Rodney Copp, who is ending his tenure as the director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the Archdiocese of Boston, which includes the Propagation of the Faith. We have a wonderful tradition in Boston of being very supportive of the missions and one of the largest Propagation offices in United States. The people of Boston have been very supportive of the missions.
The many activities of the Society for the Propagation of Faith, the Missionary Childhood Association, the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious, and the Society of St. Peter Apostle are all coordinated by the office he has headed for several years, but he will now return to serving at his parish of St. Gerard in Canton.
We are so grateful to the incoming director, Msgr. William Fay, who in addition to his responsibilities as Director of Campus Ministry, is taking on this important work in support of the Church’s missionary efforts.
Have a blessed and safe Independence Day!
Until next week,