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Christians in Solidarity with Jews for Jewish High Holy Days

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the Israelites thus: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts of horns. On the tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement, on which expiation is made on your behalf before the Lord your God. It shall be sabbath of complete rest for you, and you shall practise self denial, from evening to evening you shall observe this sabbath.” (Leviticus 23)

The above biblical citations refer to what have become the Jewish High Holy days, in the seventh month, known as Tishrei. The first day has been expanded over time into a two day holiday which Jews call Rosh HaShanah, the New Year. Being in the seventh month it is obviously not the Jewish New Year, for that is in the first month, Nisan, which contains the Passover freedom festival. In the seventh month Jews celebrate the world’s NewJews Praying in Syn Year, the anniversary of Creation. Often repeated throughout these days is the declaration: “Today is the birthday of the world. Today God will bring to judgement all the world’s creatures.”

Rosh Hashanah 2015 begins in the evening of Sunday, September 13 and ends in the evening of Tuesday, September 15. It begins in a festive mood. “Blessed are you, Lord, Sovereign of the universe, who has sustained and supported us and enabled us to reach this moment.” We are grateful for the gift of life during the past year. However, the mood is both happy and serious at the same time. It is the beginning of a ten day period of judgment and therefore of penitential reflection. One is encouraged to examine one’s life during the past year, express regret for sins and errors, confess before God and resolve to improve conduct during the New Year ahead. We can then ask and expect God’s forgiveness. However, if our sin was against another person, we must first secure their forgiveness before expecting that of God.

Yom Kippur 2015 begins in the evening of Tuesday, September 22 and ends in the evening of Wednesday, September 23. On Yom Kippur, the penitential mood is dominant. The prayers move around a wide range of religious emotions: awe and reverence before God’s majesty; tenderness and love as gifts of God’s love; tears of regret and noble resolve. The congregation, many dressed in white throughout the day, alternately bow and sway, cry and laugh as they move through the liturgy. The final hours are filled with intense spiritual passions and ultimate exaltation. We believe that God has indeed listened to our prayers and will forgive us. Now the New Year can begin in joy.

The prayers throughout this period are heavily dependent upon Psalms as well as other Rabbinic and medieval poetic writings. These reflect a wide range of spiritual moods and theological attitudes and may vary from community to community.

Pope Francis and the Jewish Community


On the eve of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) last year, Pope Francis met at Domus Sanctae Marthae with Jewish leaders to mark Rosh Hashana. Among those attending the event where World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, Latin American Jewish Congress President Jack Terpins, WJC Treasurer Chella Safra and a number of Jewish community heads and senior WJC officials.

We want to share with the pope our message of peace and prosperity for the New Year,” said Claudio Epelman, executive director of the LAJC and the WJC official in charge of relations with the Vatican.

As Christians, we remember over two thousand years that comprise the story of the Christian community, from it’s beginnings within the Jewish community in Jerusalem, through the dramatic evolution that occurred as the Church took root in gentile communities of other cultures, to its present situation as the largest faith community in the world. The early Church and Rabbinic Judaism both took shape at about the same time, both rooted in Biblical Judiasm. But very soon in the history of these sibling communities, negative stereotypes of Jews and Judaism dominitated the Church’s relations with the Jewish community. That led to the meaning of Jewish community. That led to the meaning of Jewish faith and the persecution of Jews, culminating in role that role that the Church’s theology played in setting the scene for the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis during World War II.

Hymn by Judah HaLevi

Judah HaLevi was one of the great poetic litugists in Jewish history. Here he captures the essence of the Yom Kippur experience, as expressing our yearning for God’s mercy, grace and help in coming closer to God and being the beneficary of God’s blessings.

Lord, today I beseech you, Hear my prayer, Lord!
Lord, reveal Your strong right hand, Show us Your power out of love, Lord!
Lord, my heart so moved, moans within me, The strength of this emotion leaves me faint, Lord!
Lord, when You think of me,Let is be for good that I am remembered, Lord!
Lord, I hope for Your salvation Your grace will comfort me, Lord!
Lord, You are my Creator, my Rock, What, but You, can help me, Lord?
Lord, Turn Your tender mercy towards me, Do not regard my sin, Lord!
Lord, You are all that I desire, My thoughts focus on Your unity, Lord!
Lord, my heart grows weak in this out pouring of emotion, My soul is in misery, Lord!
Lord, in your faithful love, hear me, Hear the urgency of my prayer, Lord!
Lord, all my thoughts are in Your hands, You know my inmost depths, Lord!
Lord, look at me with open eyes, Heal my pain, my agony, Lord!
Lord, before the gathered crowd, I praise You, Sustain me in a prayerful stance, Lord.
Lord, You know how I yearn for Your salvation, Grant my soul rest, Lord!
Lord, incline Your ear to hear my cry, You always show mercy, Lord!
Lord, my God, I hope in You, I pray that my salvation is near, Lord!
Lord, confirm me now as Your servant forever, Does it matter if my sin appears, Lord?
Lord, how long must I remain a prisoner, How long must I be entombed in sin that sears my spirit, Lord?
Lord, I sing in praise of Your unity, Still, tears of grief well up in my heart, Lord!
Lord, in my weakness, I exult You, Redeem me from my fears, Lord!
Lord, I trust in You for good things to come, Your magnificent reign is all encompassing, Lord!
Lord, be patient with me, I worship You, I seek your grace, Lord!
Lord, be attentive to my plea Respond soon to my call, Lord!
Lord, with tenderness bring me your healing, Revive my heavy heart, Lord!
Lord, my soul grows weak from my distress, Day and night I cry to you, Lord!
Lord, out of the depths raise me, reverse my captivity, Lord!


As our Jewish brothers and sisters prepare to observe a day of repentance and reconciliation this year, and come before God with fasting and prayer, we join with them in expressing our fundamental solidarity of faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  With them we recall our common trust in God’s grace and mercy, which we have inherited from the Jewish experience of God.  With them we honor the richness of Jewish prayer that is at the core of Christian prayer.  With them we confess our sins, both personal and corporate.  With them we name with sadness and shame the sins of the Christian churches towards the Jewish people, especially our contempt for their spiritual traditions. In solidarity with them we seek forgiveness and reconciliation and pray for peace among all people, cultures and religions.

