Tuesday, November 24, 2015

In Anglicanorum First, US Ordinariate Lands A "Flying Bishop"

Almost four years since Benedict XVI created a continent-wide jurisdiction for US and Canadian Anglicans entering communion with Rome, the Houston-based Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter has reached a watershed moment: at Roman Noon, the founding head of the 42-parish fold, Msgr Jeffrey Steenson, stepped aside at 63 on his own request as the Pope named Msgr Steven Lopes, 40 – the San Francisco-bred CDF staffer who began his decade there as Cardinal William Levada's personal aide – as the first bishop-ordinary for any of the three local churches founded under the terms of Anglicanorum coetibus.

With the appointment, the bishop-elect – a double NAC alum who's been the Holy See's prime specialist on the ordinariates over recent years – becomes the youngest Latin-church hierarch to be named in the US since 1988, when Franciscan Fr Roberto Gonzalez (now archbishop of San Juan) was tapped as an auxiliary of Boston at 38. On another front, meanwhile, the timing of the appointment coincides with this weekend's introduction of Divine Worship: The Missal, the culmination of a years-long effort which saw centuries of Anglican texts culled into a single volume for the ordinariates' universal use, replacing the US-centric Book of Divine Worship in use since 2003. With the new work's preparation overseen by Rome, Lopes handled the bulk of its coordination as secretary of the special commission charged with integrating Anglican traditions into Catholic liturgy. (The bishop-elect is seen above presenting the new Missal to the Pope, aided by the top American at the "Holy Office," Archbishop Gus diNoia OP, who likewise aided in the project.)

While the choice of a Roman-rite cleric as "flying bishop" of the sprawling Anglo-Catholic diocese might appear unusual on the surface, beyond being steeped in the ordinariates from their inception given CDF's lead responsibility for the Anglicanorum project, Lopes' disposition fulfills both the theological and practical requirements for the unique post to function as effectively as possible. For one, as Steenson as well the heads of the English and Australian ordinariates – all of whom were Anglican bishops before "swimming the Tiber" – are married, the founding ordinaries couldn't become Catholic bishops, even whilst being granted all the jurisdiction and insignia of the episcopacy, save for the ability to ordain. As having a bishop of their own has been seen as a key aspect toward affirming the project's ecclesial "maturity," then, a celibate was needed. Practically speaking, meanwhile, as the securing of a bishop frees the ordinariate from having to call on Latin-church prelates to ordain the steady stream of clerics who've joined its ranks – 62 so far, most of them married – Lopes' youth and lack of a family will likewise make it easier to handle the ferocious traveling Steenson took on to be present to his scattered flock.

In a message to the ordinariate released this morning, the retiring prelate – a onetime sportswriter and Oxford-trained patristic scholar – indicated that the choice of the new ordinary was made using the "significant consultative process" laid out by the retired pontiff in Anglicanorum, under which the ordinariate's 13-cleric governing council prepared the terna from which Lopes was chosen.

Beyond the completion of the missal project, earlier this year the Stateside Ordinariate dedicated an ample headquarters of its own: a jewel-box of a Chancery (above) adjacent to its "principal church," Houston's Our Lady of Walsingham parish, which now becomes a cathedral in the proper sense with the arrival of a bishop. Upon his ordination on Candlemas Day, 2 February, Lopes will be based there, inheriting a staff led by now-Msgr Larry Gipson, the onetime pastor of the largest parish of the Episcopal Church, H-Town's St Martin's, where his congregation included former President George H.W. Bush.

The ordinariate's administrator until Lopes' arrival – after which he'll bear the title "Ordinary-emeritus" – Steenson will introduce his successor at a 10.30 Central press conference today in the Walsingham Chancery. For reasons of space, the bishop-elect's ordination is most likely to be held in Houston's Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, with the CDF prefect Cardinal Gerhard Müller ostensibly to preside. Given the spread of the ordinariate's charge, with the appointment Lopes becomes the sole Latin-church bishop to hold joint membership in the episcopal conferences of both Canada and the US, a distinction likewise enjoyed by a handful of Eastern-church hierarchs.


