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A heart closed to God leads to life of hypocrisy, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The line that separates good from evil is found in the human heart, not just in diligently following religious rituals and laws, Pope Francis said.

The outside world is not what “makes us saints or not saints, rather it is the heart that expresses our intentions, our choices and the desire to do everything for God’s love,” he said before praying the Angelus Aug. 30 with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Aug. 30. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Pope Francis leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Aug. 30. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

The pope reflected on the day’s reading from Deuteronomy (4:1-8) in which Moses urged people to observe the Lord’s commandments without adding to or subtracting anything from them and from the Gospel according to Mark (7:1-23) in which Jesus criticized hypocrites who honor God “with their lips” but not with their hearts.

“You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition,” Jesus said, adding that it is not the outside world that defiles people, but “the things that come out from within are what defile,” including evil thoughts, theft, murder, adultery, greed, envy and arrogance.

Pope Francis said, “The boundary between good and evil does not lie outside of us, but rather inside of us.”

Jesus teaches that religious rituals of purifying the body and objects do nothing without the conversion and purification of the heart, the pope said.

“Without a purified heart,” he said, “one can never have hands that are truly clean and lips that speak sincere words of love,” mercy and forgiveness.

A heart that is hardened or closed to God leads to a “double life” and hypocrisy, he said.

Going through the motions in “the external observance of the law” is not enough to be a good Christian, he said.

“The literal observance of precepts is something sterile if the heart does not change and if it is not translated into concrete acts: opening oneself up to God and his Word in prayer; seeking justice and peace; coming to the aid of the poor and the oppressed.”

Think of the scandal and harm done to the church by those who call themselves “very Catholic and go to church often, but then, in their daily life, they neglect their family, speak ill of others and so on. This is what Jesus condemns because this is a counter-witness” to Christianity, he said.

The pope asked that everyone pray to receive “a pure heart, free from every hypocrisy” so that every Christian can “live according to the spirit of the law and achieve its end, which is love.”

 

 

Busy parents can start family prayer time with small gestures, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Parents who juggle packed work and family schedules deserve a Nobel Prize in mathematics for doing something not even the most brilliant scientists can do: They pack 48 hours of activity into 24, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis smiles as he arrives to lead his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Aug. 26. (CNS photo/Ettore Ferrari, EPA)

Pope Francis smiles as he arrives to lead his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Aug. 26. (CNS photo/Ettore Ferrari, EPA)

“I don’t know how they do it, but they do,” the pope told thousands of people gathered Aug. 26 for his weekly general audience. “There are moms and dads who could win the Nobel for this!”

Focusing his audience talk on the family and prayer, Pope Francis said he knows modern life can be frenetic and that family schedules are “complicated and packed.”

The most frequent complaint of any Christian, he said, is that he or she does not have enough time to pray.

“The regret is sincere,” the pope said, “because the human heart seeks prayer, even if one is not aware of it.”

The way to begin, he said, is to recognize how much God loves you and to love him in return. “A heart filled with affection for God can turn even a thought without words into a prayer.”

“It is good to believe in God with all your heart and it’s good to hope that he will help you when you are in difficulty or to feel obliged to thank him,” the pope said. “That’s all good. But do we love the Lord? Does thinking about God move us, fill us with awe and make us more tender?”

Bowing one’s head or “blowing a kiss” when one passes a church or a crucifix or an image of Mary are small signs of that love, he said. They are prayers.

“It is beautiful when moms teach their little children to blow a kiss to Jesus or Mary,” the pope said. “There’s so much tenderness in that. And, at that moment, the heart of the child is transformed into a place of prayer.”

“Isn’t it amazing that God caresses us with a father’s love?” he asked the crowd in St. Peter’s Square. “It’s beautiful, so beautiful. He could have simply made himself known as the Supreme Being, given his commandments and awaited the results. Instead, God did and does infinitely more than this. He accompanies us on the path of life, protects us and loves us.”