Mount Tabor, Blessed Paul VI and the Feast of the Transfiguration

During my years in the Holy Land, my frequent visits to Mount Tabor always left me with a great sense of awe, wonder, mystery, fear, and reverence before Jesus. Each time I visited Mt. Tabor and the beautiful church depicting the three tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, I was also very aware of the memory of Blessed Pope Paul VI who climbed Tabor as a pilgrim in 1964, and had a very special place for the mystery of the Transfiguration in his own prayer and pontificate.

The theological meaning of the Transfiguration is central to our understanding of the mission of Jesus of Nazareth. In the past, every icon painter began his or her career by reproducing the scene of the Transfiguration. It has been said that the destiny of every Christian is written between two mountains: from Calvary to the mountain of the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration is a celebration of the presence of Christ which takes charge of everything in us and transfigures even that which disturbs us about ourselves. God penetrates those hardened, incredulous, even disquieting regions within us, about which we really do not know what to do. God penetrates them with the life of the Spirit and acts upon those regions and gives them his own face.

August 6th this year marks the thirty-seventh anniversary of the death of Pope Pope Paul VI. He closed his eyes on “this stupendous, dramatic temporal and earthly scene” on the very feast that so marked his life and Petrine ministry in the Church. I was on a Basilian Formation Retreat on Strawberry Island in 1978 when we got word that Paul VI had died at Castel Gandolfo outside of Rome. The era of excitement and newness that so marked Vatican II seemed to be coming to an end. At his funeral, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Carlo Cardinal Confalonieri described him with these words:

His greatness of soul was seen in his lively intelligence and a heart filled with goodness that opened up to the spiritual needs of his sons and daughters… He became a real prince of peace. He established with pressing solicitude a continuing dialogue with all peoples. He gave his attention with all affection and hope to the weak and defenseless, the poor and those in want of every assistance. He conversed with all in order to strengthen them in faith…

At times we are very critical of the Church, and even dismiss Church leaders and their messages without giving them a fair hearing. History is now teaching us that the patience and wisdom of Pope Paul VI, especially in the aftermath and implementation of the Second Vatican Council, was a great gift to God’s people and to the world. Pope Paul VI did not see dialogue merely as an instrument but as a method. He was so close to people, especially to those who were distant or who opposed him in theory or in practice. He also loved the Holy Land, and desired that the greatest possible number of people should have the experience that was his as a pilgrim to the Land of Jesus in 1964.

Last October 19, 2014, at the conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family at the Vatican, Pope Francis proclaimed Pope Paul VI blessed. In his homily at the Mass of Beatification in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said:

“When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks! Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI! Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church!

In his personal journal, the great helmsman of the Council wrote, at the conclusion of its final session: “Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that he, and no other, is her guide and saviour”. In this humility the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.”

Now this great, holy man and disciple of the Lord lives in the Resurrection of Jesus, in whose glorious Transfiguration sign he closed his eyes some 37 years ago. Blessed Paul VI let us feel on earth the joy and glory that awaits each of us in the New Jerusalem. Christ’s transfiguration was in the past. The God, whose Light breaks into the earth on this feast, is present. Let our prayers today be that the world will see the Light, the Light of healing and reconciliation. Let us strive to be counted among those who listen to Christ’s Word and are transfigured by it.

The following is one of our feature videos by Cheridan Sanders for the World Meeting of Families. Born Giovanni Battista Montini, Paul VI is affectionately known as the pilgrim pope. The Church that we know today is deeply shaped by the Second Vatican Council and is in many ways a reflection of Paul VI’s Pontificate.

Watch S+L TV Special – The Ecology Encyclical: Care for Our Common Home


The highly anticipated teaching document of Pope Francis on ecology has arrived. How does it build on the teachings of Popes John Paul II and Benedict the XVI? What does it say about climate change? What does it say about poverty and those most affected by ecological destruction around the world?

Join host Sebastian Gomes for a panel discussion on the major themes and reactions to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si. Guests include: Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, English language assistant to the Director of the Holy See Press Office; Mardi Tindal, immediate past moderator of the United Church of Canada; Alicia Ambrosio, producer and journalist for S+L TV.

Watch the full video of the show below.

Point of View Season 2 Schedule Released


Salt and Light’s television series “Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect” is back for a second season. Go beyond the film to discover the deeper questions and issues surrounding the pontificate of Pope Francis and what they mean for the Church in the 21st century.

Hear from media personalities, theologians, doctors and some of the most influential figures in the Catholic Church, all of whom share in great depth their point of view on the Francis effect.  POV airs Wednesdays at 9pmET only on S+L.

Point of View: Interpreting The Francis Effect is a S+L series featuring a selection of the full interviews from the documentary The Francis Effect.

Season Two Schedule

April 22: Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington
April 29: Josephine Lombardi, Professor of Theology
May 6: Scott Pelley, Journalist
May 13: Fr. Thomas Rosica, Holy See Press Office
May 20: Charles Clark, Economist
May 27: Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston
June 3: Fr. John O’Malley, Church Historian
June 10: Msgr. John Kozar, Catholic Near East Welfare Association
June 17: Dr. Philip Berger, Medical Doctor and Fr. James Martin, Author
June 24: David Gibson, Journalist


Has it been two years already?!


Today it’s not uncommon to hear some form of the following statement regarding the pontificate of Pope Francis: “I can’t believe he’s only been pope for two years, it feels like he’s been around a lot longer!”

This intuition surfaces around anniversaries when people tend to reflect on what Francis has accomplished. Most would agree that he has accomplished a great deal. For me, the past two years have been filled with excitement and expectation. I never know what the Pope is going to do next. And when you’re sitting on the edge of your seat for two years, it’s bound to feel like you’ve been there a lot longer.

Part of this effect comes from the fact that it was all so unexpected. No one could have predicted the kinds of seismic shifts we’ve witnessed, beginning with Pope Benedict’s unprecedented and deeply humble decision to resign. I remember living through that month of uncertainty in 2013 from February 11 to March 13 and thinking that, whatever happened, everything would be different from then on.

I recently consulted my personal journal from the 2013 papal transition. I haven’t read it since the election. The excitement and expectation I refer to is present in the text, and I share part of it with you now to recall and celebrate the election of Pope Francis as the 266th Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.  May the Lord bless and sustain him.