Monday, November 23, 2015

For "The Hill," A New Man – Pastoral Chief Named Rector of NAC

While several Stateside seminaries have reported upticks in enrollment over the last decade, the largest of the bunch remains across the Atlantic... and as the trend has only served to bolster the Pontifical North American College's standing as the lodestar of priestly formation (and a good bit else) back home, this Monday brings the accordingly consequential word of a change at its helm.

At this hour atop the Gianicolo, the 156 year-old seminary is slated to introduce Fr Peter Harman, 42 – a priest of Springfield in Illinois who's served since 2013 as the NAC's top pastoral formator – as its 23rd Rector. The choice formally made by the Congregation for the Clergy, which accepted the recommendation of the college's 15-bishop Board of Governors, the appointment takes effect on February 1st. In the post, Harman succeeds Msgr Jim Checchio, who returns to his Mom and clan in South Jersey after a ten-year tenure that's significantly solidified the the NAC's resources while likewise growing its enrollment by some 60 percent. (The duo are shown above, with Harman at right.)

For purposes of context, it's no stretch to say that when the NAC sneezes, the US church catches a cold... and, indeed, a good chunk of global Catholicism starts sniffling, to boot. Even beyond its current 250-plus seminarians – a high over recent decades – the reach of "The Hill" is even more tellingly explained in the students' presence from nearly 100 dioceses, comprising a majority of the nation's Latin-church outposts, as well as a handful each from Australia and Canada. (An additional 75 priests in graduate studies live at the college's Casa Santa Maria, the NAC's original home in the city's core until the Gianicolo compound opened in 1953.) Yet whether they come as theologians preparing for ordination or advanced degrees afterward, its alums have formed the modern backbone of American hierarchical leadership: today, no less than two-thirds of the nine Stateside cardinal-electors – including three of the four who lead dioceses – are products of the college and/or the Casa, along with a heavy plurality of the nation's bishops and a wider network that leaves practically no church entity on these shores untouched. Borrowing from another field, it's a profession-wide impact comparable to having the graduate pools of Harvard Law and Yale Law rolled into one.

Six months since just the latest Papal Mass in the NAC's chapel, it still bears repeating that the Hill's dominance stretches across ecclesiological lines: the most diametrically differing figures of the home-crop's top rank as it stands – Cardinal Raymond Burke, now patron of the Order of Malta, and Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago – are both members of the NAC Class of 1975, as are at least six other US bishops. And all around, given its legacy of leadership from the sweep of its hilltop campus in sight of St Peter's – newly anchored by an $8 million, 10-story tower (left) opened in January – the college's role as Rome's unquestioned hub of American Catholic life gives its rector an outsize influence not just on the next generation of shepherds he forms, but the current one which calls the place home whenever they're in town. Lest anyone forgot the principal proof of it, the hospitality and charisma of the 20th Rector created a cult following that, within a decade of his departure from the Hill, would catapult Tim Dolan into the archbishopric of New York... and when Dolan went on to write his own history in becoming the first Big Apple prelate ever elected to lead the national bench, the deciding votes came from the younger appointees whose own priesthoods were marked by the book of conferences he gave his NAC seminarians.

Back to the latest of the line, Harman's appointment to the Rector's Office comes as a surprise given both his background and place in the college's pecking order. In marked contrast to his predecessors who were elevated from within, the new chief isn't the incumbent vice-rector on the Gianicolo, nor anywhere close – indeed, the formal listing ranks his current post ninth among the faculty. As for biography, while being an alum of the seminary, Harman didn't return to Rome for later studies but instead rose rapidly in his home diocese, becoming rector of Springfield's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (and guiding the end of its $11 million, stem-to-stern restoration) within a decade of his ordination in 1999.

His undergrad work done at St Meinrad, Harman's doctorate in theology comes from the Catholic University of America in Washington, with a dissertation on St John Paul II's enrichment of a "theology of suffering." Only in 2013 was the now-incoming Rector called back to Rome to oversee the NAC's program which forms its priests-to-be in preaching, celebrating the sacraments, and works of charity. In addition, he's served as the college's media liaison.

