(L'Osservatore Romano photo)
(L'Osservatore Romano photo)
TUES., NOV. 29

We began the day with Mass at the tomb of Blessed Pope John Paul II. My close friend and Albany native, Bishop Matthew Clark, served as main celebrant and homilist.

Bishop Clark spoke in a heartfelt manner about the legacy of Pope John Paul II, recalling his efforts at reconciliation between religious traditions and among nations. He also remembered the pope's physical suffering toward the end of his pontificate, which he bore with such profound serenity and resignation.

Bishop Clark was particularly delighted to preside at the Eucharist at the tomb of Blessed Pope John Paul II because he, along with 24 others, was ordained a bishop by Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Basilica in May of 1979.

I remember that glorious day well - not only because my beloved friend was ordained a bishop, but because of the sense of the universal Church which was so evident on that occasion, as bishops from every continent were consecrated.

Mother Teresa was among the faithful attending, as a priest from India was ordained a bishop that day. It is the only time I ever encountered Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, but just her presence radiated great holiness.

I offered Mass today for the priests of our Diocese, for whom Pope John Paul II is such an inspiration.

Time in prayer
I didn't return to the Casa O'Toole for breakfast following Mass, but remained at the basilica, praying at the tomb of Blessed John XXIII, whose body lies in an open display case near the Confessio of St. Peter. I also spent time gazing upon Michelangelo's sculptural masterpiece, the Pieta, which portrays Mary cradling her crucified Son in her arms.

As I drank in the splendor of the treasure that is St. Peter's Basilica, I was also touched by the sounds of different languages and hymns emanating from altars around the basilica, where pilgrims had gathered in small groups to celebrate the Eucharist.

Reluctantly, I exited St. Peter's to pass through the Piazza San Pietro, embraced by the marvelous Bernini columns, for our first meeting of the day at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Moving across the square, I was impressed by the splendid exterior work being done to restore the pristine beauty both of the basilica and the columns.

Cardinal Antonio Llovera is prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, assisted by the American Dominican Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, who formerly staffed the doctoral committee at our U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. A great deal of our meeting centered on the new Roman Missal - not the English translation, which we began using throughout the United States on the first Sunday of Advent, but on the Spanish translation.

Bishop Octavio Cisneros, a native of Cuba and an auxiliary bishop in Brooklyn, pointed out that 40 percent of the Catholics in the United States are Spanish-speaking; yet, to date, there is no authorized Spanish text for use in the U.S., and many priests are using the Spanish text either from Mexico or from the country of their origin, which often creates confusion among the faithful.

Cardinal Llovera is of the firm conviction that there must be a single text for the whole Spanish-speaking world, just as there is a single English translation which is used globally. The cardinal encouraged us in the United States to provide leadership by calling the attention of the bishops' conferences in Spanish-speaking countries to our new translation, and encouraging them to adopt a single Spanish missal, as well.

In the short range, the cardinal suggested, a Spanish missal will be authorized for use in the U.S., but with the long-range goal of one authorized Spanish translation of the missal for the entire Church.

The cardinal pointed out that 90 percent of the Congregation's time in recent years has been spent providing pre-depositions for the revision of liturgical texts and reviewing translations approved by episcopal conferences. He hopes that the Congregation can now return more fully to its primary responsibility of promoting the liturgical renewal initiated by the 1960s' Second Vatican Council, which is still the guiding light for the Church.

He believes that good liturgy will facilitate the new evangelization which Pope John Paul II promoted and Pope Benedict XVI continues to promote.

We traveled next to the Apostolic Signatura, which is located on the fringe of the Campo dei Fiori, the famous outdoor fruit, vegetable and meat market in Rome. The prefect of the signatura is American Cardinal Raymond Burke, former archbishop of St. Louis.

The signatura has two main responsibilities. The first is the supervision of all Church tribunals throughout the world. Our tribunal in Albany is headed by our judicial vicar, Rev. James Donlon, and our assistant vicar, Rev. Peter Sullivan, as well as adjunct and secretarial staff. They do an excellent job of assisting the separated, divorced and remarried to utilize the norms provided by the Church to resolve their problems.

Another of our priests, Rev. Matthew Frisoni, is currently studying for his canon law degree at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

The number of nullity (annulment) cases worldwide has dropped in recent years from 37,000 at its peak to about 20,000 today. Cardinal Burke's undersecretary reviewed the criteria which must be kept in mind in rendering judgments about validity of the marital bond.

The second competency of the signatura is to serve as the administrative tribunal to handle appeals concerning the decisions of diocesan bishops or the appropriate Roman Congregations to suppress parishes or to convert a church to profane use: namely, other than as a place of worship for Mass and the sacraments.