March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam – Pope Francis! It was about 5:30pm when Fr. Tom and I decided to make our way over to CBC where he would do an interview with Peter Mansbridge for the news that evening. But we stopped in at the convent of Maria Bambina, where the CBS was stationed, to get a coffee and warm up. As we were eating in their cafeteria and staring at the TV (there was a permanent camera on the Sistine Chapel chimney during the conclave)… white smoke… Yes, white smoke! We got up and made our way to the CBC tent on top of the Janiculum hill. The bells of St. Peter’s were ringing wildly. We were the only people moving away from the Square—in fact we almost got run over a couple of times by people sprinting in the opposite direction. The excitement and the cheers of the crowd were incredible. We were with Peter and the CBC crew for the waiting period. We expected the new Pope to appear on the balcony within 45-50 minutes. It was much longer than that. It felt like forever. Fr. Tom and Peter were delaying as best they could. Then it happened. When they said his name, “Bergoglio!” Fr. Tom and I just looked at each other in utter disbelief. It was a complete surprise. We knew that his star rose eight years ago at the 2005 conclave, but everybody thought it had since fallen. After all at 76, wasn’t he too old?

The crowd in the square was stunned and there wasn’t much noise between the announcement and Francis’ appearance on the loggia. I don’t think anyone was expecting it, and most people had no idea who he was. My immediate reaction was, “I can’t believe they elected a Jesuit!” That was the topic of conversation between Fr. Tom and Peter live on CBC. And it is a significant factor.

The rest of the night we ran from tent to tent doing interviews: CBS, CNN, back to CBC, BBC. As the hours passed, we realized how significant this decision of the cardinals was. Imagine, the runner-up in 2005 still appealing to the cardinals after so long. What was it about him then and now that was consistant, appealing? Holiness and simple gospel values?

Even his appearance and speech on the loggia were telling. He chose to keep his bishop’s pectoral cross instead of adopting the traditional golden one. Everything he said about himself being elected pope was within the framework of his primary role as Bishop of Rome. I sensed collegiality growing.

I took Fr. Tom to CNN around midnight and he went on live with Wolf Blitzer. He said some things I didn’t expect, but were faithful to the mood of the people in Rome that night: “Pope Francis didn’t follow the book! Thank Goodness!” And then the best line: “He’s going to build on the beautiful teaching of Benedict, on the outreach of John Paul II, on the smile of John Paul I, and on that magnanimous heart of John XXII!”

On our way back to the Jesuit house, I said to Fr. Tom, “If you had told me on February 11th that we would have a Jesuit pope named Francis, I would have said it was impossible.”

Happy Birthday Fr. Rosica!

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We, the staff of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, wish to express our admiration and appreciation for Fr. Rosica our CEO, on the occasion of his birthday, March 3rd.  Each of us owes a debt of gratitude to Fr. Rosica for his belief in us and continual support of our ministry to be “salt of the earth” and “light of the world.” (Matt 5:13-14)

We wish especially to recognize him for all he has accomplished in his unwavering service to the Church over the past year: as a priest of the Congregation of St. Basil; as the president and vice-chancellor of Assumption University in Windsor, ON; as an assistant to the spokesperson for the Holy See Press Office; and as chief executive officer of Salt and Light.  Our Lord has generously blessed Fr. Rosica with the gifts and talents to carry out these wide-ranging and highly demanding ministries.  He is a laborer in the Lord’s vineyard who never tires of proclaiming the joy of the Gospel.

And so, we invite you, our readers, viewers, friends and generous supporters to join us in giving thanks to God the Almighty and Eternal Father, and praise to his Son Jesus, “the first and greatest evangelizer,” (EG, 12) for Fr. Rosica, in wishing him a very happy and blessed birthday, and praying for him and the work of Salt and Light today and throughout the year!


Catholic Communications in the Age of Pope Francis


Below you will find the full text of Fr. Thomas Rosica’s inaugural address for the Catholic Press Month lecture presented by the Catholic Courier and El Mensajero Católico, at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester, New York. 

Bishop Matano,

Bishop Clark,

Brother Priests and Sisters,

Dear Karen and Friends in Rochester,

It is a privilege for me to be home tonight and speak here in this Cathedral that is the mother Church of my home diocese.  Thank you for your kind invitation and for all the hard work that went into this evening. I am also very happy to join my voice to a chorus of many others who recently celebrated the 125th Anniversary of the Courier Journal of Rochester! In many ways, my “career” in media and communications began with the Courier Journal as a high school student back in late 1970’s at Aquinas Institute. I was conscripted to be part of “RapAround,” a weekly section that featured reporting from young Catholics from Catholic High Schools in the diocese. Little did I know then what would be in store for me back in 1975. The Courier was one of the first newspapers in the country to engage young men and women as journalists and communicators.  That initial experience would mark me for the rest of my life. Though I left Rochester in 1980, I have followed closely the growth, transformation and progress of the Courier, first and foremost through my friendship with and great admiration of Karen Franz, with whom I had the privilege of studying at what was then St. Ambrose parochial school.

What has always impressed me about the Courier Journal has been the ways that this Catholic newspaper has lived up to the standards of the broader journalistic profession to which it belongs.  The Courier has resisted that growing tendency to “tabloidism” in sectors of the Catholic press and risen above the folly of some of the blogs which are not just filled with sectarian, half truths, but are at times galaxies away from the Gospel charity with which our Catholic story should be told.

At his first public audience with nearly 6000 journalists in Rome on March 16, three days after his election in March 2013, Pope Francis said: “Ecclesial events are certainly no more intricate than political or economic events! But they do have one particular underlying feature: they follow a pattern which does not readily correspond to the “worldly” categories which we are accustomed to use, and so it is not easy to interpret and communicate them to a wider and more varied public. The Church is certainly a human and historical institution with all that that entails, yet her nature is not essentially political but spiritual: the Church is the People of God, the Holy People of God making its way to encounter Jesus Christ. Only from this perspective can a satisfactory account be given of the Church’s life and activity”. The Courier Journal took those words to heart from the beginning of its existence over a century ago.

You have asked me to speak about “Catholic Communications in the Age of Pope Francis.” In doing so, I wish to share a conversation I had just two days ago as I met with senior journalists at the ABC Television Network in New York City. A gentleman who headed up the network’s massive coverage of the Papal Transition two years ago remarked: “Look, Fr. Tom, whether one is Catholic or Protestant, Jew or Muslim, left or right, or nothing at all, for many of us for whom the Church was on a  distant horizon, we have all been brought into the heart of the Church and the Gospel and find the story fascinating and inviting.”

