Monday, July 7, 2014


I was embarrassed for us as Americans to watch throngs of angry and venomous people yelling and screaming at the three buses bringing women and children who had arrived at our southern border to a safe haven in Murrieta, CA.

The jeers and taunts were the kind normally hurled at those convicted of heinous crimes, such as homicide and assault.  But not at innocent children, and some frightened mothers.

Over many months approximately 52,000 unaccompanied children and youth have reached the border with Mexico.  Most came from the three most difficult countries in our hemisphere:  Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.  Desperate parents paid large sums of money to get "coyotes" to bring their children from Central America, through Mexico, and to the USA border.  In these countries the only future for the children would be gangs, lack of work, meager education, no health care, and constant fear.  Any parent would want better for their children.

Sadly, these children have become political pawns in the unending national debate over immigrants and immigration reform.  The unwillingness of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation is a scandal creating waves of emotional and physical devastation across the country, and especially, at the southern border.  New levels of fear and fright have afflicted our immigrant brothers and sisters.

We desperately need the national debate on our broken immigration system, and the inadequate laws and regulations now on the books.  But don't put helpless children in the middle of it, and don't blame the children for the larger mess.

We must accept these children with the compassion of disciples of Jesus Christ, and we must offer them whatever assistance we can.  Many are seriously ill after having traveled long distances over weeks deprived of adequate food and drink.  We need to accept them as they are, help them restore their health, and treat them with respect as human beings--as helpless children.

Then, we can look at their legal status to determine what would be in their best interests:  uniting some with parents in this country, treating some as victims seeking political asylum, and possibly returning some back to their countries of origin.

Today Pope Francis marked the first anniversary of his trip to the island of Lampedusa in southern Italy to speak out in favor of desperate immigrants trying to reach Europe:  "I encourage the Christian communities and all people of good will to continue to reach out and lend a helping hand to all those who are in need, without counting the cost, without fear, with tenderness and understanding.  At the same time, I hope that the competent institutions .... might be most courageous and generous in refugee relief."

Great advice for all of us as disciples of Jesus and as Americans.


[On Monday, July 7, 2014 Pope Francis celebrated Mass with six victims of clergy sexual abuse.  His homily follows:]
The scene where Peter sees Jesus emerge after a terrible interrogation…  Peter whose eyes meet the gaze of Jesus and weeps…  This scene comes to my mind as I look at you, and think of so many men and women, boys and girls.  I feel the gaze of Jesus and I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons.  Today, I am very grateful to you for having travelled so far to come here.

            For some time now I have felt in my heart deep pain and suffering.   So much time hidden, camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained until someone realized that Jesus was looking and others the same… and they set about to sustain that gaze.

And those few who began to weep have touched our conscience for this crime and grave sin.  This is what causes me distress and pain at the fact that some priests and bishops, by sexually abusing minors, violated their innocence and their own priestly vocation.  It is something more than despicable actions.  It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charism in order to be brought to God. And those people sacrificed them to the idol of their own concupiscence.  They profane the very image of God in whose likeness we were created.  Childhood, as we all know, young hearts, so open and trusting, have their own way of understanding the mysteries of God’s love and are eager to grow in the faith.  Today the heart of the Church looks into the eyes of Jesus in these boys and girls and wants to weep; she asks the grace to weep before the execrable acts of abuse which have left life long scars.

           I know that these wounds are a source of deep and often unrelenting emotional and spiritual pain, and even despair.  Many of those who have suffered in this way have also sought relief in the path of addiction.  Others have experienced difficulties in significant relationships, with parents, spouses and children.  Suffering in families has been especially grave, since the damage provoked by abuse affects these vital family relationships.

Some have even had to deal with the terrible tragedy of the death of a loved one by suicide.  The deaths of these so beloved children of God weigh upon the heart and my conscience and that of the whole Church.  To these families I express my heartfelt love and sorrow.  Jesus, tortured and interrogated with passionate hatred, is taken to another place and he looks out.  He looks out upon one of his own, the one who denied him, and he makes him weep.  Let us implore this grace together with that of making amends.

            Sins of clerical sexual abuse against minors have a toxic effect on faith and hope in God.  Some of you have held fast to faith, while for others the experience of betrayal and abandonment has led to a weakening of faith in God.  Your presence here speaks of the miracle of hope, which prevails against the deepest darkness.  Surely it is a sign of God’s mercy that today we have this opportunity to encounter one another, to adore God, to look in one another’s eyes and seek the grace of reconciliation.

            Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you.  And I humbly ask forgiveness.
I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves.  This led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused and it endangered other minors who were at risk.

