Pope Francis – Five Years After His Election

(Photo: Pixabay)

It was five years ago today (March 13, 2013) that Jorge Mario Bergoglio walked onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica as the newly-elected Pope Francis. After five ballots, Francis became the  leader of approximately 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. Francis’ election as Pope was historical because he was the first Latin American, first Jesuit and the first to take the name of “Francis.”

From the onset, Pope Francis dispensed with tradition and perhaps set the tone for his pontificate in his first public action. Before extending his first blessing, he asked for prayers stating: “Now, I would like to give you a blessing, but first I want to ask you for a favor. Before the bishop blesses the people, I ask that you pray to the Lord so that he blesses me. This is the prayer of the people who are asking for the blessing of their bishop.”

In the past five years, Pope Francis’ leadership has had a profound impact on the Catholic Church and greatly influenced the secular world.  Many Catholics and Vatican observers are viewing his fifth anniversary as sort of a “Francis Report Card Day.”  Assessments or criticism of Pope Francis’ accomplishments, achievements or unfinished work often depend on who is doing the observing, i.e., “the eye of the beholder.”

John Allen, a long-time Vatican reporter/observer, noted: “Amid the rattle and hum of clashing world views and agenda, is there anything that can be said about Francis’ record after five years that’s truly objective? Perhaps it’s this: Love this maverick Pope or hate him, he’s undeniably relevant.”

“Francis at five years: Love him or hate him, this is one relevant pope”  Click here to review John Allen’s article in Crux. 

James Carroll, a regular journalist/contributor to the New Yorker Magazine, has written a commemorative article assessing Pope Francis’s leadership from the secular point of view.  Click here to review “The Transformative Promise of Pope Francis, Five Years On” (The New Yorker Magazine)


German Cardinal Lehmann Dies at age 81

Cardinal Karl Lehmann, former President of the German Bishops’ Conference and a respected theologian, died Sunday, March 11, 2018 at age 81.  He passed away at his home in Mainz following a period of ill-health and the effects of a stroke he suffered last September.

Lehmann was born on May 16, 1936 in Sigmaringen, Germany and ordained a priest in Rome in 1963. While in Rome, Cardinal Lehmann participated in sessions of the Second Vatican Council. He was appointed Bishop of Mainz in 1983 and served as President of the German Bishops’ Conference from 1987 to 2008, when he resigned because of health issues. St. John Paul II elevated him to Cardinal in 2001.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, current President of the German Bishops Conference, in paying tribute to Cardinal Lehmann said “The church of Germany is bowing humbly in front of a personality who influenced the Catholic church worldwide.”

A Funeral Mass is scheduled for March 21 at the Mainz Cathedral.

Click here to review additional details in the National Catholic Reporter


NFPC This Week, #750: March 4-March 10, 2018

Of Note This Week:

Over the past few weeks, the sense of urgency for US lawmakers to act on new gun legislation has gained momentum. Chicago’s Archbishop, Cardinal Blase Cupich, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have added their voices to the call for Congressional action to curb the gun violence epidemic.


Celibacy Revisited – Fr. Ron Rolheiser’s Reflections

Catholic Second Wind Guild – Great Opportunities for Retired Priests


Vatican confirms canonization of Paul VI set for Late October

March 8 – International Women’s Day Celebration

Pope Francis clears way for Archbishop Romeo’s Canonization

Vatican Announces a New Marian Feast Day


Francis hailed for catapulting concerns of working people and labor

Catholic institutions must heed Pope Francis’ call to respect the worker


Book Review “Revolutionary Saint – The Theological Legacy of Oscar Romero” (Orbis Press)


Avoiding Priest Burnout – What the Laity Can Do


Fr. James Martin – Encountering Jesus: Meeting the Christ of Faith and the Jesus of History

Fr. James Martin Lenten Reflection – Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus


USCCB Urges Concrete Actions to Address Scourge of Gun Violence

In the wake of the gun-related deaths of seventeen students on Ash Wednesday at a Florida high school, The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement on March 5, 2018, calling U S Lawmakers to “an honest and practical dialogue around a series of concrete proposals—not partisanship and overheated rhetoric.”  The USCCB statement was developed by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., Chairman, Committee on Catholic Education.

For a number of years, the USCCB has been a strong supporter of sensible gun policies, including a “federal ban on assault weapons, limitations on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines, further criminalizing gun trafficking, certain limitations on the purchase of handguns…”  Their position was reconfirmed in the March 5 release stating: “We also continue our decades-long advocacy for common-sense gun measures as part of a comprehensive approach to the reduction of violence in society and the protection of life.”

In addition, the statement responded to a Presidential proposal to arm classroom teachers by concluding:  “The idea of arming teachers seems to raise more concerns than it addresses.”

Bishops Dewane and Murry also called for increased resources and “earlier intervention” for mentally ill individuals who may be at risk for committing violent crimes.

Click here to review the full text of the March 5 USCCB statement:


USCCB Seeking Candidates for the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award

Release from the USCCB:

“Do you know a young adult in your parish who is dedicated in carrying out Gospel Commitment to the poor and addressing the root causes of poverty? Then consider nominating them for the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award, an activity of the USCCB’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

The Bernardin Award recognizes the leadership, energy and diverse skills that young people bring to the anti-poverty work of low-income programs and our Catholic parishes. To be eligible, the young adults, ages 18-40, must demonstrate both leadership in addressing the root causes of poverty and a commitment to carry out the Church’s option for the poor through relationship building and the empowerment of people living in poverty. Nomination forms are due by March 31st.”