If you learn as a child to turn to God “with the same spontaneity as you learn to say ‘daddy’ and ‘mommy,’ you’ve learned it forever,” he said.

By teaching children how to make the sign of the cross, to say a simple grace before meals and to remember always that God is there and loves them, he said, family life will be enveloped in God’s love and family members will spontaneously find times for prayer.

“You, mom, and you, dad, teach your child to pray, to make the sign of the cross,” Pope Francis said.

The simple little prayers, he said, will increase family members’ sense of God’s love and presence and their certainty that God has entrusted the family members to one another.

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Katrina anniversary: Odyssey brought many blessings for New Orleans priest

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NEW ORLEANS (CNS) — Like many of his brother priests, Father Dennis Hayes decided to take his chances and stay put as Katrina teased the Louisiana coast, hoping the storm’s Category 5 fury would spare his parish of St. Louise de Marillac in Arabi.

Surely Katrina would veer away at the last minute as so many hurricanes had done before. And even if the storm did cause some damage, thought Father Hayes, at least he would be available to his parishioners. Read more »

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Catholics greet Cardinal Njue of Nairobi at Mass in Bear

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For The Dialog

BEAR – Cardinal John Njue traveled halfway around the world to remind more than 1,000 Kenyan Catholics from across the United States of their heritage of faith.

The cardinal, archbishop of Nairobi, Kenya, took the opportunity to try to deepen the faith of the Kenyans far from their African roots. It was sometimes a simple message during the Aug. 15 Mass, on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church.

Several times during the Mass, celebrated in the Swahili language, Cardinal Njue broke into an English-language mantra to which the Kenyan Catholics seemed well acquainted. Read more »

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Parish choir members will sing for Pope Francis

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Dialog reporter

Talented voices from the Diocese of Wilmington will enhance Philadelphia’s papal Mass

When Pope Francis celebrates Mass Sept 27 for an estimated million-plus people on the Ben Franklin Parkway, 500 men and women will sing as the Philadelphia Papal Choir. Among them will be several talented voices from the Diocese of Wilmington.

Local parish music directors and choir members have been busy rehearsing with the group in Philadelphia on Monday evenings. Their excitement has grown as the Mass draws nearer.

“I love my job,” said Sandie Grieshaber, music director at Holy Rosary Parish in Claymont. “I love working here because you’re uplifted every time. But singing for the pope is the ultimate. It’s just great. I knew when he was coming I really wanted to get there.” Read more »

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Vatican Letter: Theologians discuss promise, pitfalls of family synod discussions

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The discussion at last year’s extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family was lively, some media coverage made it sound like a battle, and a new book from the Pontifical Council for the Family shows the debate continues.

“Family and Church: An Indissoluble Bond,” published this summer only in Italian, is a collection of presentations by theologians and canon lawyers gathered by the council for three full days of discussion and debate.

Pilgrims reach to receive Communion as Pope Francis celebrates Mass Jan. 18 in Manila, Philippines. As Catholics prepare for the world Synod of Bishops on the family in October, a number of church leaders and theologians are discussing ways to reach out to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. (CNS photo/Francis Maalasig, EPA)

Pilgrims reach to receive Communion as Pope Francis celebrates Mass Jan. 18 in Manila, Philippines. As Catholics prepare for the world Synod of Bishops on the family in October, a number of church leaders and theologians are discussing ways to reach out to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. (CNS photo/Francis Maalasig, EPA)

Their consensus is that the church must do something to present more clearly its teaching on marriage; it must do more to help young couples prepare for marriage; it must be more effective in helping couples in trouble; and it must reach out to those who divorced and remarried without an annulment.

At the same time, the text indicates that many bloggers and reporters are wrong when they try to pigeon-hole church leaders as being in either-or categories of loving ministers of God’s mercy or strong defenders of God’s truth. The challenge lies in being both.

