November 2016 Print

Church and World

New Vatican Communications Director is an American

Pope Francis has appointed an American, Mr. Greg Burke, as the new Vatican spokesman, replacing Jesuit Fr. Frederico Lombardi, who has retired at the age of 73 after 10 years in the position. Mr. Burke was brought to the Vatican Press Office four years ago as a consultant to help resolve the “Vatileaks” scandal which was then coming to a head.

Burke is a member of Opus Dei and is only the second layman to hold the position. The other layman was Dr. Joaquín Navarro-Valls, a Spaniard who was also a member of Opus Dei. Before coming to the Vatican, Mr. Burke worked for Fox News and the National Catholic Reporter. Mr. Burke received his degree from Columbia University in New York, majoring in Journalism.

At the time of the announcement of Burke’s appointment, it was also revealed that his assistant would be Ms. Paoloma Garcia Ovejero, a Spanish radio reporter who served as the Vatican correspondent for her radio station. She is the first woman to hold any senior position in the Vatican Press Office.

Earthquake near Norcia, Italy—the Birthplace of St. Benedict

The August earthquake, which had its epicenter in the small town of Amatrice, Italy and killed some 300 of the town’s inhabitants, also caused serious damage to the town of Norcia, the birthplace of St. Benedict, as well as to the Benedictine Monastery located there. The monastery, whose prior is Fr. Cassian Folsom, an American, opened the doors in Norcia on December 2, 2000 after receiving approval from the Benedictine Order and the Holy See the previous year. In 2009, the monastery was especially assigned the apostolate of offering the Traditional Mass along with the Novus Ordo. In order to support themselves, the monks began brewing and selling Birra Norcia (Beer of Norcia) and have recently begun selling their brew in the United States.

Word coming from the monks immediately following the earthquake was that all of them were safe and sound, but that the monastery and the adjoining church suffered structural damage that will take some time and significant expense to repair. More information about the monastery can be found at the monks website:

Pope Francis Continues the Reorganization of the Roman Curia

On 31 August Pope Francis issued a very short Motu Proprio in which he reorganized and abolished a number of Dicasteries and Councils of the Roman Curia, creating the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The Holy Father wrote:

In all her being and actions, the Church is called to promote the integral development of the human person in the light of the Gospel. This development takes place by attending to the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation. The Successor of the Apostle Peter, in his work of affirming these values, is continuously adapting the institutions which collaborate with him, so that they may better meet the needs of the men and women whom they are called to serve.

So that the Holy See may be solicitous in these areas, as well as in those regarding health and charitable works, I institute the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. This Dicastery will be competent particularly in issues regarding migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture.

In the new Dicastery, governed by the Statutes that today I approve ad experimentum, the competences of the following Pontifical Councils will be merged, as of 1 January 2017: the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers.  On that date these four Dicasteries will cease exercising their functions and will be suppressed, and articles 142-153 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus will be abrogated.

I decree that what has been set out in this Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio have the force of law, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, even if worthy of special mention, and that it be promulgated by publication in L’Osservatore Romano, therefore published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, entering into force on 1 January 2017.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 17 August 2016, the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Fourth Year of my Pontificate.

It is worth noting that nowhere in the entire text is there any mention of Almighty God. The closest Pope Francis came to even acknowledging the divine nature of the work of the Church is by mentioning the “light of the Gospel.”

Burial Crypt in New York’s Old St. Patrick Cathedral Available

The Archdiocese of New York announced in August that it would once again open the burial crypt beneath Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Lower Manhattan for new internments. Space in the crypt is extremely limited, with only one full vault prepared for six internments available and is priced at the rather weighty sum of seven million dollars. For this price, a family can be buried close to some of the illustrious Catholic families from the early 19th Century, such as the Delmonicos (the proprietors of the famous New York restaurant bearing their name), as well as the first Bishop of New York, Richard Luke Concanen. Bishop Concanen never arrived in New York after his consecration as bishop due to the Napoleonic Wars, which prevented him from leaving Italy. His body was later taken to New York and placed in the crypt.

Another former occupant of a vault in the old cathedral was Venerable Pierre Toussaint, a former Haitian slave who, after purchasing his freedom, cared for the widow of his former owner when the woman was left destitute following her husband’s death. Pierre Toussaint attended Holy Mass daily in the old cathedral until his death in 1853. He was also known for his charity. When a yellow fever epidemic broke out in New York, he spent much time caring for the victims. When his cause for canonization was opened in 1991 by John Cardinal O’Connor, the Archbishop of New York, and Toussaint’s remains were moved to the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue and 50th Street.

Further information about the history of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral as well as the early history of the Church in New York can be found here:

The Father Abbot and the Cardinal

Two books came out this fall: one by Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for the Divine Cult and the Discipline of the Sacraments; the other by the Benedictine Martin Werlen, former father abbot of Einsiedeln (Switzerland).

The former is entitled The Strength of Silence, and its author claims that “it is high time to enter into this liturgical silence.” “How can man truly be in the image of God?” asked the Guinean prelate, before answering: “He must enter into silence,” for “the garrulous man cannot help being far from God, incapable of any profound spiritual activity.”

The other book, written in German, is entitled Wo kämen wir hin? (Where would we go?). Fr. Werlen, known for his intemperate progressivism, fights for a greater integration of women in the Church, and thinks it would be “grandiose” for the Benedictines to elect a woman as primate of the Order. The monk presented his book to journalists in a pizzeria…as he believed it was the ideal place to make unexpected encounters.

Two books, two visions. The troubled gaze of the European Benedictine and the clear eye of the African prelate. The fearful will say there is need to clarify, that things are not so simple: black or white. Allow us to rejoice at seeing the sense of the sacred and the importance of silence recalled clearly. Black on white.