Long Live the Pope!

Yesterday, 19 October was the feast of the North American Martyrs Sts. Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, and their Jesuit Companion Martyrs. The Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ontario is a magnificent place to visit and even more so since it was largely built and developed with public funds. The Province of Ontario, along with the Canadian national government largely funded the monument and its surrounding park land and the re-creation of Huronia, the Huron Indian village at the base of the imposing shrine church that can be seen for miles. Jesuits play an important part in the history of our own diocese especially in Prairie du Chien and the southern reaches of our local Church. Jesuit influence was especially noticeable in the exploration of the Mississippi River region, Upper Peninsula Michigan, and Northern Wisconsin, by the likes of Pere Jacques Marquette.

Another exciting and historical event took place yesterday as well. His Holiness, our beloved Pope Benedict XVI, announced his new “ambassador”—or NUNCIO—to the United States of America, that being, His Excellency, Archbishop Carlo Vigano. Archbishop Vigano will succeed the much-loved former nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who died suddenly in July. We certainly hope to meet the new nuncio at the November meeting of the U.S. bishops in Baltimore. There is great excitement about his arrival. The nuncio serves as the papal representative in our country. His job, while largely dealing with issues of protocol and diplomacy, expresses a visible link between the U.S. bishops and the entire Church in the U.S.A. with our Holy Father, the pope.

This week, we also learned that the Bishops of Region VII—Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana—would be heading to Rome in February for our “face-time” with the pope. The pope meets every five years with all the bishops of the world. As you can imagine, this is an ongoing work for the pope given the worldwide nature of the Church and the number of bishops from around the world. This visit is called the “Ad Limina” visit. It literally means “to the threshold of the Apostles Peter and Paul.” It is both a traditional, fraternal, and respectful meeting of bishops from around the world with the Successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ on earth, the pope. Fr. Michael Gorman, as moderator of the curia, will travel to Rome with me in February. At the present time, Fr. Gorman is overseeing the gathering of data and pertinent information from our curial offices for our report to the Holy Father.

Speaking of our dear Holy Father, Benedict XVI, please keep him prayer. It seems as though a former actress, Susan Sarandon, has managed to pull off a major insult to the pope and she will never be held accountable for it. She played the part of Sister Helen Prejean in the film adaptation of sister’s book about condemned “death-row” prisoners: “Dead Man Walking.” Sarandon made a media comment that she had sent a copy of the book to the pope saying: “The last one, not the Nazi one we have now.”  Sarandon’s comment, like so many other disrespectful and willful slurs against the Church and, in this case, the pope himself, will certainly not elicit an apology or even public media outrage. The challenge to the Church in these times is to keep the faith and keep our eyes fixed clearly on the truth of Jesus Christ. Maintaining faith and keeping clear about the truths of our faith will help us to weather such invective. Thankfully, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights along with the Jewish Anti-Defamation League both publically challenged Saradon’s hateful remarks.

…and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass.

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