It is precisely this fascination that has gripped the world over the past two years. This evening, I would like to take a look at it with you.  But let me begin with this fundamental point: if today we are basking in the Franciscan light, it is because we owe a debt of gratitude to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and his courageous decision to step down two years ago February 11, an important moment in the life of the Catholic Church and in the life of the world.

Benedict’s resignation provides a rare but profound example of humility in action. True leaders put their cause before their power and self-interest. Far from a failure or weakness, his resignation was the most shining moment of Benedict’s papacy, and what will turn out to be a historically brilliant move. He has set a new course for the church.

In retrospection and commemoration of the second anniversary of Benedict’s resignation, many feel that in order to highlight the positive aspects of the “Franciscan” era, we must describe in negative terms the pontificate of Pope Benedict. That is not only absurd, but it is also indicates blindness, deafness and ignorance to what this great man accomplished. Comparisons between Francis and his predecessor are inevitable, and it’s no secret that Pope Francis is more appealing to the crowds… the huge numbers that continue to throng the Vatican to catch glimpse of the first Pope from the New World. There is a shift in tone under Francis in what could be described as a “moderate” or “pastoral” direction and a real concern for those on the peripheries of society and the Church.

Let us not forget however that many of the reforms now underway under Pope Francis’ leadership actually began on Benedict’s watch, especially in two chronic sources of scandal for the church: money and sex abuse.

Having had the privilege of serving as one of the “spokespersons” for the Vatican during the momentous papal transition two years ago, and now continuing in some small way in that capacity as I relate to English language media on a daily basis on behalf of the Holy See Press Office, I am an eye witness to this papacy and a transformation that is underway. Pope Francis has captivated the entire world, but why does he do and say the things he does? What makes this popular pontiff tick?

From the very first moments, Pope Francis stressed his role with the ancient title of “bishop of Rome” who presides in charity, echoing the famous statement of Ignatius of Antioch.  Francis has brought to the papacy a knack for significant gestures that immediately convey very powerful messages. Pope Francis’ vision of the Church challenges all of us. He has an amazing ability to find simple words to pose fundamental questions about the life of the Christian and of the Church. No one can deny that the “secular media” has been fascinated and mesmerized by his expressions that come from daily homilies, addresses, and messages:

  • “How I would like a church that is poor and for the poor!”
  • “Have a good Sunday, and a good lunch!”
  • “Priests must be shepherds with the smell of the sheep.”
  • “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!”
  • “We have fallen into a “globalization of indifference.”
  • “Who am I to judge?”
  • “I want things messy and stirred up in the church.  I want the church to take to the streets!”
  • “I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.”
  • “It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.”
  • “I see the Church as a field hospital after battle.”
  • “The image of the Church I like is that of the holy, faithful people of God.”
  •  “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”
  • “God never tires of forgiving us.”
  • “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.”
  • “I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life.”
  • “An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral.”
  • I dream of a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything.”
  • “Mercy is the greatest of all virtues.”
  • “The confessional must not be a torture chamber.”
  • “The Church is not a tollhouse.”
  • “I beg you bishops, avoid the scandal of being airport bishops!”
  • “We need to promote a culture of encounter.”
  • “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

Asked if he would ever baptize Martians, Pope Francis responded: “Who am I to close the door?”

Initially perhaps many of us (myself included) may have thought that Pope Francis’ free-flowing interviews, homilies and quotes are more a source of consternation and frustration than opportunities to learn more about the Church, her founder and her message. But Francis has chosen many different opportunities to speak and encounter the world. No matter how fraught with the potential confusion and misinterpretation those methods may sometimes be, the world is now listening to the Pope in ways that have never happened before. No longer can we simply attribute this interest to an initial fascination, a “honeymoon period”, or other infantile ways of trying to analyze what is really happening.  Let me be very honest: we are no longer in the “honeymoon” period of this Pontificate.  The world is listening because Francis and the Church have something solid to say and to offer to a world plunged in chaos, war, terror, violence, despair and darkness.

What is the most important achievement of Pope Francis? He has rebranded Catholicism and the papacy. Prior to Pope Francis, when many people on the street were asked: “What is the Catholic church all about? What does the pope stand for?”, the response would often be, “Catholics, well they are against abortion, gay marriage and birth control.” “They are known for the sex abuse crisis that has terribly marred and weakened their moral authority and credibility.” Though the media rightly exposed our sins for the abuse crisis, at the same it often falsely portrays us for our teaching and values at the core of our Catholic beliefs.

Today, the response is different. What do they say about us now? What do they say about the Pope? People are speaking about our leader who is unafraid to confront the sins and evils that have marred us. We have a pope who is concerned about mercy, compassion and love, especially for the poor. Whether we wish to admit it our not, Pope Francis has won over the media. By no means is this an indication that the teachings of the Church and message of the Gospel have been fully understood or received by all.  Neverthless, something has shifted in terms of Church-media relations. Many of my colleagues in the “secular” media industry have said that Francis has made it fun to be a religion reporter and journalist again. He has changed the image of the church so much that our prestigious graduate schools of business and management could use him as a case study in rebranding.

To those in several countries who have said that the Pope is not speaking out enough against abortion, Pope Francis is profoundly Pro-Life. He is simply doing what the Bishop of Rome and successor of Peter should do, positioning the evil of abortion within its proper moral context, the failure to recognize the dignity of every single human person at every age and stage of life. Procured abortion is only one of the poisonous fruits from the rotted tree growing in the corrupted garden of a culture of death.

Over the past months, Pope Francis has strongly denounced efforts to redefine marriage, and issued a thundering condemnation of abortion, euthanasia, and in-vitro fertilization, calling them “sins against God.” In emphasizing these truths, Francis has never urged withdrawal from the public square; on the contrary, he has declared: “Getting involved in politics is a Christian duty. We Christians cannot be like Pilate and wash our hands clean of things.”

The inability of commentators to pigeonhole Francis into a single category is frustrating to some people. Francis is strongly opposed to ‘parties’ or ‘lobbies’ in the Church. He does not compromise on the hot-button issues that divide the Church from the secular West – a gap liberals would like to close by modernizing doctrine. Yet he is also not a pope for the Catholic Right. For him contrasting positions, held together in tension, loyal to fundamentals but open to the action of the Holy Spirit, are necessary to forge a new, better consensus and the differences make for an honest, open discussion.

“The principal mission of the Church,” Pope Francis has declared, “is evangelization, bringing the Good News to everyone.” This was also Pope Beneidict’s mantra at the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization: “The Church exists to evangelize.” This is the only agenda of Pope Francis: to lead people to Jesus Christ, so that their lives and joy may be full.

