Category Archives: Church (ecclesiology)

Pallium Mass 2010: a guarantee of freedom, charity and unity, the Pope reminds

Though they suffered on different days, Saints Peter and Paul are known as one, as Saint Augustine reminds.

In first hearing and then reading the papal homily I noticed some very crucial points for us to reflect upon and to seriously consider: the real persecution of the Church today and the impact on Catholic identity exists not exclusively from outside the Church (a theme the pope has stated before now) but from the faithful’s betrayal of the faith, of Truth. When secularism, not to be confused with secularity, infiltrates the Church the true message of the Gospel is obscured and our hearts are darkened.

As usual on today’s solemn feast of Peter and Paul, Pope Benedict bestowed the pallium, the symbol of theological, juridical and fraternal communion between the pope and a bishop. It is also a symbol of the “fullness of charity and unity.” In seeing the pallium we see, as Benedict says, a symbol of “the guarantee of freedom for the Church’s Pastors and the Communities.” Today, 38 archbishops from around the world received the pallium, including three archbishops from the USA and one from Canada. 

The Pope’s exhortation and prayer upon giving the pallium:

To the glory of God and the praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the apostles Peter and Paul, and of the Holy Roman Church, for the honor of the Churches, which have been placed in your care, and as a symbol of your authority as metropolitan archbishop: We confer on you the pallium taken from the tomb of Peter to wear within the limits of your ecclesiastical provinces.

And then

May this pallium be a symbol of unity and a sign of your communion with the Apostolic See, a bond of love, and an incentive to courage. On the day of the coming and manifestation of our great God and chief shepherd, Jesus Christ, may you and the flock entrusted to you be clothed with immortality and glory. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Below is Benedict’s homily for today’s Mass (with my own points of emphasis).

Sts Peter & Paul Greco.jpg

The biblical
texts of this Eucharistic Liturgy of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, in
their great wealth, highlight a theme that could be summarized thus: God is
close to his faithful servants and frees them from all evil, and frees the
Church from negative powers. It is the theme of the freedom of the Church,
which has a historical aspect and another more deeply spiritual one

This theme
runs through today’s Liturgy of the Word. The first and second readings speak,
respectively, of St Peter and St Paul, emphasizing precisely the liberating
action of God in them. Especially the text from the Acts of the Apostles
describes in abundant detail the intervention of the Angel of the Lord, who
releases Peter from the chains and leads him outside the prison in Jerusalem,
where he had been locked up, under close supervision, by King Herod (cf. at
12.1 to 11). Paul, however, writing to Timothy when he feels close to the end
of his earthly life, takes stock which shows that the Lord was always near him
and freed him from many dangers and frees him still by introducing him into His
eternal Kingdom (see 2 Tim 4, 6-8.17-18). The theme is reinforced by the
Responsorial Psalm (Ps 33), and also finds a particular development in the
Gospel of Peter’s confession, where Christ promises that the powers of hell
shall not prevail against his Church (cf. Mt 16:18).

Observing closely we note
a certain progression regarding this issue. In the first reading a specific
episode is narrated that shows the Lord’s intervention to free Peter from
prison. In the second Paul, on the basis of his extraordinary apostolic
experience, is convinced that the Lord, who already freed him “from the
mouth of the lion “delivers him” from all evil”, by opening the
doors of Heaven to him. In the Gospel we no longer speak of the individual
Apostles, but the Church as a whole and its safekeeping from the forces of
evil, in the widest and most profound sense. Thus we see that the promise of
Jesus – “the powers of hell shall not prevail” on the Church – yes,
includes the historical experience of persecution suffered by Peter and Paul
and other witnesses of the Gospel, but it goes further, wanting to protect
especially against threats of a spiritual order, as Paul himself writes in his
Letter to the Ephesians: ” For our struggle is not with flesh and blood
but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this
present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens”(Eph 6:12).