The meetings brought together two dozen participants, men and women, most teaching at pontifical universities in Rome, including the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. The experts — Europeans, an Indian, Africans and South Americans — met in January, February and March.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the family council, told an Italian Catholic magazine that finding pastoral approaches to express God’s mercy while being faithful to church teaching is complicated. However, he told Famiglia Cristiana, “It is pharisaical to limit ourselves to repeating laws and denouncing sins. The church must be frank in admonishing, but it also must be ready to find new paths to follow.”

One of the paths suggested before and during last year’s extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family was a “penitential process” that gradually would lead some divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to confession, absolution and Communion.

Participants at the family council’s meetings explored the idea, giving suggested steps and highlighting potential pitfalls beginning with the obvious danger of signaling to the couples and the world at large that perhaps some sacramental marriages are not indissoluble after all. But doing nothing, several said, risks signaling that entering a new union, even after being abandoned by a husband or wife, is the only situation where the church cannot be a minister of God’s forgiveness.

In his presentation, Father Giampaolo Dianin, an Italian professor of moral theology, insisted forgiveness is not “some kind of amnesty.” In Catholic teaching it is “a free and full gift of God which asks for and provokes a commitment to repair, begin again and rebuild.”

A possible “penitential path,” he said, would include:

  • A diocesan bishop appointing a priest or a team of qualified people to evaluate individual cases and accompany the applicants, first determining if they have the grounds for an annulment, which would allow them to have their new union blessed as a marriage.
  • For a spouse who was abandoned, the process would aim at promoting forgiveness of the offending party. For all involved, the process would include recognizing their sins and ways they contributed to the destruction of the marriage.
  • Evaluating the solidity of the second union and the commitment of the couple to live seriously as Christians.
  • “Readmission to the sacraments could be full or partial.” Some might maintain that permanent readmission downplays the fact that the second union is not a sacramental marriage, Father Dianin said; they would allow the couple to receive absolution and Communion during the Easter season and on special occasions.

In Father Dianin’s process, there is no requirement that the couple abstain from sex, living “as brother and sister.” In current church practice, that is what is required of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics who want to receive the sacraments.

Father Dianin and several other participants said that beyond the difficulty, and perhaps impossibility, many couples would have in fulfilling that requirement, there is a theological problem in suggesting that the spiritual and corporal aspects of love can and should be separated. In addition, Father Alberto Bonandi, another theologian, said it gives the message that the sexual relations in a new union are the only way the couple is living in conflict with their original marriage bond when, in fact, they have withdrawn their affection and are building a life with someone else.

Father Eugenio Zanetti disagreed. The Italian canon lawyer outlined not a “penitential path,” but what he called a “path of conversion to Love,” meaning to God who is love.

The process would begin with a year of individual and group prayer and reflection, particularly looking at the obligations that remain to the spouse and any children from one’s sacramental marriage, he said. During Lent, the prayer would intensify and the reflection would include attention to the Christian understanding of sexuality. At the end of Holy Week, the couple would be invited to confession, “recognizing their sins, including their complex and not fully correct marriage situation.” As a condition of granting them absolution, the church would ask for a promise that they abstain from sexual relations during the Octave of Easter, which would permit them to receive Communion on Easter and on Divine Mercy Sunday.

Publishers have announced the coming release of other books on Catholic teaching and the family before the world Synod of Bishops on the family begins Oct. 4. One of them, coming from Ignatius Press, is: “Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family: Essays from a Pastoral Viewpoint.”

The book, widely expected to be cautious about broadening the church’s “penitential path,” is described by the publisher as steering “a wise and merciful course that engages genuine concerns, while avoiding false compassion, which compromises both truth and authentic love.”

The discussion and debate continues.

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Spiritual costs of Cuban embargo have been high, says U.S. priest

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Catholic News Service

The U.S. trade embargo against Cuba turns 55 in October, and its effects are clear in the dilapidated buildings, scant food supply of Cuban stores and infrastructure around the island.