We had a lengthy discussion about the reasons so many parishes are being closed in the United States and the process to be followed prior to any decisions in this regard. There must always be ample consultation with the members of the parish communities affected and a hearing by the presbyteral council before any decisions are made.

Cardinal Burke was a classmate of Peter Avvento, the facilitator of our "Amazing God" diocesan evangelization initiative. I was happy to bring to the cardinal Peter's warmest regards.

Priests' residence
We proceeded from the signatura to the Casa Santa Maria, the graduate residence for American priests studying in one of the 13 ecclesiastical universities in Rome. The Casa, located in the heart of downtown Rome - a block from the Gregorian University and the famous Trevi Fountain - was established in 1859 by Pope Pius IX as the Pontifical North American College, a seminary designated to help train priests to serve the growing Catholic population in the U.S. in a way that would secure the bond between Catholics in America with the Holy See and the Church universal.

The Casa functioned as a seminary until it had to be closed when World War II broke out. After the war, the new North American College, where I studied and was staying during my time in Rome, was opened in 1953.

The Casa Santa Maria then took on its present status as a residence and house of prayer for American priests engaged in graduate studies. It also houses the visitors' office sponsored by the U.S. Catholic bishops to assist American tourists seeking access to tickets for papal audiences and liturgies while in Rome.

In the mid-1980s, Rev. Thomas Powers of our Albany Diocese served as the superior of the Casa. He offered all incoming students an axiom for success in their studies: "Out of the house once a day; out of the city once a week; and out of the country once a month."

Father Powers' successor, Msgr. Francis Kelly of Worcester, Mass., is a classmate and good friend. He hosted a wonderful banquet for our delegation from New York, which gave us the opportunity to meet 56 priest graduate students living at the Casa and to enjoy the beauty of this historic facility.

Council on laity
Our final visit of the day was to the Pontifical Council for the Laity in the Piazza San Callisto, located in the Trastevere section of Rome. The prefect for the council is Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko from Poland. Our hour-long visit centered on two topics: new lay movements like the charismatic renewal, Cursillo, Focolare and World Youth Day.

Cardinal Rylko rightly noted that some of the new lay movements are looked upon with suspicion by bishops and priests because of the fear they are not always integrated into the life of the local parish or diocese.

However, both Pope John Paul II and our present Holy Father have declared that these new initiatives are signs of the Spirit in our time. Indeed, they are ways in which the Holy Spirit continues to inspire us.

Hence, the cardinal stated that these lay movements should be looked upon as a gift and welcomed with joy. He urged us to help the members of such movements discern their charism and integrate their contributions within the ongoing life of the Church.

Pope Benedict notes that we must avoid the risk of thinking all must be doing the same thing at the same time. Communion in the Church involves a diversity of charisms, which can often lead the Church to be present in places where, previously, the Christian life didn't have a voice.

These movements, the cardinal concluded, can combat the secularization of our age and foster a new evangelization.

World Youth Day
The second major topic discussed was the importance of World Youth Days, initiated by Pope John Paul II in 1985 and held on different continents every two years.

John Paul's vision was to build a bridge between the generations of Christians. The new generation must be convinced that the Church considers its members important.

However, World Youth Days should not be a point of arrival, but a point of takeoff. The experience is designed to provide our youth and young adults with an opportunity to come to know Jesus better, to appreciate more fully how to be a disciple of Jesus and to share the message of Jesus with others.

As Pope Benedict said to more than a million youth assembled in Madrid, Spain, for World Youth Day last summer: Do not be afraid to enter a relationship with Jesus, because "Jesus takes nothing away, but gives everything."

The cardinal brought our meeting to a close with a strong exhortation to make Pope John Paul II's response to the Synod on the Laity, "Christifidelis Laici," the foundation of all our efforts to help laypeople understand their baptismal call to holiness in ministry, and to be about the work of imprinting our world and society with the values and ideals of Jesus Christ.

The bishops of the upstate New York dioceses ended a rather long day with a great meal at Ristorante Galeassi, my favorite Roman restaurant. (I am sure our vicar general, Rev. Michael Farano, will be very envious to read of this dining opportunity of which he could not be a part.)

WED., NOV. 30

At 9 a.m., we arrived for a visit to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and were greeted by Archbishop-elect Charles Brown, a congregation member to whom everyone extended their heartiest congratulations, prayers and best wishes: He was just appointed by our Holy Father as an archbishop to serve as the apostolic nuncio to Ireland.