if we think of the two millennia of Church history, we can see that – as the
Lord Jesus had announced (cf. Mt 10.16-33) – Christians have never been lacking
in trials, which in some periods and places have assumed the character of real
persecution. These, however, despite the suffering they cause, are not the
greatest danger for the Church.
In fact it suffers greatest damage from what
pollutes the Christian faith and life of its members and its communities,
eroding the integrity of the Mystical Body, weakening its ability to prophesy
and witness, tarnishing the beauty of its face
. This reality is already
attested in the Pauline Epistle. The First Epistle to the Corinthians, for
example, responds to some problems of divisions, inconsistencies, of infidelity
to the Gospel which seriously threaten the Church. But the Second Letter to
Timothy – of which we heard an excerpt – speaks about the dangers of the
“last days”, identifying them with negative attitudes that belong to
the world and can infect the Christian community: selfishness, vanity, pride,
love of money, etc. (cf. 3.1 to 5). The Apostle’s conclusion is reassuring: men
who do wrong – he writes – “will not make further progress, for their
foolishness will be plain to all” (3.9). There is therefore a guarantee of
freedom promised by God to the Church
, it is freedom from the material bonds
that seek to prevent or coerce mission, both through spiritual and moral evils,
which may affect its authenticity and credibility

Thomas G Wenski pallium 2010.jpg

The theme of the freedom of
the Church, guaranteed by Christ to Peter, also has a specific relevance to the
rite of the imposition of the pallium, which we renew today for thirty-eight
metropolitan archbishops, to whom I address my most cordial greeting, extending
with it affection to all who have wanted to accompany them on this pilgrimage.
Communion with Peter and his successors, in fact, is the guarantee of freedom
for the Church’s Pastors and the Communities entrusted to them
. It is
highlighted on both levels in the aforementioned reflections. Historically,
union with the Apostolic See, ensures the particular Churches and Episcopal
Conferences freedom with respect to local, national or supranational powers,
that can sometimes hinder the mission of the ecclesial Church. Furthermore, and
most essentially, the Petrine ministry is a guarantee of freedom in the sense
of full adherence to truth and authentic tradition, so that the People of God
may be preserved from mistakes concerning faith and morals. Hence the fact that
each year the new Metropolitans come to Rome to receive the pallium from the
hands of the Pope, must be understood in its proper meaning, as a gesture of
communion, and the issue of freedom of the Church gives us a particularly
important key for interpretation. This is evident in the case of churches
marked by persecution, or subject to political interference or other hardships.
But this is no less relevant in the case of communities that suffer the
influence of misleading doctrines or ideological tendencies and practices
contrary to the Gospel. Thus the pallium becomes, in this sense, a pledge of
freedom, similar to the “yoke” of Jesus, that He invites us to take
up, each on their shoulders (Mt 11:29-30). While demanding, the commandment of
Christ is “sweet and light” and instead of weighing down on the bearer,
it lifts him up, thus the bond with the Apostolic See – while challenging –
sustains the Pastor and the portion of the Church entrusted to his care, making
them freer and stronger.

at the confession B16 & Patr rep 2010.jpg

I would like to draw a final point from the Word of
God, in particular from Christ’s promise that the powers of hell shall not
prevail against his Church. These words may also have a significant ecumenical
value, since, as I mentioned earlier, one of the typical effects of the Devil
is division within the Church community. The divisions are in fact symptoms of
the power of sin, which continues to act in members of the Church even after
. But the word of Christ is clear: ” Non praevalebunt – it will
not prevail” (Matt. 16:18). The unity of the Church is rooted in its union
with Christ, and the cause of full Christian unity – always to be sought and
renewed from generation to generation – is well supported by his prayer and his
. In the fight against the spirit of evil, God has given us in Jesus the
‘Advocate’, defender, and after his Easter, “another Paraclete” (Jn
14:16), the Holy Spirit, which remains with us always and leads the Church into
the fullness of truth (cf. Jn 14:16; 16:13), which is also the fullness of
charity and unity. With these feelings of confident hope, I am pleased to greet
the delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which, in the beautiful
custom of reciprocal visits, participates in the celebrations of the patron
saints of Rome. Together we thank God for progress in ecumenical relations
between Catholics and Orthodox, and we renew our commitment to generously
reciprocate to God’s grace, which leads us to full communion.

Dear friends, I
cordially greet all of you: Cardinals, Brother Bishops, Ambassadors and civil
authorities, in particular the Mayor of Rome, priests, religious and lay
faithful. Thank you for your presence. May the Saints Peter and Paul help you
to grow in love for the holy Church, the Mystical Body of Christ the Lord and
messenger of unity and peace for all men. May they also help you to offer the
hardships and sufferings endured for fidelity to the Gospel with joy for her
holiness and her mission. May the Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles and Mother of
the Church, always watch over you and especially over the Ministry of
metropolitan archbishops. With her heavenly help may you always live and act in
that freedom that Christ has won for us. Amen.