Developing – more to come.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

For the Bishops, It's Election Day

Tuesday's USCCB agenda topped by the election of six committee chairs and three votes that'll lock in the direction of the US church's policy agenda for the remainder of this decade,  the live-text feed of the results, etc. as it all happened is below... and on-demand video for the whole of this meeting's final public session.

Live Blog USCCB Election Day 2015


Monday, November 16, 2015

Live from The Fall Classic

Good morning from Baltimore and Opening Day of this 97th Plenary of the US bishops – here's the livefeed from the Floor...

(Ed. The day having wrapped, on-demand video of the Monday sessions is available via the Mothership.)

...and with the morning session bringing the usual kickoff speeches from the president, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, and the Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò (in his farewell appearance before reaching the retirement age in mid-January), updates to come.

SVILUPPO: Before the morning's speeches, the body approved two statements – the already-released text (composed Saturday by the top-level Administrative Committee) expressing solidarity with France following Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris, and a strikingly-worded presidential message on the global persecution of Christians, its fulltext below:

"Lord Jesus Christ."

These three whispered words rose above the sound of the surf to overcome death, as 21 Coptic Christians – brothers as dear to us as our own family – knelt in the sand before the executioner's sword. The body and blood of Christ were offered on the Mediterranean shore that all too recent February day. Our body and blood were offered, for as St. Paul teaches us, we are one body in Christ and "if one suffers, all the parts suffer with it" (1 Cor 12:26).

The words of our Lord Jesus Christ are alive and with us now. "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you as well" (Jn 15:20). Places of worship that have stood for centuries in the very cradle of Christianity are being destroyed. Families are fleeing from beheadings, sexual slavery and even crucifixion. In places such as Mosul, Christmas bells that have heralded the birth of our Savior uninterrupted for nearly two thousand years have fallen silent as our brothers and sisters in the faith have been scattered. It is nothing short of genocide.

This Sunday, more than 20 million Catholics will attend Mass throughout the United States, kneeling in preparation to receive Holy Communion. In the week ahead, they will read the Bible, teach their children to pray, and practice Christian virtue in the workplace. We will do so, largely, without fear of being targeted for simply worshipping God. This Sunday, when we kneel, let us draw near to all those dying in the name of our faith. Let us then rise, renewed in our solidarity with the suffering of people of all faiths.

We will soon begin to celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis. During this special year, the Holy Father encourages us to rediscover the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, including feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, comforting the afflicted and praying for the living and the dead. How might we accompany our suffering fellow Christians and all people of good will?
Pray – Surrounded by death, the loving embrace of Jesus is often the modern martyr's only comfort. Let us pray their faith will sustain them as it inspires us to turn ever more fervently to Christ in our own lives. 
Witness – Our hearts never grow indifferent to the continuing stories of families forced from their homes, separated from those they love and facing an unknown future. We cannot be hesitant to speak their name, make their cause our own and ensure they are never forgotten by the powerful in a position to protect them.

Give – Last September, Catholic parishes in the United States gave generously to a special collection supporting our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. We can continue our generosity through organizations like Catholic Relief Services or the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. 
As Pope Francis reminds us, "authentic religion is a source of peace and not of violence." Ever confident in Christ's abundant grace, we look with hope to the day when people of every faith live in harmony with their neighbor.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

"Life Is Bigger Than Explanations" – To Rome's Lutherans, Pope Talks Conscience on Communion

Before anything else, greetings from Baltimore and the eve of this 97th November Plenary of the Stateside bishops, the public sessions beginning just after 10am Eastern Monday due to early regional meetings.

Even if the halls here are already full of conversation, yet again this Sunday's sudden top-line comes from Rome, where the Pope visited the city's Evangelical Lutheran church for an ecumenical dialogue. (Indeed, with an eye to the coming 500th anniversary of the German Reformation in 2017, today's event follows quickly on the heels of Declaration on the Way, a major joint statement from the USCCB and Evangelical Lutheran Church of America rolled out earlier this month as a roadmap for the path forward.)

