Getting started

So far, so good. I made it to the media center at the Sheraton, where a few hundred media people are sitting in a ballroom watching the U.N. on several TVs.In a few minutes, I’ll have to go through security and get on a bus to head to Yorkville.Walking over from Grand Central, I saw quite  a few people posing for pictures outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I’m sure some were out-of-towners with tickets to one of the papal events.  And the day begins… 

In NYC

Well, B16 is in the Apple. I hope to join him there soon.

In fact, I have to leave the burbs this morning to go to the midtown media center, where I will get a noon bus to St. Joseph’s Church in Yorkville for a 6 p.m. ecumenical prayer service.

A noon bus.

I do not know whether I will be able to blog during the course of the day. It depends on logistics and Internet access. If I can, I will.

I will miss the pope’s U.N. address this morning unfortunately, but hope to watch it at some point during the afternoon (maybe during my afternoon in Yorkville).

Again, you can watch it all HERE.

I just heard on the radio a few bits from David Letterman’s top 10 list last night. I believe it was “10 things you don’t know about the pope.”

He likes everyone except Dr. Phil. His personal 11th commandment is “Thou shalt moisturize.” He played Dr. Johnny Fever on “WKRP in Cincinnati.”

The best one I could make out: “When friends ask an obvious question, he replies: Am I Catholic?”

Pope offers Passover greeting

Here are the remarks that the pope just made before Jewish leaders:

My dear friends,

I extend special greetings of peace to the Jewish community in the United States and throughout the world as you prepare to celebrate the annual feast of Pesah. My visit to this country has coincided with this feast, allowing me to meet with you personally and to assure you of my prayers as you recall the signs and wonders God performed in liberating his chosen people. Motivated by our common spiritual heritage, I am pleased to entrust to you this message as a testimony to our hope centered on the Almighty and his mercy.

* * * To the Jewish community on the Feast of Pesah

My visit to the United States offers me the occasion to extend a warm and heartfelt greeting to my Jewish brothers and sisters in this country and throughout the world. A greeting that is all the more spiritually intense because the great feast of Pesah is approaching. “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance for ever” (Exodus 12: 14). While the Christian celebration of Easter differs in many ways from your celebration of Pesah, we understand and experience it in continuation with the biblical narrative of the mighty works which the Lord accomplished for his people.

At this time of your most solemn celebration, I feel particularly close, precisely because of what Nostra Aetate calls Christians to remember always: that the Church “received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant. Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles” (Nostra Aetate, 4). In addressing myself to you I wish to re-affirm the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on Catholic-Jewish relations and reiterate the Church’s commitment to the dialogue that in the past forty years has fundamentally changed our relationship for the better.

Because of that growth in trust and friendship, Christians and Jews can rejoice together in the deep spiritual ethos of the Passover, a memorial (zikkarôn) of freedom and redemption. Each year, when we listen to the Passover story we return to that blessed night of liberation. This holy time of the year should be a call to both our communities to pursue justice, mercy, solidarity with the stranger in the land, with the widow and orphan, as Moses commanded: “But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this” (Deuteronomy 24: 18).

At the Passover Sèder you recall the holy patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the holy women of Israel, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachael and Leah, the beginning of the long line of sons and daughters of the Covenant. With the passing of time the Covenant assumes an ever more universal value, as the promise made to Abraham takes form: “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing… All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you” (Genesis 12: 2-3). Indeed, according to the prophet Isaiah, the hope of redemption extends to the whole of humanity: “Many peoples will come and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths'” (Isaiah 2: 3). Within this eschatological horizon is offered a real prospect of universal brotherhood on the path of justice and peace, preparing the way of the Lord (cf. Isaiah 62: 10).

Christians and Jews share this hope; we are in fact, as the prophets say, “prisoners of hope” (Zachariah 9: 12). This bond permits us Christians to celebrate alongside you, though in our own way, the Passover of Christ’s death and resurrection, which we see as inseparable from your own, for Jesus himself said: “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4: 22). Our Easter and your Pesah, while distinct and different, unite us in our common hope centered on God and his mercy. They urge us to cooperate with each other and with all men and women of goodwill to make this a better world for all as we await the fulfillment of God’s promises.

With respect and friendship, I therefore ask the Jewish community to accept my Pesah greeting in a spirit of openness to the real possibilities of cooperation which we see before us as we contemplate the urgent needs of our world, and as we look with compassion upon the sufferings of millions of our brothers and sisters everywhere. Naturally, our shared hope for peace in the world embraces the Middle East and the Holy Land in particular. May the memory of God’s mercies, which Jews and Christians celebrate at this festive time, inspire all those responsible for the future of that region-where the events surrounding God’s revelation actually took place-to new efforts, and especially to new attitudes and a new purification of hearts!