St Peter is the “absolute and reliable rock,” Fr Giussani told us

together with the pope.jpg

Today in Rome members of the various Catholic lay ecclesial movements
like Focolare, Sant’Egidio, Catholic Action and Communion and Liberation are
gathering in Rome as a sign of prayerful solidarity at the Regina Coeli address
of the Pope in Saint Peter’s Square. Indeed, in a sign of friendship and
obedience to the Successor of Saint Peter, Pope Benedict XVI. And as a sign of
this worldwide communion with the Pope, members of Communion and Liberation are
gathering in cities around the world in prayer for the Pope and the Church.

According to news about the event, about 150,000 people flooded Saint Peter’s Square. The Pope said that he was comforted by the “beautiful and spontaneous show of faith and solidarity.”

Here in New York, for example, CL is attending the Mass at Saint Patrick’s
Cathedral with Archbishop Timothy Dolan and will pray the rosary together.

understand these pious and fraternal gestures of CL, here are some thoughts of
Monsignor Luigi Giussani that may give a fuller appreciation of the
companionship of faith and brotherhood we all share.

father and daughter.jpg

Christianity is an
irreducible event, an objective presence that desires to reach man; until the
very end, it means to be a provocation to him, and to offer a judgment of him.
Jesus said to the Apostles after his Resurrection, “Behold, I am with you always,
even to the end of the world” (Mt 28:20).

Christianity will have a dramatic and
decisive bearing on man’s life only if it is understood in accordance with its
originality and its factual density, which, two thousand years ago, had the
form of a single man. Yet even when He was still living, he also had the face
of people whom he had brought together, and then sent out two by two, to do
what He had been doing, and what he had told them to do; they came back
together and returned to him. Later, united as one, this people went out to the
entire known world to present that Fact. The face of that single man today is
the unity of believers, who are the sign of him in the world, or as Saint Paul
says, who are his Body, his mysterious Body – also called “the people of God” –
guided and guaranteed by a living person, the Bishop of Rome.

If the Christian
fact is not recognized and grasped in its proper originality, it becomes
nothing more than a ponderous occasion for all sorts of interpretations and
opinions, or perhaps even for works; but then it lies alongside of or more
often subordinate to all of life’s other promptings.

(Religious Awareness in
Modern Man, Communio, vol. XXV, n.1, Spring 1998, pp. 134-135)

The supreme
authority is the one in which we find the meaning of all our experience. Jesus
Christ is this supreme authority, and it is His Spirit who makes us understand
this, opens us up to faith in Him and His person. “Just as the Father has sent
me so do I send you.” (See John 20:21) The apostles and their successors (the
Pope and the bishops) constitute, in history, the living continuation of the
authority who is Christ. In their dynamic succession in history and their
multiplication throughout the world, Christ’s mystery is proposed ceaselessly,
clarified without errors, defended without compromise. Therefore, they
constitute the place, like a reliable and effervescent spring, where humanity
can draw on the true meaning of its own existence, probing ever deeper. 
genius is to the cry of human need, what prophecy is to our cry of expectancy,
so the apostles and their successors are to announcing the response. But just
as the true answer is always perfectly specific and concrete with respect to
the expectancy which is inevitably vague and subject to illusions – so are
they, like an absolute and reliable rock, infallible: “You are Peter and on
this rock I shall build my Church.” (Matthew 16:17ff.)

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Their authority not only
constitutes the sure criterion for that vision of the universe and history that
alone explains their (i.e., the universe’s and history’s) meaning; it is also
vital – it steadfastly stimulates a true culture and persistently points to a
total vision. It inexorably condemns any exaltation of the particular and
idealization of the contingent; that is, it condemns all error and idolatry.
The authority of the Pope and bishops, therefore, is the ultimate guide on the
pilgrimage towards a genuine sharing of our lives [convivenza], towards a true

Where that authority is not vital and vigilant, or where it is
under attack, the human pathway becomes complicated, ambiguous, and unstable;
it veers towards disaster, even when on the exterior it seems powerful,
flourishing, and astute, as is the case today. Where that authority is active
and respected, the historic pilgrimage is confidently renewed with serenity; it
is deep, genuinely human, even when the expressive methods and dynamics of
sharing lives are roughshod and difficult.

Still today it is the gift of the
Spirit that allows us to discover the profound meaning of Ecclesiastical
Authority as a supreme directive on the human path. Here is the origin of that
ultimate abandonment and of that conscious obedience to it – this is why it is
not the locus of the Law but of Love. One cannot understand the experience of
that definitive devotion that binds the “faithful” to Authority without taking
into consideration the influence of the Spirit, and that devotion often affirms
itself on the Cross of a mortification of the drive of our own genius or our
plans for life.