Among the handful chosen to take part in today's Q&A, Francis heard from a member of the mostly German-Swiss congregation who, speaking of her marriage to a Catholic, addressed "the hurt we've felt together due to [their] difference of faith" and asked about their ability "to finally participate together in Communion."

In an answer that's almost certain to resonate broadly across the ecumenical scene (and elsewhere, quite possibly show his hand on his intended course following last month's Synod on the Family), the pontiff – clearly wrestling with the plea – pointedly appealed less to the standard prohibition of the Eucharist for Protestant communities than to the woman's discernment in conscience.

As if to reinforce the point, in a move clearly decided in advance, Francis publicly presented the pastor with a chalice which appeared identical to the ones the Pope gave the archbishops of Washington, New York and Philadelphia during his late September US trip.

On another context front, meanwhile, having employed Q&A as a favorite format with no shortage of groups over time, Papa Bergoglio is customarily appraised of the questions to be put to him in advance – and given the situation here, it'd be practically impossible to believe that Francis didn't anticipate the topic coming up. Along these lines, it was oddly telling that the Pope referred positively to the deeply irregular situation of Jerónimo Podestá – the Argentine bishop who fled his ministry to marry in 1968 – to whom the now-Pope was close at his death in 2000, and to whose widow Francis has remained in contact both before and since his election, all while the country's other prelates kept a disapproving distance.

All that said, as Cardinal Walter Kasper looked on between the current Ecumenism Czar Cardinal Kurt Koch and the Papal Vicar for Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, below is the fullvideo of the exchange on intercommunion, and an English translation of the Pope's reply, which the congregation greeted with warm smiles and an ovation:

The question on sharing the Lord’s Supper isn’t easy for me to respond to, above all in front of a theologian like Cardinal Kasper – I’m scared!

I think of how the Lord told us when he gave us this mandatum to “do this in memory of me,” and when we share the Lord’s Supper, we recall and we imitate the same as the Lord. And there will be the Lord’s Supper in the final banquet in the new Jerusalem – it’ll be there! But that will be the last one… in the meantime, I ask myself and don’t know how to respond – what you’re asking me, I ask myself the question. To share the Lord’s banquet: is it the goal of the path or is it the viaticum [etym. “to accompany you on the journey”] for walking together? I leave that question to the theologians and those who understand.

It’s true that in a certain sense, to share means that there aren’t differences between us, that we have the same doctrine – underscoring that word, a difficult word to understand. But I ask myself: but don’t we have the same Baptism? If we have the same Baptism, shouldn’t we be walking together? And you’re a witness of a likewise profound journey, a journey of marriage: itself a journey of family and human love and of a shared faith, no? We have the same Baptism.

When you feel yourself a sinner – and I’m much more of a sinner – when your husband feels he’s sinned, you go forward to the Lord and ask forgiveness; your husband does the same and also goes to the priest and asks absolution, [thus] I’m healed and kept alive in my Baptism. When you pray together, that Baptism grows, becomes stronger. When you teach your kids who is Jesus? Why did Jesus come? What did Jesus do for us?, you’re doing the same thing, whether in the Lutheran language or the Catholic one, but it’s the same.

The question [Pope draws question mark with his finger]…. The supper? There are questions that only if one is sincere with oneself and the little theological light one has, must be responded to on one’s own. See for yourself. This is my body. This is my blood. Do it in remembrance of me – this is a viaticum that helps us to journey on.

I once had a great friendship with a bishop who went a little wrong – 48 years old, he married [then had] two children. This made for great discomfort in him – a Catholic wife, Catholic children, him a bishop. He accompanied them on Sunday, his wife and children, to Mass, and then went to worship with his community…. It was a step toward his participation in the Lord’s Supper. Then he went forward, then the Lord called him [to realize] “I’m not right.”