In two years at the helm of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis has opened the floodgates of communication in an institution that has been effectively cloistered for centuries. While it is no exaggeration that a pope has never been so widely quoted by the secular press, it could also be said that a pope’s intentions have never been so widely misinterpreted. While it may seem like the pope is sending mixed signals, the truth may be that most of the press and non-Catholics are just projecting their own wishes and values on him.

He is not quite “conservative” nor entirely “progressive . His message is filled the paradoxes because life is a paradox and Christian life is a great paradox.  The world is listening to him because Francis models a solid consistency, the one between his words and deeds, and that between its current papal mission and life forever. It gives us great shepherd a beautiful model of the new evangelization.

Globalization of Indifference

Francis startled the world in July 2013, several months after his election, when he traveled rather spontaneously to the island of Lampedusa off the coast of Sicily- to that dangerous area were so many refugees have lost and continue to lose their lives in their journeys to freedom and safety.  The Holy Father’s voice rang out across the sea as he asked the world to reflect on:

“The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference. In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!”

The Challenges and Temptations of the Church

Speaking to Bishops in 2013 Rio de Janeiro, the Bishop of Rome spoke soberly and frankly about the temptations facing the Church: the temptation to turn the Gospel message into an ideology; the temptation to run the church like a business; and the temptation of clericalism. In an address July 28, 2013, to the episcopal council of CELAM, the Latin American conference of bishops, Pope Francis laid out these temptations and how the church should respond to them.

Making the Gospel message an ideology

This temptation to make the Gospel message an ideology has been present in the church from the beginning. It attempts to interpret the Gospel apart from the church or the Gospel itself. Francis says you must look at the Gospel with the eyes of a disciple. This temptation interprets the Gospel message through the lens of social science, whether from a Marxist or libertarian perspective and the Gospel is manipulated for political reasons. It is a temptation of both the right and the left to use the Gospel to serve political goals.


The second temptation of the church is to functionalism, which Pope Francis believes has the effect of paralyzing the church. “More than being interested in the road itself, it is concerned with fixing holes in the road.” It “has no room for mystery; it aims at efficiency.” This is the temptation of church bureaucrats. “It reduces the reality of the church to the structure of an (nongovernmental organization). What counts are quantifiable results and statistics.” Francis does not want the church to end up “being run like any other business organization.”


A third temptation is to clericalism, which, as its name implies, is a particular temptation for bishops, priests and deacons, but Francis argues that often, the laity is complicit. “The priest clericalizes the layperson and the layperson kindly asks to be clericalized because deep down it is easier.” Liberal clericalism tends to disdain popular piety while conservative clericalism fears giving the laity a greater role in the church. Although these were presented as temptations for the Latin American church, it is obvious that they are universal. They are alive and well in Rome and in North America.

But there were more temptations… At the end of the two-week Extraordinary Synod last October, Pope Francis gave a profoundly moving address to conclude the synod. He wove together the various strands of the spiritual and ecclesial experience of the Synod, fashioning them into a stunning tapestry for the Church. Without the Pope’s final speech – and to a lesser extent, his homily at the closing Mass, the Synod would have remained incomplete, and not been read with the interpretative or hermeneutical key of faith that truly inspired and motivated it, according to the mind of the Pope.

Pope Francis made clear to the whole Church that there should be no reason for fear or confusion in the church after such an extraordinary synod, in which not only had the traditional doctrine on the nature and indissolubility of marriage been confirmed, but also important pastoral questions relating to the family – including those related to the church’s approach to the divorced and remarried and to homosexual persons – remain on the table for the 2015 synod. More than anything else, this text indicated to the entire world that the barque of Church is indeed guided by the Lord and entrusted to a most able helmsman.

Allow me to share with you some of the highlights of Pope Francis’ concluding address to the Extraordinary Synod on Saturday evening, October 18, 2014:

And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. …And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

-One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

-The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

-The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

-The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfill the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

-The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms…”

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.

And then, in what many have described as a magnificent crescendo, Pope Francis shared with us in the Synod Hall the nature and reality of the Church:

…And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

This is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

And, as I have dared to tell you, as I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

When Pope Francis finished speaking, the synod fathers all rose in a spontaneous gesture and gave him a five-minute standing ovation. That said everything; it is the best answer to any fears people may have about the current direction of the Church.

Where does Francis want to lead the church? What does he want the bishops to do? What does he expect of us, ordained ministers?  And what is he modeling for laymen and women?

The Church is reconciler: In his address to the Brazilian bishops, Francis said that “from the beginning, God’s message was one of restoring what was broken, reuniting what had been divided,” Francis explained. “Walls, chasms, differences which still exist today are destined to disappear. The church cannot neglect this lesson: She is called to be a means of reconciliation.”

A Church of the heart: For Francis, faith enters the church through the heart of the poor, not through the heads of intellectuals. Francis confessed that “perhaps we have reduced our way of speaking about mystery to rational explanations, but for ordinary people the mystery enters through the heart.”

A church with a simple message: Francis has clearly stated: “The results of our pastoral work do not depend on a wealth of resources, but on the creativity of love.” Francis knows only too well that at times we lose people because they don’t understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity. He argues that the message should be kept simple. Rather, let us present Jesus as the compassion of God.

The Church of Emmaus: Using the Gospel story of Emmaus, speaks openly about people who have left the church because they “now think that the church — their Jerusalem — can no longer offer them anything meaningful and important.” We need a church unafraid of going forth into their night. We need a church capable of meeting them on their way. We need a church capable of entering into their conversation. We need a church able to dialogue with those disciples who, having left Jerusalem behind, are wandering aimlessly, alone, with their own disappointment, disillusioned by a Christianity now considered barren, fruitless soil, incapable of generating meaning. …

Are we still a church capable of warming hearts? A church capable of leading people back to Jerusalem? Of bringing them home? Jerusalem is where our roots are: Scripture, catechesis, sacraments, community, friendship with the Lord, Mary and the apostles. … Are we still able to speak of these roots in a way that will revive a sense of wonder at their beauty?

The Church: A Field Hospital and a Guiding Torch

When the pope speaks of the church as a “field hospital after a battle” he is referring to this image of St. Ignatius of Loyola. He explains the role of the church in light of God’s gaze upon the world: “so many people that ask us to be close, that ask us for what they were asking of Jesus: closeness, nearness.” It is the opposite image of a fortress under siege. The image of a church as a field hospital is not just a simple, pretty poetic metaphor; from this very image we can derive an understanding of both the church’s mission and the sacraments of salvation.