This will be a most difficult mission, given that Ireland has just closed its embassy to the Holy See and has expressed great displeasure at the way the bishops of the Emerald Isle have dealt with the sex abuse crisis.

Although the Irish government has stated that this closure is purely for economic reasons, most observers believe it is due to tensions which have arisen between the Irish government and the Vatican. Archbishop-elect Brown will also have to deal with the morale problem of priests and people in that country, which has suffered so greatly from this scandal.

Local ties
The new archbishop is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, but his family has a home in our Diocese in Windham, Greene County.

The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada, is a classmate of Rev. James Mackey of our Diocese, and I remember him well during my seminary days in Rome. A priest of the Los Angeles Diocese, he served for many years as a member of this Congregation under Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and later served as Archbishop of Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco, California.

This Congregation was established in 1542 by Pope Paul III and was known as the Sacred Roman and Universal Inquisition. Initially, it was a tribunal exclusively for cases of heresy and schism. In 1571, St. Pius V created the Congregation for the Reform of the Index of Forbidden Books, and this congregation exercised this function for more than three centuries until its suppression in 1917.

Today, the responsibility of the Congregation is the promotion and safeguarding of the Church's teaching on faith and morals throughout the Catholic world.

In fulfilling its function of promoting doctrine, the Congregation fosters studies so that an understanding of our faith may be deepened, and that a response may be given to new questions arising from the progress of human knowledge and culture.

Doctrinal concerns
To this end, the Congregation directs the preparation of documents which promote doctrine; intervenes with regard to doctrinal positions that are not in conformity with the teaching of the Church's magisterium; examines writings and opinions which appear contrary to correct faith; and examines the documents of other Congregations with regard to doctrinal matters before their publication.

Of special note, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith now handles all requests for the laicization of priests who have been found guilty of the sexual abuse of minors.

This matter was a major topic for our meeting. Msgr. Charles Secluna responded to questions we had about how to handle the process of such issues, as well as to our inquiries about the competence of bishops to take action against priests who may not have been found guilty of the crime of sexual abuse under the law, but whose behavior deems them unacceptable for ministry. This proved to be a very informative and helpful discussion.

We also discussed the forthcoming "Year of Faith" proclaimed by Pope Benedict, set to begin Oct. 11, 2012, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's inauguration and the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Presently, the Congregation is preparing resources for how this Year of Faith might be celebrated.

Latin liturgies
Cardinal Levada spoke about the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei," which also comes under his jurisdiction. This commission seeks to ensure that the Tridentine Latin Mass, which was celebrated prior to the liturgical changes of the Second Vatican Council, be available to those faithful who desire what is now an extraordinary form of the Mass.

We bishops expressed our belief that this provision is sufficiently available within our respective dioceses.

The cardinal also stated that dialogue seeking reconciliation with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, which left the Church under the aegis of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre because of his rejection of changes promulgated by Vatican II, remains ongoing. The cardinal also noted that the provision for receiving Anglican communities into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church has been progressing well.

Our final ad limina visit was to the Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, led by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the former rector of the Pontifical Lateran University and president of the Academy for Life. This council was recently established by Pope Benedict, first and foremost to address renewal within our own faith community so that we, as followers of Jesus, may capture anew the fundamental missionary nature of the Church to "go forth to proclaim the Good News to all the nations."

Why we evangelize
The effort to evangelize has, as a precondition, our own fervent living of the Christian life, and then our commitment to announce "Jesus Christ yesterday, today and forever."

However, our efforts to evangelize ourselves and others cannot be guided by a nostalgia for the past, but by two realities: a sense of Catholic identity rooted in proclamation, catechesis, liturgy and personal prayer; and a sense of belonging to the Church. We cannot be loner disciples or evangelists, but must always be connected to the Church, the Body of Christ.

Next year, there will be a Synod on Evangelization, which will grapple with the challenges of moving from the maintenance of our faith to mission. The synod members will seek non-triumphal approaches, which will be new in their form, expressions and methods.

I left both meetings confident that our three-year Amazing God evangelization initiative in the Diocese of Albany fits in well with the Year of Faith and the call for new evangelization which are being promoted by our Holy Father.

He was a fellow seminarian with Rev. Kofi Ntsiful-Amissah, now the director of our diocesan Black Catholic Apostolate and pastor of St. Joan of Arc parish in Menands.

Cardinal Turkson and Father Amissah remain close friends and the cardinal frequently visits our area. He has been working closely with Dr. Joseph Marotta, an Albany-based orthopedist, to establish orthopedic services and clinics throughout Ghana under Medicus Christi (read previous stories at www.evangelist.org; see ad, page 6).