(The Journey to Truth Is an Experience, Montreal:
McGill-Queen’s University Press 2006, pp. 73-75)

LA gets Gomez as archbishop

AB-Gomez-med.gifJoyful noise was made upon hearing the appointment of San Antonio’s archbishop, José Horacio Gomez, S.T.D., 58, as the next archbishop of Los Angeles (the 5th).

The spin doctors (Peters and Palmo) are rejoicing in their common prediction that His Excellency would be chosen by the Holy Father to pastorally lead the Los Angeles Catholics but most of reasonable sense could have predicted this gesture. Of course we know that they have the pulse on the Church in America! 

Archbishop Gomez is the first Mexican-American to lead an archdiocese in the USA; and he’s also a former member of the Opus Dei.

Archbishop Gomez faces a sizeable challenge as the new shepherd of LA: 5 million Catholics (of 11 million people) in 3 counties (87,000 sq miles), 288 parishes in 120 cities, 224 grammar schools, 50 high schools. 70% of the Catholics are Latino.

Thanks be to God for Archbishop Gomez’s positive response to the Lord’s call to serve in this way.

new LA ABP.jpgTake a look at some of Archbishop Gomez’s writings:

The Encounter with Jesus Christ and the New Evangelization of American Culture (2007)

Disciples and Teachers of the Word: Living the Gospel Message of Reconciliation (2007)

Immigration in 21st-Century America: Its Root Causes and the Obligations of Catholic Social Teaching (2008)

To Seek God in the Spirit of Truth (2008)

La predicación y la enseñanza: Evangelization, Education, and the Hispanic Catholic Future (2009)

Men of Brave Heart: The Virtue of Courage in the Priestly Life (OSV, 2009)

Pope tells bishops of England and Wales to be united in teaching the faith and being a witness to Christ

UK Bishops arms.jpg

This last week the Pope has meeting individually and collectively with the bishops of England and Wales. As you know, a bishop is obliged to pray at the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul and to offer a review of the pastoral activities of the diocese he leads to the Pope and to his curia. It is a visit to “the threshold” (ad Limina) to the center of our faith. Over the past years the bishops of Britain have faced some serious challenges–much like the bishops of the USA and Canada– and have not responded effectively enough to certain matters of faith and morals. The British bishops are your typical “old boys” network, a closed group of men sitting on their laurels. Generally speaking the UK bishops are not very unified in their teaching the faith which was a hallmark of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor; one clear indication of this is the work of Bishop O’Donoghue that was posted here calling for clear catechesis, witness and liturgical practice (read two things here and here). In the Pope’s address to the bishops at the end of their to visit Peter, you can see the matters that concern the pope and the Church at large. The papal address at the end of any visit of an episcopal conference is an interesting thing to read because Rome is a bit more objective in reading the tea leaves than those living in situ. General rule of thumb: if it finds its way into print, then it is important to recall. Plus, the Pope is rather subtle in his addresses such that you have to read between the lines. And you may ask why is this text important for North America. Catholics on both sides of the Atlantic face the very same issues when it comes to proposing the faith, moral living, ecumenism and sacramentality. What the Pope told the UK bishops is to be applied in the USA: the old way of doing things has ended. All but 2 paragraphs of the address are given here with my own emphasis on certain points.

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I welcome all of you on your ad Limina visit to Rome,
where you have come to venerate the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I
thank you for the kind words that Archbishop Vincent Nichols has addressed to
me on your behalf, and I offer you my warmest good wishes and prayers for
yourselves and all the faithful of England and Wales entrusted to your pastoral
care. Your visit to Rome strengthens the bonds of communion between the
Catholic community in your country and the Apostolic See, a communion that
sustained your people’s faith for centuries, and today provides fresh energies
for renewal and evangelization. Even amid the pressures of a secular age, there
are many signs of living faith and devotion among the Catholics of England and
Wales. I am thinking, for example, of the enthusiasm generated by the visit of
the relics of Saint Thérèse, the interest aroused by the prospect of Cardinal
Newman’s beatification, and the eagerness of young people to take part in
pilgrimages and World Youth Days. On the occasion of my forthcoming Apostolic
Visit to Great Britain, I shall be able to witness that faith for myself and,
as Successor of Peter, to strengthen and confirm it. During the months of
preparation that lie ahead, be sure to encourage the Catholics of England and
Wales in their devotion, and assure them that the Pope constantly remembers
them in his prayers and holds them in his heart.