In my heart I repeat with you the psalm of the paschal Hallel (Psalm 118: 1-4), invoking abundant divine blessings upon you: “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever. Let Israel say, ‘His steadfast love endures forever.’ . . . Let those who fear the Lord say, ‘His steadfast love endures forever’.”

Benedict meets with victims of sexual abuse

And here is the first real surprise of the papal visit:

By VICTOR L. SIMPSON
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Pope Benedict XVI met privately Thursday with victims of clergy sex abuse during his trip to the United States.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a papal spokesman, said that Benedict and Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley met with a small group of victims and offered them encouragement and hope.

Lombardi said the pope told victims he would pray for them, their families and all victims of clergy sex abuse.

Benedict has spoken repeatedly about the abuse crisis during his first trip to the United States as pope.

He called the crisis a cause of “deep shame,” pledged to keep pedophiles out of the priesthood and decried the “enormous pain” that communities have suffered from such “gravely immoral behavior” by priest.

He told the nation’s bishops that the crisis was “sometimes very badly handled,” and said they must reach out with love and compassion to victims. At an open air Mass on Thursday at Nationals Park, he also urged Catholic parishioners to do what they can to heal the wounds caused by the sex abuse scandal.

Thousands of priests have been accused of molesting minors in the U.S. since 1950 and the church has paid out more than $2 billion, much of it in just the last six years, when the case of a serial molester in Boston gained national attention and prompted many victims to step forward.

Gary Bergeron, an outspoken survivor of clergy sex abuse from Boston, failed in his attempt to meet with Pope John Paul II, Benedict’s predecessor, when he spent a week at the Vatican a few years ago.

He called Thursday’s meeting “a long-sought-for step in the right direction.”

“The Catholic Church is partly based on symbolism, and I think the symbolism had he not met with survivors would have been horrendous,” the 45-year-old Bergeron said.

Looking ahead for a moment…

When Pope Benedict XVI arrives at JFK tomorrow morning, he’ll be greeted by Cardinal Egan and Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn.

You have to figure that Egan will share much of the papal spotlight for the next few days.

images.jpegSo I have to mention a report on Kreuz.net, which I understand to be a “traditionalist” Catholic website in Europe. The one paragraph report in German (which someone translated for me) says that Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will soon become the next archbishop of New York.

Levada’s name (that’s him) has been circulating for some time among those trying to figure out who may replace Egan.

Do you know your Catechism?

Over the past few days, I’ve had a chance to flip through The Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Catholic Catechism by Mary DeTurris Poust, who grew up in Rockland County.

droppedimage.jpgEvery time I see a new “idiot’s guide” to a religious subject, I can’t help laughing.

Poust’s book is a clear, concise and gently funny introduction to the Roman Catholic faith. It was reviewed by a priest at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore and got a stamp of approval from the bishop of Metuchen, N.J., so you know it’s the real deal.

In a section about Mary, a box titled “True Confessions” reads:

Mary’s virginity is not an easy thing for many people to accept. The Catechism goes back to the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch, a bishop and martyr in the first century. He addressed the fact that some early Christians were “troubled by the silence of St. Mark’s Gospel and the New Testament epistles about Jesus’ virginal conception.” He wrote that faith in the virgin birth was met with mockery and opposition from people of all stripes — Jews, non-Jews, and pagans — which flies in the face of claims that belief in the virgin birth was motivated by a nod to paganism. The virgin birth is “accessible only to faith,” meaning that like so many other aspects of faith, it is a mystery that cannot be fully understood in human terms and must be accepted as part of the larger mystery of God’s divine plan.

shapeimage_4.jpgI had a chance to interview Poust recently. She was born and raised in Pearl River and graduated from Pearl River High School in 1980. She says she was “grounded in the faith” at St. Aedan’s Parish in Pearl River.

She’s worked for Catholic publications for 24 years and is a former managing editor of Catholic New York. Her monthly column, “Life Lines,” still runs in CNY. And she’s a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor, a national Catholic weekly.

She’ll be blogging about the papal visit to New York for Our Sunday Visitor.