Earlier this fall, Cardinal Turkson's council issued a very insightful analysis of a global economic crisis, titled, "Toward Reforming the International and Financial Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority."

It offers an analysis of the perils created by the new global economy, as well as challenging solutions - including a financial services tax, the conditioned recapitalization of banks that reinvest "in the real economy" and a world authority to regulate international financial transactions.

The council report reviews how more than 40 years of unrestrained free-market capitalism have produced repeated economic crises: first, in the developing countries of Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe, and now in Western Europe and the United States.

In assessing the current economic crisis and the selfishness and greed which have created such grave inequality, Cardinal Turkson's document revisits a consistent concern of modern Church social teaching, stemming from:

• Pope John XXIII's 1961 encyclical, "Mater et Magistra" ("Mother and Teacher");

• the Second Vatican Council's 1965 "Gaudium et Spes" ("Joy and Hope," on the Church in the modern world);

• Pope Paul VI's 1967 "Populorum Progressio" ("The Progress of Peoples");

• Pope John Paul II's 1981 "Laborem Exercens," ("On Human Work"); and on to

• Pope Benedict's 2009 "Caritas in Veritate" ("Charity in Truth").

Pay attention
While some may find the idea of a world political authority and other proposed solutions to be abstract idealisms, the editors of Commonweal magazine note that "it would be a mistake to ignore the fact that power is increasingly found in the hand of financial and corporate interests that are largely beyond the reach of established political and legal authorities."

That is why the council warns rightly that the stability of the international community, as well as the global economy, are being held hostage to the caprice of the markets - and something significant must be done.

I am proud that this visionary prelate has such strong roots in our Albany Diocese and is laboring so diligently to promote the social teaching of the Church throughout the world.

Our last gathering as a group was to celebrate Mass together at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, located on the Lateran hill. To the surprise of most, who immediately associate St. Peter's Basilica as the Pope's Chair, this ancient architectural gem at the Lateran is historically the Pope's Cathedral in Rome, and is designated as the Mother and Head of all churches in the city and throughout the world.

Our principal celebrant and homilist for our concluding liturgy was Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre (Long Island). Bishop Murphy was a member of the class behind my own at the Pontifical North American College and, for two decades, served on the staff of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice.

Peter and Andrew
He noted that we began our ad limina visit with the celebration of Mass at the Tomb of St. Peter and now, fittingly, we would conclude by celebrating the feast of his brother, St. Andrew (Nov. 30 is St. Andrew's feast day on the liturgical calendar).

Actually, Andrew met Jesus before Peter and, along with Peter - both of whom were fishermen - was to become a fisher of men. Like Peter, Andrew also suffered a martyr's death.

Bishop Murphy exhorted us to be mindful that we, too, are to respond to Jesus' call as these two brothers did, to come to know Jesus as they did - and, then, to be as zealous in announcing the Good News in our day as they were immediately following Christ's redemptive death on the cross of Calvary and glorious resurrection.

In the realm of it being a small world, in exiting the basilica I encountered Rev. Patrick Winslow, who was ordained a priest for our Diocese but is now serving in the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina. He is in Rome to visit Charlotte's seminarians at the Pontifical North American College and continues to pursue a degree in canon law.

The day drew to a close with a dish of the renowned rigatoni carbonara served by the Abruzzi Restaurant in the Piazza of the 12 Apostles, named after the church located there where I was ordained to the diaconate.

We are scheduled to fly home tomorrow, Dec. 1. I am sure I will be reflecting upon the sights and smells of Rome, the deepening of fraternal bonds with my fellow bishops, the beautiful liturgies we experienced, the encounter with our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, and the exchanges we had with the members of the Roman Curia.

I believe that the purposes of this visit - spiritual renewal by celebrating Mass at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and closer union with the successor of Peter and the universal Church - were accomplished. I hope this lengthy journal has not been too boring, but offers you a sense of the challenges and opportunities facing our contemporary Church.

May the Advent season be for each of you a time of hope, longing, expectation and preparation for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

(In part II of his Rome diary in the Dec. 15 issue, Bishop Hubbard inadvertently omitted Cardinal Terence Cooke's name from the list of those with local ties being considered for sainthood. Cardinal Cooke served as archbishop of New York from 1967-83 and it was at his hands that Bishop Hubbard was ordained to the episcopacy on March 27, 1977.)

This concludes Bishop Hubbard's "Rome diary," documenting his recent ad limina visit to the Vatican. Read previous installments at http://www.evangelist.org/main.asp?SectionID=17&SubSectionID=79&TM=50962.46.