            On the other hand, the courage that you and others have shown by speaking up, by telling the truth, was a service of love, since for us it shed light on a terrible darkness in the life of the Church.  There is no place in the Church’s ministry for those who commit these abuses, and I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not.  All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable.

What Jesus says about those who cause scandal applies to all of us: the millstone and the sea (cf. Mt 18:6).

By the same token we will continue to exercise vigilance in priestly formation.  I am counting on the members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, all minors, whatever religion they belong to, they are little flowers which God looks lovingly upon.

I ask this support so as to help me ensure that we develop better policies and procedures in the universal Church for the protection of minors and for the training of church personnel in implementing those policies and procedures.  We need to do everything in our power to ensure that these sins have no place in the Church.

            Dear brothers and sisters, because we are all members of God’s family, we are called to live lives shaped by mercy.  The Lord Jesus, our Savior, is the supreme example of this; though innocent, he took our sins upon himself on the cross.  To be reconciled is the very essence of our shared identity as followers of Jesus Christ.  By turning back to him, accompanied by our most holy Mother, who stood sorrowing at the foot of the cross, let us seek the grace of reconciliation with the entire people of God.  The loving intercession of Our Lady of Tender Mercy is an unfailing source of help in the process of our healing.

            You and all those who were abused by clergy are loved by God.  I pray that the remnants of the darkness which touched you may be healed by the embrace of the Child Jesus and that the harm which was done to you will give way to renewed faith and joy.

            I am grateful for this meeting.  And please pray for me, so that the eyes of my heart will always clearly see the path of merciful love, and that God will grant me the courage to persevere on this path for the good of all children and young people. Jesus comes forth from an unjust trial, from a cruel interrogation and he looks in the eyes of Peter, and Peter weeps. We ask that he look at us and that we allow ourselves to be looked upon and to weep and that he give us the grace to be ashamed, so that, like Peter, forty days later, we can reply: “You know that I love you”; and hear him say: “go back and feed my sheep” – and I would add – “let no wolf enter the sheepfold”. 

(From archive of Vatican Radio)

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Recently I was privileged to visit the new Santuario de Santo Toribio Romo, one of the 25 Mexican Martyrs killed by soldiers during the persecution of the Church in the mid-1920s.

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Exterior of new Santuario in honor of Santa Toribio Romo
in Mexico
I was privileged to spend three days there at the Santuario, which is located in a small town called Santa Ana de Guadalupe--in the State of Jalisco, and in the Diocese of San Juan de Los Lagos.

The new Santuario draws huge numbers of pilgrims, especially on Saturdays and Sundays.  It is not unusual to have 50,000 people on a Sunday.

St. Toribio's Remains are in a special urn which is located above the main Altar, and is visible both from the Santuario and from a small Chapel behind it.  Pilgrims are welcome to honor him from either vantage point.

I was deeply moved praying before the Remains of Santo Toribio, and reflected upon the various murals depicting his life, ministry, and murder during the Mexican persecution.  He was ordained at age 22, and suffered martyrdom at age 27.

He is revered in this hemisphere as the Patron of Migrants.  Although during his life-time he was not involved with helping migrants and immigrants, nonetheless, after his death he was seen by many people along the border to Mexico assisting migrants who had run out of food and water.  One of the murals portrays that ministry.
Santo Toribio continues to be invoked constantly in our own time by todays' migrants, immigrants, and refugees.

In a nearby small town the Remains of San Pedro Esqueda are buried, and a new Chapel has been built over the site.  The soldiers had attempted to tie him to a large mesquite tree and burn him alive, but the tree would not catch fire.  Then, they shot him.

There is great devotion to Our Lady of San Juan de Los Lagos, and I visited her Basilica in that city.  There is a magnificent wooden image above the main Altar, and I was able to celebrate Mass there.  Various photos will show the interior of the Basilica.

Near Leon, Guanajuato, there is a large bronze statue of Cristo Rey on top of a high mountain overlooking Leon and that vast valley.  It is the largest bronze statue in the world, and truly inspiring to all.

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plaza in front of Santuario; future Bell Tower location
interior view of Santuario
chapel where Remains of Romo are preserved
mural showing the murder of Romo by soldiers

close-up of urn with Romo Remains
mural of Romo assisting immigrants along the border after his death
burial place of Fr. Pedro Esqueda, another Mexican martyr

Our Lady of San Juan de Los Lagos Basilica--Mass

Mass in the Basilica

Image of Our Lady above Altar

Image of Our Lady above Altar

celebrating Mass in the Basilica

Bronze Statue of Cristo Rey overlooking Leon, Guanajuato