Where are the battlefields today?

  • decline in birthrates and the aging population have reversed the relationships between young and old persons
  • contraception enables the splitting of sexuality and procreation; assisted procreation divides the process of giving birth from being a parent
  • stepfamilies lead to new bonds and new parental roles that have complex relational geographies; de facto couples place the social institutionalization of their relationships into question; homosexual persons ask why they cannot live a life of stable affective relationships while remaining practicing believers.

The church must shine with the light that lives within itself, it must go out and encounter human beings who – even though they believe that they do not need to hear a message of salvation—often find themselves afraid and wounded by life. The Lineamenta for the 2015 Synod, which reflects the discussion of October 2014, offers a clear direction for the Church. In one of his well-known poems, Blessed Cardinal J.H. Newman wrote about a “kindly light.” We also find this image of light in the Encyclical Lumen fidei: “Faith is not a light that dissipates all of our shadows, but rather a light that guides our steps in the night; and this is enough for the journey” (n. 57). According to Pope Francis today more than ever we need “a church that is again capable of restoring citizenship to so many of its children that walk as if in exodus. Christian citizenship is above all the result of God’s mercy.


With the surprising election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the See of Peter two years ago, I have frequently been asked this question: Is this all the work of a PR company, clever media strategists or slick spin doctors hired by the Vatican to rebrand its image? Or is there something else at work? What has happened in the church, and how can it be that a 77-year-old, retirement-bound archbishop from Buenos Aires has captivated the world? How can we describe the sense of springtime that has come upon the church? How is it fathomable in our day and age that not only Christians and Catholics but millions of others are speaking about “Papa Francesco” as if he were their own?

Let me tell you what I think is afoot! The new Pope took the name Francis upon his election as Bishop of Rome and told us he did so because of his love for Francis of Assisi. Over the past two years, many of us have been associating the Pope’s gestures and actions with the “Poverello” or “Little Poor One” of Assisi, perhaps the most beloved saint of the Catholic tradition.

One day as a young man, Francis heard the plea of Jesus from the crucifix in the dilapidated San Damiano chapel on Assisi’s outskirts. “Go and repair my Church,” he heard Jesus say. And he certainly did that in his lifetime and through the huge Franciscan family that he left behind to carry forward his dream and continue his work.

We become easily fixated on lots of eye-catching, buzz-causing externals and great photo opportunities: A Pope who abandoned the red shoes – that were never an official part of the papal wardrobe! A Pope who dresses modestly, pays his own lodging bills, rides around Vatican City in a Ford Focus, who invites street people to his birthday breakfast. This Roman pontiff specializes in kissing babies and embracing the sick, disfigured broken bodies, and the abandoned of society. A pope who knows how to use a telephone, and uses it often. A pope who waits in line for the coat check at the Vatican Synod Hall, lines up for coffee, and introduces himself: “Sono Francesco. Come ti chiami?” We sit back, smile and utter: “What simplicity!” “Wow!” “Awesome!” “Finalmente!”

And for many who are watching all of this with differing forms of anxiety, they ask “Will the Francis reform succeed?”  The answer is: “Yes.” And I will tell you why. Francis’ reform is inevitable because it is not emanating from Assisi, Loyola, Manresa or even from Rome, as significant as those holy places may be! It is coming from another land where we find Bethlehem, Nazareth, Nain, Emmaus, Mount Tabor, Galilee and Jerusalem: the land of the Bible.

Francis will succeed because his life, vision, hopes and dreams are founded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are indeed living a moment of kairos, the appointed time and hour, when the Gospel story is unfolding before us once again in the life of Pope Francis. Everything the Pope is doing now is not just an imitation of his patron saint who loved the poor, embraced lepers, charmed sultans, made peace and protected nature. It’s a reflection of the child of Bethlehem who would grow up to become the man of the cross in Jerusalem, the Risen One that no tomb could contain, the man we Christians call Savior and Lord. Pope Francis has given us a powerful glimpse into the mind and heart of God.

This Bishop of Rome demands a lot while preaching about a God of mercy, by engaging joyfully with nonbelievers, atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and those sitting on the fences of life- many who thought that Christianity has nothing left to add to the equations of life. I go back to those words of my colleague at the ABC network: “We have all been brought into the heart of the Church and the Gospel and find the story fascinating and inviting.”

On the late afternoon of March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio received the call to go, rebuild, repair, renew and heal the church. What we have witnessed over the past two years is simply a disciple of Jesus, and a faithful disciple of Ignatius of Loyola and of Francis of Assisi, repairing, renewing, restoring, reconciling and healing the Church. There are those who delight in describing the new Pope as a bold, brazen revolutionary sent to rock the boat. Others think he has come to cause a massive shipwreck. But the only revolution that Pope Francis has inaugurated is a revolution of tenderness, the very words he used in his recent major letter on “The Joy of the Gospel.” [Evangelii Gaudium #88]

And the second revolution he has inaugurated is the revolution of normalcy.  What he is doing is normal human, Christian behavior. These are the revolutions at the heart and soul of Pope Francis’ ministry. It is his unflinching freedom that allows him to do what he does because he is unafraid and totally free to be himself at the same time of being such faithful son of the Church. It is his goodness, joy, kindness and mercy that introduce us to the tenderness of our God. No wonder why he has taken the world by storm, and why so many people are paying attention to him. No wonder why magazines and newspapers acclaim him as “Person of the Year”, “best Dressed man,” “Rolling Stone” icon and “Advocate” champion, to name but a few! No wonder why the Pope, and many of those who are trying to serve him and represent him are considered to be subversive! Pope Francis, himself shared that with us in his closing message to the recent Synod of Bishops last October when he said: “the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul – His disciples should not expect better treatment.”

We need the Francis revolution of tenderness, mercy and normalcy now more than ever before. I invite you to join me in praying for the Holy Father tonight:


Lord our God,

We thank you for always providing shepherds to guide the Church.

We thank you most especially for Francis,

the one you have chosen to be our chief shepherd

and guide at this moment in history.

Bless him with health and vision, boldness and courage,

wisdom and compassion, and boundless joy and hope.

Make him an instrument of your peace, compassion and mercy,

In your mercy you called Francis and you call each of us

to cling to Jesus, the rock of fidelity and truth.