‘I have come to America to confirm you, my brothers and sisters, in the faith of the Apostles’

The pope’s homily, which he delivered just a while ago:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19). With these, the first words of the Risen Lord to his disciples, I greet all of you in the joy of this Easter season. Before all else, I thank God for the blessing of being in your midst. I am particularly grateful to Archbishop Wuerl for his kind words of welcome.

tjndc5-5jmn6qe7×8gh4evkdm5_layout.jpgOur Mass today brings the Church in the United States back to its roots in nearby Maryland, and commemorates the bicentennial of the first chapter of its remarkable growth – the division by my predecessor, Pope Pius VII, of the original Diocese of Baltimore and the establishment of the Dioceses of Boston, Bardstown (now Louisville), New York and Philadelphia. Two hundred years later, the Church in America can rightfully praise the accomplishment of past generations in bringing together widely differing immigrant groups within the unity of the Catholic faith and in a common commitment to the spread of the Gospel. At the same time, conscious of its rich diversity, the Catholic community in this country has come to appreciate ever more fully the importance of each individual and group offering its own particular gifts to the whole. The Church in the United States is now called to look to the future, firmly grounded in the faith passed on by previous generations, and ready to meet new challenges – challenges no less demanding than those faced by your forebears – with the hope born of God’s love, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5).

In the exercise of my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I have come to America to confirm you, my brothers and sisters, in the faith of the Apostles (cf. Lk 22:32). I have come to proclaim anew, as Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Messiah, risen from the dead, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, and established as judge of the living and the dead (cf. Acts 2:14ff.). I have come to repeat the Apostle’s urgent call to conversion and the forgiveness of sins, and to implore from the Lord a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in this country. As we have heard throughout this Easter season, the Church was born of the Spirit’s gift of repentance and faith in the risen Lord. In every age she is impelled by the same Spirit to bring to men and women of every race, language and people (cf. Rev 5:9) the good news of our reconciliation with God in Christ. Continue reading

And the day begins…

Papal odds and ends:

Watching the enormous procession for the papal Mass, I can’t help thinking how mysterious the whole thing must be to the great numbers of evangelical Christians across this nation.

tjndc5-5jmmp2b6j3nakrkzdm5_layout1.jpgThe media have, of course, reported extensively in recent years on the cultural influence of evangelicals. But evangelicals tend to be forgotten when the Roman Catholic Church is in the spotlight. You have to figure, though, that many evangelicals are watching the papal events this week and trying to figure out who everyone is.

For those who accept a priesthood of all believers and place little emphasis on liturgy, the Catholic hierarchy and Mass present a radically different conception of what Christianity is and means. This is obvious, but worth noting, I think.

This will be a full day for the pontiff. He’ll get several hours to rest after the baseball stadium Mass in DC.

At 4:45 p.m., he will give a much anticipated address to Catholic educators. Will he call for Catholic colleges and universities to foster a great Catholic identity? Will he say that diocesan education officials are getting the job done in preparing young Catholics for a lifetime of faith?

At 6:15 p.m, the pope will host a gathering of leaders of non-Christian faiths. Will he talk about the Catholic Church’s new dialogue with Muslims?

Immediately after the interreligious gathering, the pope will have a quick meeting with Jewish leaders. Will he address the Latin Good Friday liturgy and its prayer for the conversion of the Jews?

Anyway, Archbishop Wuerl just said: “Holy Father, welcome to Washington.” The baseball stadium is rocking…

Much food for thought in B16’s talk

Some thoughts on the pope’s address to his bishops:

  • On the one hand, to say that the sex-abuse scandal was sometimes “very badly handled” by the bishops is a pretty direct comment from the pope. On the other hand, it’s also terribly obvious. The pope talked about how society’s moral underpinnings are rotting, contributing to social problems like sexual abuse. But he did not say what contributed to the Catholic hierarchy’s misdeeds.
  • When Benedict talked about the influence of affluence and materialism, he could have been addressing the suburbs. He probably doesn’t even know that suburban kids go to high school in sports cars. “People today need to be reminded of the ultimate purpose of their lives,” he said.
  • Asking about the challenge of secularism, the pope said: “I believe that the Church in America, at this point in her history, is faced with the challenge of recapturing the Catholic vision of reality and presenting it, in an engaging and imaginative way, to a society which markets any number of recipes for human fulfillment. I think in particular of our need to speak to the hearts of young people, who, despite their constant exposure to messages contrary to the Gospel, continue to thirst for authenticity, goodness and truth.” This comment made me think that Benedict really does have a handle on what’ s going on in this country. It also made me wonder what he might say at Saturday’s youth rally in Yonkers. What “engaging and imaginative way” will he use to capture the attention of Catholic youth?
  • The pope’s answer to a question about the decline in vocations to the priesthood must have made some New Yorkers wince. The Archdiocese of NY is ranked near the bottom of all dioceses in the U.S. in terms of the percentage of Catholics who become priests. The pope said: “Let us be quite frank: the ability to cultivate vocations to the priesthood and the religious life is a sure sign of the health of a local Church.”
  • The speech, overall, was direct, clear and provocative. The more of this pope’s words that I read and hear, the less I am surprised.