I can only respond to your question with a question: what can I do with my husband that the Lord’s Supper might accompany me on my path? It’s a problem that each must answer [for themselves], but a pastor-friend once told me that “We believe that the Lord is present there, he is present” – you believe that the Lord is present. And what's the difference? There are explanations, interpretations, but life is bigger than explanations and interpretations. Always refer back to your baptism – one faith, one baptism, one Lord: this Paul tells us; and then consequences come later.

I would never dare to give permission to do this, because it’s not my own competence. One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and then go forward. [Pauses] And I wouldn't dare – I don’t dare say anything more.
SVILUPPO: In a Sunday afternoon email to its collaborators obtained by Whispers, the US-based Evangelical Lutheran Church of America announced that – at a Chicago meeting of its governing council today – the group "voted unanimously, and with warm enthusiasm, to accept the Statement of [32] Agreements" in its joint Declaration on the Way with the nation's Catholic bishops, and that "receiving the agreements recognizes that there are no longer church-dividing issues with respect to these Statements."


Friday, November 06, 2015

Amid Vatileaks Frenzy, Francis Deepens His Eurostamp

While Rome's chattering circuit is consumed with the latest round of leak theatrics surrounding Vatican finances and the excesses of some prelates, the Pope has instead taken to doubling down on work and complete a "lightning round" of appointments to several major European posts.

At Roman Noon this Friday, Francis named Bishop Josef De Kesel of Bruges, 68, as archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and head of a Belgian church that might just be the most bitterly polarized in the Catholic world. In the capital post of the linguistically-split, heavily secularized nation of Dutch and French-speakers, the incoming primate succeeds Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, who only reached the retirement age of 75 in May, after a five-year tenure which has been dogged by controversy from the outset on fronts ranging from the prelate's comments on the moral culpability of AIDS patients to clergy sex-abuse, which saw Leonard civilly ordered to pay €10,000 earlier this year after being found to have failed to act on an allegation in his prior post in the 1990s. Highlighting the tensions on the wider scene, in two incidents that went viral the archbishop once was hit in the face with a pie during a liturgy and subsequently had water bottles dumped on him by topless feminists who stormed the stage at one of his speaking engagements. (Above, De Kesel and Leonard are seen from left at this morning's presser.)

A protege of Leonard's predecessor, the famously liberal Cardinal Godfried Danneels – whose auxiliary De Kesel had been from 2002-10 – the archbishop-elect (a Gregorian-trained theologian) was the first choice on the 
terna for the last Brussels succession, but the then-Nuncio, Archbishop Karl-Josef Rauber, was overruled by Benedict XVI, who personally chose the more traditional Leonard. Shortly after the appointment and his retirement shortly thereafter, a clearly displeased Rauber himself disclosed the face-off in an Italian magazine interview, going on to criticize both Papa Ratzinger and his eventual pick. Now 81, as a coda it bears noting that the former Nuncio was given a non-voting red hat by Francis at last February's Consistory.

In today's other major move, Francis has reportedly spurred shock in the Spanish church's Establishment by tapping 69 year-old Bishop Jose Omella of Calahorra as archbishop of Barcelona, Spain's second-largest diocese, ground zero in the ongoing fight over independence for Catalonia, the region based in Gaudí's city, where the 2010 dedication of the architect's Basilica of the Sagrada Familia provided one of the monumental moments of the last pontificate.

Named to succeed the native son Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, now 78, according to local reports Omella was raised on the peripheries of the region and grew up speaking its distinctive Catalan tongue, but isn't said to be given to his new fold's widespread nationalist tendencies. In keeping with Francis' usual identikit for his picks, the Barcelona nominee has a long history in the church's social action work, including a stint as a missionary in Zaire. The Pope's move on the 2 million-member archdiocese is Papa Bergoglio's third major shift in Spain – whose hierarchy he knows well, having preached one of its retreats before his election – following last year's bombshell appointments on the same day to Madrid and Valencia, the latter going to Rome's then-Liturgy Czar, Cardinal Antonio Canizares.