May Pope Francis inspire us to be better Christians,

faithful Catholics and architects and citizens

of the civilization of love that your son entrusted to us.

We ask this in Jesus’ name, who lives with you forever and ever.


Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for us, and watch over Pope Francis.

Rochester native talks of pope who ‘won over media’


ROCHESTER — In just two years Pope Francis has “opened the floodgates of communication” in the Catholic Church, which effectively had been a cloistered institution, and has rebranded both Catholicism and the papacy, according to Basilian Father Thomas Rosica.

A Rochester native, Father Rosica as served since 2013 has served as English-language assistant to the Holy See Press Office. He spoke at Sacred Heart Cathedral Feb. 19  to deliver an inaugural Catholic Press Month lecture presented by the Catholic Courier and El Mensajero Católico.

In introducing Father Rosica’s talk on the topic “Catholic Communications in the Age of Pope Francis,” Karen M. Franz, the newspapers’ general manager and editor, said she hoped the annual lectures would create greater awareness of Catholic media, which provides the context necessary to help readers understand church teachings and positions.

The Courier served this mission well over the last several decades, said Father Rosica, who noted that his journalistic career began at the Courier in 1975, when as a student at Aquinas Institute he began reporting on his school’s events for the newspaper’s youth-run RapAround section.

“What has always impressed me about the Courier has been the ways that this Catholic newspaper has lived up to the standards of the broader journalistic profession to which it belongs,” said Father Rosica, who in addition to his duties at the Vatican also serves as chief executive officer of Canada’s Salt + Light Catholic Television Network.

In his role at Salt + Light, Father Rosica occasionally sends reporters out to ask people on the street what they think the Catholic Church is all about. Until a few years ago, respondents usually cited the priestly sex-abuse crisis and the church’s opposition to abortion, gay marriage and birth control, he said.

Gradually, however, those answers have been changing since Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, SJ, became Pope Francis in March 2013. Now people on the street talk about Pope Francis, frequently commenting on how much they like this pope, who is concerned about mercy, compassion and love, especially for the poor, Father Rosica said.

“Whether we wish to admit it or not, Pope Francis has won over the media. By no means is this an indication that the teachings of the church and the message of the Gospel have been fully understood or received by all. Nevertheless, something has shifted in terms of Church-media relations,” he added.

Although the pope’s messages are not always understood, the world is now listening to the pope in unprecedented ways, Father Rosica said. The world has been captivated by the Holy Father, who has a knack for making significant gestures that convey powerful messages, he said. Media outlets do an injustice, however, when they negatively compare Pope Benedict XVI to the current pontiff, he added.

“If today we are basking in the Franciscan light, it is because we owe a debt of gratitude to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and his courageous decision to step down two years ago. … It has changed the church forever, it has changed the world forever, and it certainly changed my life,” Father Rosica said. “Benedict’s resignation provides a rare but profound example of humility in action. … He has set a new course for the church.”

While many positively received reforms and actions now underway actually began under the watch of Pope Benedict XV, the current pontiff’s spontaneous public interactions with the public and unscripted conversations with the media are unique to Pope Francis, he noted. Many of Pope Francis’ actions, such as his decision to go to confession in public during a penance service last March, come as a complete surprise to even his closest aides, Father Rosica said, recalling his own shock at seeing the pope kneeling in front of a confessional, an action that was not included in the detailed script in Father Rosica’s hands.

“That’s the beauty of this pontificate. We don’t have a script, and he doesn’t have to be tamed,” Father Rosica said.

Pope Francis also surprised his aides just a few months after his election when he expressed a strong desire to visit the Italian island of Lampedusa, where thousands of African immigrants have died in recent years while trying to reach Europe. The pope’s team put him off, telling the Holy Father that it would take months to plan such an excursion, but news reports about hundreds of immigrants drowning en route to Lampedusa only strengthened Pope Francis’ resolve. Before long Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s spokesman, received a phone call alerting him to the fact that someone identifying himself as Pope Francis had been calling commercial airlines and inquiring about chartering a flight to Lampedusa, Father Rosica recalled.

When asked if he by chance had been the man behind those phone calls, Pope Francis said, “Well, you won’t take me, so I’ll get there myself,” Father Rosica continued, noting that the pope’s aides arranged the trip for the next month.

Those in attendance at the Feb. 19 lecture enjoyed hearing such anecdotes about the pope, noted Mercy Sister Marilyn Williams.

“Father Rosica made him come even more alive than we have experienced through the media so far,” said Sister Williams, who said she also appreciated the fact that Father Rosica set such stories in the context of the pope’s overarching philosophies and agenda.

“This is the only agenda of Francis: to lead people to Jesus Christ so their lives and their joy may be full,” Father Rosica said.

Many commentators are frustrated because they can’t pigeonhole the pope into a single category, yet Pope Francis’ words remain consistent with his actions, he added.

“He is not quite conservative and nor entirely progressive. His message is filled with paradoxes because life is a paradox and Christian life is a great paradox. The world is listening to him because Francis models a solid consistency, the one between his words and his deeds, and that between its current papal mission and life forever,”  he said.

This article was written by Jennifer Burke of the Catholic Courier. Find the original posting here

On the Significance and Role of Cardinals


Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

In light of the important meetings of Cardinals taking place this week at the Vatican that culminate in tomorrow’s ceremony for the “creation” of 20 new cardinals, I offer this brief explanation of the role of Cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church.

Cardinals are chosen by the Holy Father to serve as his principal assistants and advisers in the central administration of church affairs. Collectively, they form the College of Cardinals. The word cardinal is derived from two early Latin terms, cardo and cardinis. The English translation has rendered these two words as “hinge,” to signify that important device that serves as a juncture for two opposing forces and that affords harmony as a result. As a hinge permits a door to hang easily upon a framed portal, it was believed that the cardinals facilitated an easy relationship between the theological and governmental roles of the hierarchy of the Church. The role of the College of Cardinals remains a pivotal one in the Church of our time.

The cardinals’ color red of his robes symbolizes the blood shed by martyrs and witnesses for the faith. Giving public, clear witness to the faith lies at the heart of each Cardinal’s mission. At the consistory of Cardinals in November 2010, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI addressed the new Cardinals at the Eucharistic celebration inaugurating their new ministry with these words:

“This ministry is difficult because it is not in line with the human way of thinking — with that natural logic which, moreover, continues to be active within us too. But this is and always remains our primary service, the service of faith that transforms the whole of life: believing that Jesus is God, that he is the King precisely because he reached that point, because he loved us to the very end. And we must witness and proclaim this paradoxical kingship as he, the King, did, that is, by following his own way and striving to adopt his same logic, the logic of humility and service, of the grain of wheat which dies to bear fruit.”