But what’s not easy to see is the spiritual cost. Trinitarian Father Juan Molina, director of the U.S. bishops’ Office for the Church in Latin America, said that spiritual cost has been great.

A vehicle is parked next to the National Capitol Building in Havana in this Dec. 26, 2014, file photo. The Vatican played a key role in restoring U.S.-Cuban diplomatic ties. (CNS photo/Alejandro Ernesto, EPA)

A vehicle is parked next to the National Capitol Building in Havana in this Dec. 26, 2014, file photo. The Vatican played a key role in restoring U.S.-Cuban diplomatic ties. (CNS photo/Alejandro Ernesto, EPA)

“The embargo has literally put a block between two hands, two sister churches working together,” Father Molina said. “The church in the United States is very much a missionary church that goes to very different places around the world, not only to spend time with their brothers and sisters, but also to help them.”

The embargo has prevented Cubans from receiving supplies from the U.S., even during natural disasters and emergencies. Financial donations from U.S. church members and groups that want to help pastoral programs for the church in Cuba also have been blocked. But it also has eroded something even more important to the Catholic Church: a spiritual fraternity between Catholics on the island and those in the United States.

“All that has been lost for last 50 years,” Father Molina said.

Richard Coll, a foreign policy adviser for Latin America and global trade at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he sees hope, however, and it arrived with the Dec. 17 news that diplomatic relations between the two countries would be restored — a move facilitated by the diplomatic hand of the Vatican.

“It was a day that marked Cuba,” and one largely welcomed by the island’s denizens, said Lourdes Maria Escalona, who works at a Catholic formation center on the eastern end of the island.

In April, Cuba was removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Both countries opened embassies in each other’s territory July 20, and on Aug. 14, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry raised the U.S. flag at the embassy in Havana.

The hope now, Coll said, is “that there’s no backtracking” by Congress on the flexibility granted to Americans so they can travel to Cuba, which includes permission to travel to the island for religious activities. The greater hope, however, is getting rid of the embargo.

“Certainly the conference (of bishops) in the United States, in conjunction with the Cuban bishops’ conference, for many years, has favored that kind of action, the lifting of the embargo,” Coll said. Such a move can bring about greater dialogue, commerce and contact with the Cuban people, their government, and foster human rights, freedom and democracy, just as it did in the similar landscape of Eastern Europe after the Berlin Wall fell, he said.

“The more they were able to rely on commerce and engage in dialogue with the West, the more possible it became for their own societies to be able to open up to human rights advances and eventually to a move toward democracy rather than pulling away from the West,” Coll said.

Even St. John Paul II, an ardent opponent of communism, favored lifting the sanctions.

“Embargoes,” he said while addressing a group of young people during his visit to Cuba in 1998, “are always deplorable because they hurt the most needy.”

Any benefits that come from the historic thaw have the potential to affect more than just relations between Cuba and the U.S., Coll said.

“Cuba is a key that unlocks many other doors within Latin America,” said Coll. “You can think about the situation in Venezuela, for example … that’s related very much to what’s happening in Cuba.”

Success with Cuba can lead to success addressing issues such as religious freedom, violence and poverty in other neighboring nations. And that’s very much an interest of Pope Francis but it’s also not an interest that began with him, Coll said.

“Sometimes in the press, and elsewhere, there’s a desire to talk about how Francis is a revolutionary and so different from other popes, but on Cuba policy and on many other issues, including even economic policy, I would argue that Francis is very much in the tradition of Benedict XVI, John Paul II, going back to Leo XIII, so this is a chain … it really is a pretty unbroken chain,” Coll said.

Eduardo Azcarate, a native Cuban who lives in Falls Church, Virginia, said he does not like to get involved in politics and does not like to address the embargo. But the embargo has made it complicated for Cuban Catholics like him to help the church and its members carry out its mission.

“If the embargo did not exist … it perhaps would help to facilitate an openness of service, of help to the church” in Cuba, he said.

However, he also tries to understand those who favor the sanctions and those who see it as “holding a chip” to “remind the government about the importance of human rights and religious freedom.”