Today's moves close out a cycle of top-level nods which began last week as – in his first turn at Italy's traditional "cardinalatial sees" – Francis yet again stunned the natives by naming an auxiliary of Rome, Bishop Matteo Zuppi, 59, as archbishop of Bologna and a 53 year-old Sicilian parish priest, Msgr Corrado Lorefice, (above) to the archbishopric of Palermo, the island's premier post. As with today's appointees, both have significant records of pastoring the church on the margins, with Zuppi – a lead figure in the progressive Sant'Egidio movement – having led one of Rome's largest outskirt parishes, while Lorefice has frequently cited his inspiration in the figure of Fr Pino Puglisi, a searing critic of Sicily's Mafia bosses who was gunned down outside his church in 1993.

Beatified in 2013, "Don Pino" is buried in the cathedral where Lorefice will soon have his seat. When the assassinated cleric's name was raised following his appointment, the archbishop-elect interjected to reporters that his selection was Puglisi's "fault."

In both appointments, meanwhile, it is understood that the Pope tossed aside the shortlists compiled during the formal consultation process, choosing instead to find his choices after taking his own soundings among the clergy of each place. 

Given his determination to not be "chained" to the custom of certain dioceses nearly guaranteed a spot in his Senate, as Francis has chosen to send his Italian red hats to places which have never had a cardinal or not seen one in generations, whether the duo will follow their respective predecessors into the College is an open question. In any case, while a February Consistory is again said to be on-deck, the mid-month timeframe when Francis has gathered the cardinals both in 2014 and 2015 is off the table next year due to the Pope's now-confirmed trip to Mexico, during which the first American pontiff is widely expected to make his long-desired stop somewhere along the US border... and possibly cross over it.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

"Jesus Wants To Include" – Synod's Mandate In Hand, Pope Says "Today Is A Time of Mercy!"

The needle successfully threaded – that is, having secured a complete consensus of the Synod to proceed from its conclusions with little blocking his path – the Pope formally closed the three-week assembly and two-year process this Sunday morning with another potent preach, albeit one whose core themes should be anything but unfamiliar to anyone who's been paying attention along the way.

Just in case it isn't already beyond clear for some, with no less than today's front page of the Italian church's national newspaper blaring "With All Families, Without Condemnation" as its wrap-up headline, the principles Francis laid out again here (as ever, using the springboard of the day's readings) will form the basis of his discernment in bringing the Synod's recommendations into force, most likely by means of an as-yet-unannounced Apostolic Exhortation during the coming Jubilee of Mercy, which runs through November 2016.

Drawing principally upon the Gospel account of the healing of Bartimaeus – likewise the source of a memorable reflection during July's trek to Latin America – below is the English translation of the Pope's concluding homily today, with the 270 Synod Fathers together one last time before heading their separate ways:
The three Readings for this Sunday show us God’s compassion, his fatherhood, definitively revealed in Jesus.

In the midst of a national disaster, the people deported by their enemies, the prophet Jeremiah proclaims that “the Lord has saved his people, the remnant of Israel” (31:7). Why did he save them? Because he is their Father (cf. v. 9); and as a Father, he takes care of his children and accompanies them on the way, sustaining “the blind and the lame, the women with child and those in labour” (31:8). His fatherhood opens up for them a path forward, a way of consolation after so many tears and great sadness. If the people remain faithful, if they persevere in their search for God even in a foreign land, God will change their captivity into freedom, their solitude into communion: what the people sow today in tears, they will reap tomorrow in joy (cf. Ps 125:6).

We too have expressed, with the Psalm, the joy which is the fruit of the Lord’s salvation: “our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongues with shouts of joy” (v. 2). A believer is someone who has experienced God’s salvific action in his life. We pastors have experienced what it means to sow with difficulty, at times in tears, and to rejoice for the grace of a harvest which is beyond our strength and capacity.

The passage from the Letter to the Hebrews shows us Jesus’ compassion. He also “is beset with weakness” (5:2), so that he can feel compassion for those in ignorance and error. Jesus is the great high priest, holy and innocent, but also the high priest who has taken on our weakness and been tempted like us in all things, save sin (cf. 4:15). For this reason he is the mediator of the new and definitive covenant which brings us salvation.