At last year’s ceremonies for the creation of new Cardinals (February 22, 2014), Pope Francis described the cardinal’s critical role with these words:

“And as we are thus “con-voked”, “called to himself” by our one Teacher, I will tell you what the Church needs: she needs you, your cooperation, and even more your communion, with me and among yourselves. The Church needs your courage, to proclaim the Gospel at all times, both in season and out of season, and to bear witness to the truth. The Church needs your prayer for the progress of Christ’s flock, that prayer – let us not forget this! – which, along with the proclamation of the Word, is the primary task of the Bishop. The Church needs your compassion, especially at this time of pain and suffering for so many countries throughout the world. Let us together express our spiritual closeness to the ecclesial communities and to all Christians suffering from discrimination and persecution. We must fight every form of discrimination! The Church needs our prayer for them, that they may be firm in faith and capable of responding to evil with good. And this prayer of ours extends to every man and women suffering injustice on account of their religious convictions.

The Church needs us also to be peacemakers, building peace by our words, our hopes and our prayers. Building peace! Being peacemakers! Let us therefore invoke peace and reconciliation for those peoples presently experiencing violence, exclusion and war.”


Cardinals have the responsibility of advising the Pope when he convenes a Consistory (special meeting of cardinals). The primary role of cardinals is that of meeting together at the resignation or death of a pope to elect his successor. They have no real power, except during the period between popes known as sede vacante. Originally their role was devised as a sort of bridge between the theological and governing roles of the hierarchy of the Church.

In the case of Pope Francis, the new Cardinals assist him to enact the reforms he began shortly after his election as Bishop of Rome and leader of the Roman Catholic Church. This includes a revamp of the governance of the Catholic Church and the reform of the financial structures in the central government of the Church. Also under Pope Francis, cardinals are playing a key role in addressing head-on the sex abuse scandal and the protection of minors that has plagued the Catholic Church for the past years.

Opening the Consistory on February 12, 2015, Pope Francis stressed that the aim of the Curial reform “is always that of promoting greater harmony in the work of the various dicasteries and offices, in order to achieve more effective collaboration in that absolute transparency which builds authentic synodality and collegiality.”

“Reform is not an end in itself, but a way of giving strong Christian witness; to promote more effective evangelization; to promote a fruitful ecumenical spirit; and to encourage a more constructive dialogue with all.”

The Pope went on to say that this reform was “strongly advocated by the majority of cardinals” in the pre-conclave meetings, and is intended to “enhance the identity of the Roman Curia itself, which is to assist Peter’s successor in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office for the good and in the service of the universal Church and the particular Churches, in order to strengthen the unity of faith and the communion of the people of God, and to promote the mission of the Church in the world.”

When each new cardinal climbs the steps to the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica and kneels before Pope Francis to receive the red berretta, he begins a form of public martyrdom. If he is a residential archbishop or bishop, He not only represents his local church but his entire nation. As Cardinal, he does not lord it over others, but continues to serve the Church through the logic of humility and service – a logic which has distinguished his priestly and episcopal ministry for many years.

WuerlTRIn becoming a cardinal, one becomes a hinge, a door, a public witness, and a peacemaker. Cardinals have the great responsibility of being instruments and agents of communion, harmony, compassion and mercy, constantly reaching out, listening to all generations, consulting, dialoguing with the secular and the sacred, and facilitating the complex but necessary relationship between the theological and governmental roles of the hierarchy of the Church. At the heart of the cardinal’s vocation and mission is a passion for the unity of the Church and a deep desire to be at the service of the successor of Peter.

An excellent example of a cardinal’s vocation and mission can be found in this moving text written this past week by the Cardinal archbishop of Washington, DC, Donald Wuerl. Cardinal Wuerl has taken to heart the critical role of cardinal at this moment in Church history.

Read it here: The Pope, Touchstone of Faith and Unity


From Synod to Synod Airs on S+L

synod_to_synod_blog_airtime (1)

On October 2, 2014, Pope Francis said, “A synod means walking together and also praying together.” Three months ago, the Church was given a gift in the form of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. We are very thankful that S+L could be a part of the historical moment in Church. Last year, Fr. Thomas Rosica led a S+L TV production team in Rome to cover the Synod in English, French and Chinese at the Vatican. It was a fruitful experience and a huge blessing for us all.

On January 26, 2015, we experienced yet another fruitful moment. We hosted a special presentation on the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family at St. Michael’s College School. The presentation was led by Fr. Thomas Rosica with three of our producers, Sebastian Gomes (who covered the Synod in English), Charles Le Bourgeois (who did the French coverage) and Rodney Leung (who led our Chinese coverage). The evening was a beautiful time to share our Synod experience with our board members and general public.

The evening kicked off with the premiere of a short S+L video production on the Synod, titled “This is the Synod of Bishops – 2014 Synod Recap.” Check it out below!

After the video premiere, Fr. Rosica gave a short summary of the evening to come and introduced our producers! Each producer then gave a short presentation ranging from 6-15 minutes on their own experience at the Synod. It was quite interesting to hear about all the stuff that happened INSIDE the Synod, stuff that wasn’t usually reported on by the media. And since our three reporters each reported in their own language, we lived three different experiences!

Following the short presentations came the Q&A period of the night. The audience members asked excellent questions on euthanasia and homosexual unions, just to name a few. The whole evening was a huge success! Afterwards, we received many positives remarks and compliments on all the great work our producers did.

(Check out a few photos of the evening at the end of the post!)

The Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops was just a preparatory stage for the Synod that is come in October 2015. There is still a long way to go for the Church and for the faithful.

Let us all learn not to judge, but to love and to pray with people and for all people.

Let us also keep Pope Francis, all the cardinals and bishops in our prayers. May the Holy Spirit be with them always and guide them in the upcoming Synod this October.

Lastly, thank you for your prayers and your generous support for us! We will broadcast this special program – “From Synod to Synod” soon. We would love to share this special moment with all of you and your family.

God Bless!

Holy Family of Nazareth, pray for us!


AudienceReception1 Reception NoelTony Emilie BillyTable

Check out our Facebook page for more photos!

From Synod to Synod airs Thursday, February 19, 2015.