Holy Father’s Visit

PopeFrancisIt’s been quite a week! I was delighted to be among those who welcomed our Holy Father to the United States. As his Alitalia aircraft rolled to a stop at Joint Base Andrews, the crowd was excited and joyful. A person who works at Andrews told me that over the years she had seen many dignitaries arrive but this was different. “It’s not about power but love,” she said. She was on the mark. The Holy Father came to our country as a missionary of mercy. How happy I was to greet this “missionary” personally on behalf of our Archdiocesan family of faith!

Be sure to check out this week’s Catholic Review to read more about my takeaways from the Holy Father’s visit and, in particular, his emphasis on serving the poor, caring for the environment, and the need to safeguard the institution of the family and religious freedom.

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Welcome, Pope Francis!

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The clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Nation’s first Catholic diocese, join millions of other Catholics and people of all faiths in welcoming our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to the United States. I am privileged to represent our Archdiocese among those who will greet the Holy Father upon his arrival on Tuesday and at several events during his visit, including the Mass of Canonization of Blessed Junipero Serra.

Anticipation of the visit of Pope Francis has increased as his arrival draws nearer. Many say he has a “rock star” quality about him. I presume that’s a good thing! He is extraordinarily popular among people of all faiths and ages and for many reasons. He embraces simplicity, exudes humility, and speaks frequently of the need to care for the poor, the marginalized and the environment. His emphasis on mercy (he has called for a worldwide Year of Mercy in the Church beginning this December) has caused many to rethink how they feel about the Catholic Church, which has a long history of bringing the mercy of Christ to those she serves, whether in the fields of healthcare, education or charitable outreach—and to see the many contributions the Catholic Church makes to the common good.

This pope has been a pope of surprises since his first days in office. He goes out at night to personally tend to the poor of Rome, made a detour in his first official trip to South America to visit some of the poorest villages there, gives impromptu and candid interviews to members of the media, and elected to live in more simple and humble quarters. In his public interactions he often gravitates toward those who seemingly need more than others the touch and care of Christ’s Vicar on Earth, and his grandfatherly and accessible personality and tone make him irresistible and magnetic to most everyone.

Ironically, the substance of the Pope’s words are not so different from his predecessors. People are often surprised to hear that Pope Francis has not altered Church teaching. In fact, he affirms the long-held teachings of the Catholic Church whether speaking about the environment, the poor, caring for migrants, and what he calls the “culture of waste” or affirming traditional marriage, calling for the protection of religious liberty, and promoting the sanctity of all human life.

Because of his tone and humility, his words are often mistaken as signaling a change in direction. Regardless, he has caused people to hear the Church’s teaching with “fresh ears” and to understand that her teachings are rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not as a set of burdensome rules but as a response to God’s love for each of us.

Twenty years after the historic visit to Baltimore of St. Pope John Paul II, we are encouraging the people of the Archdiocese of Baltimore to celebrate the visit of Pope Francis by participating in as many of the official events as possible—whether in Washington, D.C. or in Philadelphia. More than 1,000 local Catholics will board buses and train cars to be with an estimated 1.5 million other pilgrims for the Pope’s Mass in the City of Brotherly Love. And several hundred will be in Washington, D.C. for the Mass on Wednesday. Those unable to attend the Philadelphia Mass are invited to the lawn of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen to watch the Mass and enjoy dinner together. And many other activities are planned here in the Archdiocese to mark the occasion.

In response to the Holy Father’s example of selfless service to others, we are partnering with Catholic Charities to encourage people to serve in one of several charitable outreach programs during the Pope’s visit. A list of opportunities can be found at www.archbalt.org and we pray his visit will inspire Catholics and others to “serve like Francis.”

May the visit of Pope Francis be a blessing to the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and to people of all faiths throughout our Nation.

Awaiting the Pope

PopeFrancis_BlogAs we await the arrival to the United States of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, let us consider the many ways in which we can participate in his visit and to perform acts of faith and service that reflect the selfless ministry of our Pope.

The Pope will celebrate Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, September 23 at 4:15 p.m. The Archdiocese of Baltimore has a limited number of tickets to share with parishioners and others who are engaged in a discussion on our social media channels about Pope Francis and his impact on their faith. Visit us on Facebook/archbalt and Twitter (@archbalt) or Instagram (@archbaltimore).