Just before Kerry arrived in Havana, a group of activists was arrested and released, following a protest in which they wore masks with the image of U.S. President Barack Obama.

The topic of the embargo almost seems unavoidable for Pope Francis, who will head directly from Cuba to the United States Sept. 22.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the pope speaks about that,” Father Molina said, though it may not be a welcome topic in Congress.

“The challenge is that we’re going to be heading into 2016, which is a presidential election year, and I think that most candidates are going to be very cautious and most members of Congress are going to be very cautious about taking any action,” Coll said.

But the pope may see it as a priceless opportunity for world diplomacy, Father Molina said, and as another step in the path of his predecessors.

At a recent panel of policy advisers in Washington, Demetrios Papademetriou, president emeritus of the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, said directly or indirectly, the subject of the embargo will come up during his U.S. visit.

“Even if the pope does not say the words Cuba directly, he will probably say something about facilitating dialogue and opening up within Latin America,” he said. “After all, let’s not forget that this is a pope that understands, has lived all his life, has preached, became a cardinal, in Latin America. He has lived with these issues,”

Videos to accompany this story can be found at https://youtu.be/Fjzyz3x1Yk4 and https://youtu.be/xYczSMHQOQA.

 

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Abessinio Family Foundation supports Catholic Charities through $170,000 matching funds gift

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In recognition of the 185th anniversary of Catholic Charities’ service in the Diocese of Wilmington, Rocco and Mary Abessinio established the St. Rocco Fund for Catholic Charities. The fund pledged a dollar-for-dollar matching gift donation for funds donated to Catholic Charities by July 5 this year. Read more »

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Knights of Columbus founder ‘loved the priesthood deeply,’ says Archbishop Lori

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. —The priesthood of Father Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, “models the teaching of recent popes,” said Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori.

Four men carry a 4-foot statue of Father Michael J. McGivney past an honor guard at St. Mary's Church in New Haven, Conn., Aug. 14. The Mass celebrated the 125th anniversary of the death of Father McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus. (CNS photo/Mary Chalupsky, The Catholic Transcript) See MCGIVNEY-MASS Aug. 18, 2015.

Four men carry a 4-foot statue of Father Michael J. McGivney past an honor guard at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn., Aug. 14. The Mass celebrated the 125th anniversary of the death of Father McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus. (CNS photo/Mary Chalupsky, The Catholic Transcript) See MCGIVNEY-MASS Aug. 18, 2015.

“St. John Paul II said that the priest’s personality must be a bridge to Christ, and indeed Father McGivney’s unassuming, lighthearted-yet-determined character attracted many to the Catholic faith and to St. Mary’s Church,” said the archbishop, who is supreme chaplain of the Knights.

“When Pope Francis tells priests to acquire the smell of the sheep and to bring the Gospel to the margins of society,” he continued, “I think of Father McGivney. He loved the priesthood deeply.”

Archbishop Lori made the comments in his homily for a Mass marking the 125th anniversary of the death of Father McGivney. The prelate also was principal celebrant of the Aug. 14 Mass at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven.

The church is where Father McGivney, a priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford, founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882. He was an assistant pastor there when he gathered a handful of men in the church basement to start the fraternal organization.

Archbishop Lori spoke of how the priest influenced those early Knights in embracing the organization’s principles.

“These men would not have committed to the principle of charity had they not seen in Father McGivney a man of tireless pastoral charity, who reflected God’s love through acts of personal generosity and compassion,” he said. The men also would not have committed “to the principle of unity had they not seen how Father McGivney brought together the people of St. Mary’s Parish and how he served as a source of unity in the wider community of New Haven.”

The priest’s witness of fraternity also had an impact on those early Knights’ commitment to that principle.

“Father McGivney was not only the father but also the brother to his parishioners and indeed to anyone in need,” Archbishop Lori added.