All inquiries/applications must be submitted directly to the USCCB Campaign for Human Development who is the sole sponsor of this program. Please use this link

Vatican Announces a New Marian Feast Day

Pope Francis has issued a decree adding the feast of “The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church” to the Catholic church’s liturgical calendar. The new feast day will be celebrated annually as a “memorial” on Monday following Pentecost.

The decree was released on Saturday, March 3, 2018 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.  Cardinal Robert Sarah, its Prefect, added to his announcement of the new decree that the Holy Father wishes to promote this devotion in order to “encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church in the pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety”.

The Gospel reading for the new feast day is John 19:25-31 where Jesus, from the cross, entrusted his Mother’s care to his disciple.

Please click here to review the full report in Vatican News.


Book Review “Revolutionary Saint – The Theological Legacy of Oscar Romero” (Orbis Press)

Price US$27.00

A window into the soul of an ordinary man who was an extraordinary witness to the mercy of God in a merciless world.”—Daniel G. Groody, University of Notre Dame

Many years after his death in 1980, the world is still absorbing the witness of Óscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, martyred for his commitment to the poor and social justice. In this work, Michael E. Lee offers a profound reflection on the theological implications of Romero’s life and ministry.

Drawing on Romero’s biography as well as his homilies and other writings, Lee considers specifically how Romero’s witness challenges Christians in the U.S. to reimagine a robust Christian spirituality that is at once a mystical encounter with God and a prophetic engagement in the struggle for justice. In light of Romero’s beatification and pending canonization, Lee reflects on the implications of the archbishop’s recognition as a martyr and on the model of holiness he offers for the wider church today.

Michael E. Lee is associate professor of theology at Fordham University. He is the editor of Ignacio Ellacuría: Essays on History, Liberation, and Salvation (Orbis 2013), and author of Bearing the Weight of Salvation: The Soteriology of Ignacio Ellacuría (Crossroad).

Available from Orbis Press – Click here

Pope Francis clears way for Archbishop Romeo’s Canonization

Pope Francis issued a decree on March 6, 2018 recognizing a second miracle attributed to the intercession of slain Salvadoran Archbishop, Blessed Oscar Arnolfo Romero Galdamez.  Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, made the announcement on behalf of the Vatican on Wednesday, March 7.

Approval of the second miracle clears the way for the canonization of the martyred Bishop. No official date has been announced but there is speculation that the Pope will set a joint canonization for both Blessed Romero and Blessed Pope Paul VI later this year at the conclusion of the Synod of Bishops.

Blessed Romero, an outspoken critic of government killings and kidnappings in El Salvador, and a champion of human rights, was celebrating Mass on the evening of March 24, 1980 when a gunman emerged from a vehicle and shot him, his body slumping over the altar.

Romero’s cause for canonization was opened in 1993 and reached the Vatican in 1997 where it lingered for nearly two decades. Neither Pope John Paul II nor Benedict XVI took any action to move Romero’s cause ahead. In February 2015, two years after his election, Pope Francis advanced Romero’s cause issuing a formal decree that Romero was assassinated as a martyr for the Catholic faith. Three months later, the Pontiff authorized Romero’s beatification, the last step before sainthood.  In a portion of Pope Francis’s letter, which was read at the beatification ceremony, he characterized Romero as one who “knew how to lead, defend and protect his flock.”

For complete details in the National Catholic Register – please click here

A review of “Revolutionary Saint – The Theological Legacy of Oscar Romero” is also included in This Week

March 8 – International Women’s Day Celebration

Malala Yousafzai – Youngest Recipient in Nobel Prize History – Photo Courtesy of Nobel Prize Website

International Women’s Day is annually held on March 8 to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.

On March 8, 2018 the Nobel Prize website honored women who have been awarded the Nobel Prize (in various categories). Please use this link to review the video


Celibacy Revisited – Fr. Ron Rolheiser’s Reflections

Celibacy Revisited, is Fr. Ron Rolheiser’s personal “testimony” on his lifetime commitment to celibacy.  He remarks at the onset: “Writing in the first person is always a risk, but the subject matter of this column is best done, I feel, through personal testimony.  In a world where chastity and celibacy are seen as naive and to be pitied and where there’s a general skepticism that anyone is actually living them out, personal testimony is perhaps the most effective protest.”

Fr. Ron also shared his thoughts on the many ways celibacy has enriched his life: “Looking back on [my] own life and my commitment to celibacy I can say….celibacy has made for some tough seasons and remains, as Thomas Merton once put it, the deep anguish within chastity.  But celibacy has also provided me with a life rich in friendship, rich in community, rich in companionship, rich in family of every kind and rich in opportunity to be present to others.“

Fr. Ron Rolheiser is a Catholic priest and member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He was ordained in 1972 and has served in several religious capacities in Canada and the US.  Since August 2005, Fr. Ron has been President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio,Texas. In addition to his cleric responsibilities, he is a frequent lecturer, author of a weekly column that is syndicated in more than fifty newspapers, and has published a number of books, the most recent of which is The Passion and the Cross (2015).

Please click here to review Fr. Ron’s full reflection published in The Angelus