A few seats remain on buses headed to Philadelphia for the Mass on September 27. To register, visit www.regonline.com/papalvisit. Those unable to attend the Mass in person can watch it on a big screen on the lawn of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. People from all over the Archdiocese have been invited to bring chairs and blankets to watch the “Papal Mass in the Grass.”  Make it a full day of fun and bring your family and join our extended family of faith. The Ravens game will be shown beginning at 1pm and food trucks have been invited too. No RSVP needed. Just show up and enjoy this unique experience together!

Serve Like Francis
During the Pope’s visit, the Archdiocese and Catholic Charities are making it easy for people throughout the Archdiocese to participate in charitable outreach programs that provide much needed services to the poor and needy throughout Maryland. To learn how you can serve like Francis, visit www.archbalt.org.

Feet for Francis
His Holiness Pope Francis teaches us about humility. He has also called us to serve and help the poor. During his visit to the United States in September, a small group of pilgrims will walk in his honor. Starting September 20 from the Baltimore Basilica, these pilgrims will walk 104 miles to Philadelphia to join with Pope Francis. This spiritual journey will take a week.  Pope Francis has made it a central tenet that we must help the poor. Those who do not walk in the pilgrimage can still participate in this extraordinary occasion. “Feet for Francis” is a fundraiser sponsored by the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Catholic Review Media in partnership with Funds2Orgs. However, this is a very different type of fundraiser. This fundraiser invites all the parishes, schools and Catholic groups and institutions throughout the Archdiocese of Baltimore to join in this common cause. Instead of families donating money, the faithful are invited to give new and gently worn, used shoes and sneakers. The Archdiocese of Baltimore will be paid by Funds2Orgs based on the total weight of the shoes collected during this shoe drive fundraiser. A portion of funds raised through this effort will defray the costs of the walking pilgrimage and the rest will be given to Archbishop William E. Lori for charitable purposes. In turn, the shoes collected become inventory for small business owners, or micro-entrepreneurs, in 26 developing countries, including Haiti, Honduras, Tanzania and Colombia. For more information, visit funds2orgs.com/feetforfrancis.

All the events of the Pope’s visit will be streamed live on our website, www.archbalt.org. I pray the visit of our Holy Father will be a blessing for you and inspire your faith in the days and weeks to come.

Monsignor Art

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The Archdiocese of Baltimore lost one of its best priests over the Labor Day weekend as Monsignor Arthur Valenzano. Rector of the Basilica of the Assumption, lost his long battle with cancer. “Monsignor Art”, as he was known to so many, was among the very first priests I met upon arriving to Baltimore three years ago to begin serving as Archbishop of the Premier See. Because the Basilica Rectory also serves as the Archbishop’s Residence, we shared a home and got to know one another well. It did not take long for me to realize what a good and holy priest Monsignor Art was and why he was so beloved by all—priests and laity alike. His kindness, joy and care for others made everyone around him feel special and he brought the love of Jesus to all he encountered, whether a parishioner, a visitor, or someone he encountered on the street. Living in the city, Monsignor Art was frequently approached by people in need of help and he always treated those who approached him as though they were his friends. He readily dispensed compassion, respect and prayer, along with the few dollars he would carry with him whenever he would go for a walk. That kindness was so typical of Monsignor Art and is why he endeared himself to those he served throughout his priestly ministry. Our Church is enriched and blessed to have been so ably served by such a priest. May his example be with us always, and guide our words and deeds as we seek to bring others closer to Christ, just like my friend and brother priest, Monsignor Art.

Pray for the Care of Creation

Today is the inaugural Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. Following the release of his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Sí, Pope Francis called for this special day of prayer in hopes of calling renewed attention to the need for each of us to do our part to care for the precious gift of the earth, which God has given us to preserve and protect for future generations. Each of us has a responsibility to care for the environment and can do simple things like recycling and reducing waste and the pollution that damages our waterways and the crops they feed. These small but important steps will lead to a healthier and cleaner environment and will cumulatively help in the fight to end poverty in the United States and around the world. Check out this new video by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services. It is the first in a series of videos on Catholic social teaching. And please join me in praying today for the Care of Creation!