The priest is a candidate for sainthood. The Father McGivney Guild was formed in 1996 to promote his cause; the Vatican approved opening the cause in 1997.

Father McGivney was declared “venerable” by Pope Benedict XVI, recognizing his heroic virtue. A miracle attributed to his intercession is under investigation at the Vatican.

In general, one confirmed miracle is needed for beatification and a second such miracle is needed for canonization. Archbishop Lori spoke in strong personal terms about Father McGivney, whom he said he considers his “parish priest, the parish priest of my soul.” “Every morning I pray to him and I pray that he be canonized, as I know you do. Every day I load his plate with all kinds of intentions,” he added.

Based in New Haven, the Knights of Columbus has about 1.9 million members in the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, Poland, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Guatemala, Guam and Saipan.

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In Ireland, U.S. cardinals praise role of immigrants

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Catholic News Service

KNOCK, Ireland — Two American cardinals of Irish descent praised the role of immigrants, especially Irish, in building the United States.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York stands with Franciscan University of Steubenville students who came to see the cardinal open the novena in Knock, Ireland, Aug. 14. (CNS photo/Sarah Mac Donald)

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York stands with Franciscan University of Steubenville students who came to see the cardinal open the novena in Knock, Ireland, Aug. 14. (CNS photo/Sarah Mac Donald)

The United States is “a nation of immigrants and we are proud of that,” New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan told Catholic News Service at the Marian shrine of Knock, where he delivered a keynote opening a novena.

He said that while everybody was talking about the so-called immigrant problem, “We in United States would say the immigrants are not a problem, the immigrants are a gift.

“If there is one thing we have done well, it is to welcome the immigrant. Every person in the United States, unless you are Native American, is a descendant of an immigrant,” he told CNS.

Recalling that his own great-great-grandfather came to America from Ireland, he commented, “We didn’t have this intense anti-immigrant sentiment back then; America was known as a land of welcome, and there weren’t these restrictions.”

Rebuffing this anti-immigrant mentality he said: “There is an unfortunate inaccurate uncharitable stereotype of the immigrant. Some of the most patriotic and loyal Americans are immigrants because they love their adopted country. They are more patriotic and loyal than we are.”

Discussing Pope Francis’ September visit to the United States, he said the pope was particularly concerned about the treatment of immigrants and had suggested that America “might be a light to the rest of the world, showing it how to welcome and embrace and assimilate the immigrant.”

Cardinal Dolan said Pope Francis expressed a desire to see the work of American Catholic charities helping immigrants because New York is synonymous with the Statue of Liberty. He also wanted to see an inner city Catholic school, so he is scheduled to visit Our Lady Queen of Angels in Harlem, and there he will also meet about 150 immigrants and some of the charities working with them. He is also scheduled to meet with immigrants in Philadelphia.

Cardinal Dolan said that during his week in Ireland, more than 160 Americans had visited ancient places of pilgrimage, and many of the people they met expressed gratitude to the U.S. bishops and Catholic leaders for their “call for sound and fair immigration reform” in the United States.

Separately, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston led 1,500 people commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed Into Heaven and St. Nicholas in Galway Aug. 14. Boston Cardinal Richard Cushing represented Blessed Paul VI at the dedication of the cathedral in 1965.

In his homily, Cardinal O’Malley spoke of the deep historic links between the United States and Ireland and particularly between his city of Boston and Galway.

He noted that Massachusetts was a Puritan colony that was historically hostile to Catholicism, where Catholics were forbidden residence, priests imprisoned, and an effigy of the pope was burned every November on Boston Common.

But all of this changed following the 19th-century famine in Ireland that sent millions of Irish across the sea to start a new life and to send help back to those who stayed behind.

“As a young seminarian, I was here in Ireland when John F. Kennedy, the first Irish Catholic president of the United States, came to visit the land of his ancestors. He received the cead mile failte, the 100,000 welcomes of the Irish people,” he recalled.

“In Boston, we are very proud of our Irish heritage,” he said.

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