Your country is well known for
its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. Yet
as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed
to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of
religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In some respects
it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human
beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed. I urge you as Pastors to
ensure that the Church’s moral teaching be always presented in its entirety and
convincingly defended
. Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom
of others – on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the

Continue to insist upon your right to participate in national debate
through respectful dialogue with other elements in society. In doing so, you
are not only maintaining long-standing British traditions of freedom of expression
and honest exchange of opinion, but you are actually giving voice to the
convictions of many people who lack the means to express them: when so many of
the population claim to be Christian, how could anyone dispute the Gospel’s
right to be heard?

If the full saving message of Christ is to be presented
effectively and convincingly to the world, the Catholic community in your
country needs to speak with a united voice
. This requires not only you, the
Bishops, but also priests, teachers, catechists, writers – in short all who are
engaged in the task of communicating the Gospel – to be attentive to the
promptings of the Spirit, who guides the whole Church into the truth, gathers
her into unity and inspires her with missionary zeal.

Make it your concern,
then, to draw on the considerable gifts of the lay faithful in England and
Wales and see that they are equipped to hand on the faith to new generations
comprehensively, accurately, and with a keen awareness that in so doing they
are playing their part in the Church’s mission
. In a social milieu that
encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that
arises, it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake
it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate
. It is the
truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s
Magisterium that sets us free
. Cardinal Newman realized this, and he left us an
outstanding example of faithfulness to revealed truth by following that “kindly
light” wherever it led him, even at considerable personal cost. Great
writers and communicators of his stature and integrity are needed in the Church
today, and it is my hope that devotion to him will inspire many to follow in
his footsteps

Much attention has rightly been given to Newman’s scholarship
and to his extensive writings, but it is important to remember that he saw
himself first and foremost as a priest. In this Annus Sacerdotalis, I urge you
to hold up to your priests his example of dedication to prayer, pastoral
sensitivity towards the needs of his flock, and passion for preaching the
. You yourselves should set a similar example. Be close to your priests,
and rekindle their sense of the enormous privilege and joy of standing among the
people of God as alter Christus. In Newman’s words, “Christ’s priests have
no priesthood but His … what they do, He does; when they baptize, He is
baptizing; when they bless, He is blessing” (Parochial and Plain Sermons,
VI 242). Indeed, since the priest plays an irreplaceable role in the life of
the Church, spare no effort in encouraging priestly vocations and emphasizing
to the faithful the true meaning and necessity of the priesthood. Encourage the
lay faithful to express their appreciation of the priests who serve them, and
to recognize the difficulties they sometimes face on account of their declining
numbers and increasing pressures. The support and understanding of the faithful
is particularly necessary when parishes have to be merged or Mass times adjusted.
Help them to avoid any temptation to view the clergy as mere functionaries but
rather to rejoice in the gift of priestly ministry, a gift that can never be
taken for granted

Ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue assume great
importance in England and Wales, given the varied demographic profile of the
population. As well as encouraging you in your important work in these areas, I
would ask
you to be generous in implementing the provisions of the Apostolic
Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, so as to assist those groups of Anglicans
who wish to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. I am convinced
that, if given a warm and open-hearted welcome, such groups will be a blessing
for the entire Church.

New Cardinals in 2010???

Cardinal apparel.jpegAt the moment there are 112 cardinal electors should we have to elect a new pope. The papally imposed number of 120 is usually enshrined in our minds but we can conceivably have more (or fewer) should a reigning pontiff decide the matter. Pope John Paul II confirmed certain norms in a document Universi Dominici Gregis in 1996. Nevertheless, in 2010, 11 cardinals of the Holy Roman Church will lose their ability to vote in a papal conclave because they will turn 80. Their Eminences, Cardinals Ambrozic, Maida, Williams, Herranz, McCarrick, Poupard, DiGiorgio, Daoud, Giordano, Tumi, Pujats. You’ll notice that 2 are from the USA and 1 from Canada.

Pope Benedict has already had two consistories (2006 & 2007) making 38 cardinals. Mind you, some were ineligible to vote in a conclave from the first day of the cardinalate.
So, it is very likely that the Holy Father could create new cardinals in 2010.
Regarding bishops, at the moment there are, in 2010, 11 bishops submitting a letter of resignation to the Holy Father because they’re 75, there are 4 who turned 75 in 2009 (and no replace nominated yet) and there remain 6 empty dioceses. If no one dies or gets into trouble, the USA could see 21 new bishops.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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