Today’s Gospel is directly linked to the First Reading: as the people of Israel were freed thanks to God’s fatherhood, so too Bartimaeus is freed thanks to Jesus’ compassion. Jesus has just left Jericho. Even though he has only begun his most important journey, which will take him to Jerusalem, he still stops to respond to Bartimaeus’ cry. Jesus is moved by his request and becomes involved in his situation. He is not content to offer him alms, but rather wants to personally encounter him. He does not give him any instruction or response, but asks him: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mk 10:51). It might seem a senseless question: what could a blind man wish for if not his sight? Yet, with this question made face to face, direct but respectful, Jesus shows that he wants to hear our needs. He wants to talk with each of us about our lives, our real situations, so that nothing is kept from him. After Bartimaeus’ healing, the Lord tells him: “Your faith has made you well” (v. 52). It is beautiful to see how Christ admires Bartimaeus’ faith, how he has confidence in him. He believes in us, more than we believe in ourselves.

There is an interesting detail. Jesus asks his disciples to go and call Bartimaeus. They address the blind man with two expressions, which only Jesus uses in the rest of the Gospel. First they say to him: “Take heart!”, which literally means “have faith, strong courage!”. Indeed, only an encounter with Jesus gives a person the strength to face the most difficult situations. The second expression is “Rise!”, as Jesus said to so many of the sick, whom he took by the hand and healed. His disciples do nothing other than repeat Jesus’ encouraging and liberating words, leading him directly to Jesus, without lecturing him. Jesus’ disciples are called to this, even today, especially today: to bring people into contact with the compassionate Mercy that saves. When humanity’s cry, like Bartimaeus’, becomes stronger still, there is no other response than to make Jesus’ words our own and, above all, imitate his heart. Moments of suffering and conflict are for God occasions of mercy. Today is a time of mercy!

There are, however, some temptations for those who follow Jesus. The Gospel shows at least two of them. None of the disciples stopped, as Jesus did. They continued to walk, going on as if nothing were happening. If Bartimaeus was blind, they were deaf: his problem was not their problem. This can be a danger for us: in the face of constant problems, it is better to move on, instead of letting ourselves be bothered. In this way, just like the disciples, we are with Jesus but we do not think like him. We are in his group, but our hearts are not open. We lose wonder, gratitude and enthusiasm, and risk becoming habitually unmoved by grace. We are able to speak about him and work for him, but we live far from his heart, which is reaching out to those who are wounded. This is the temptation: a “spirituality of illusion”: we can walk through the deserts of humanity without seeing what is really there; instead, we see what we want to see. We are capable of developing views of the world, but we do not accept what the Lord places before our eyes. A faith that does not know how to root itself in the life of people remains arid and, rather than oases, creates other deserts.

There is a second temptation, that of falling into a “scheduled faith”. We are able to walk with the People of God, but we already have our schedule for the journey, where everything is listed: we know where to go and how long it will take; everyone must respect our rhythm and every problem is a bother. We run the risk of becoming the “many” of the Gospel who lose patience and rebuke Bartimaeus. Just a short time before, they scolded the children (cf. 10:13), and now the blind beggar: whoever bothers us or is not of our stature is excluded. Jesus, on the other hand, wants to include, above all those kept on the fringes who are crying out to him. They, like Bartimaeus, have faith, because awareness of the need for salvation is the best way of encountering Jesus.

In the end, Bartimaeus follows Jesus on his path (cf. v. 52). He did not only regain his sight, but he joined the community of those who walk with Jesus. Dear Synod Fathers, we have walked together. Thank you for the path we have shared with our eyes fixed on Jesus and our brothers and sisters, in the search for the paths which the Gospel indicates for our times so that we can proclaim the mystery of family love. Let us follow the path that the Lord desires. Let us ask him to turn to us with his healing and saving gaze, which knows how to radiate light, as it recalls the splendour which illuminates it. Never allowing ourselves to be tarnished by pessimism or sin, let us seek and look upon the glory of God, which shines forth in men and women who are fully alive.