Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 17, 1891 when Bishop Lawrence S. McMahon dedicated St. Bernard Church, Enfield.
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Addressing the European Union recently (25 Nov.), Pope Francis again riveted the attention of our Western World by stressing his concern for the future, while simultaneously offering key solutions to our continuing problems. The first Pope invited to speak to the twenty-eight member Parliament since Saint John Paul II stood at the same podium twenty-five years ago, he cited John Paul’s hope that the opportunity had not elapsed in an effort to “reach the full dimensions that geography, and even more, history, have given Europe.”

Nonetheless, the world itself, Francis stressed, has become more complicated and mutable; ironically, through new global dynamics, it has become less “Eurocentric.” Moreover – in words and phrases so unmistakably characteristic of our present Roman Pontiff – Europe  today “seems to give the impression of being somewhat elderly and haggard, feeling less a protagonist in a world which frequently regards it with aloofness, mistrust and, even at times, suspicion.”

Despite Europe’s current situation – its apparent doldrums and a rather grey outlook as to vitality and growth – the Holy Father’s speech was basically a message of hope. As a Christian humanist, moreover, he emphasized – as John Paul the Great repeatedly did – the mystery of man in his plea for solutions. More specifically, Pope Francis pointed to two words about the human person: “dignity” and “transcendent.”

First, Europe must return to acknowledging and safeguarding the dignity of each and every human being as unique, precious and unrepeatable. Awareness of the person, created by God in his image and redeemed by him, remains the essential, perennial reason for human rights, such as life, liberty and (as the U.S. Declaration of Independence affirms) the pursuit of happiness.

Correctly understanding this premiss, so magnificently formed by Christianity’s reflections dating from ancient Greek and Roman sources, and elaborated upon by Celtic, Germanic and Slavic refinements, is crucial to Europe’s paths forward. Specifically, the correct concept of human dignity ensures the protection of human rights. Human beings should never be “programmed” or “discarded” as “no longer useful, due to weakness, illness or old age” – in the Pope’s words.

Here the Holy Father again echoed John Paul the Great in asking “what kind of dignity is there without the possibility of expressing one’s thought or professing one’s faith?” Freedom of religion and freedom of speech are sure guardians of human dignity. (Indeed, religious liberty is the anchor of freedom of speech.)

As for the adjective “transcendent,” as referring to the human being, Pope Francis reminded the European Parliament that a person is not merely a “monad,” an “absolute” individual unconcerned with other “monads.” Such a false view has led to separating human rights from human duties. Rights and duties go together; they are “harmoniously ordered to the greater good.” Otherwise, rights can be assessed as limitless and hence occasion conflicts and even violence. And, of course, they can also trigger extreme selfishness, alienation, economic distress and, in a word, the reduction of human beings to mere numbers whose worth is measured primarily in terms of  utilitarian advantages.

Concluding his presentation, Pope Francis recalled Raphael’s celebrated “School of Athens,” a fresco in the Vatican. Plato points “upward, to the world of ideas, to the sky…” Aristotle, however, the Philosopher, as St. Thomas Aquinas called him, “holds his hand out before him, toward the viewer, toward the world, concrete reality.” Europe’s future, the Pope predicts, “depends on the vital connection between these two elements.” A Europe no longer “open to the transcendent dimensions of life is a Europe which risks losing its own soul.”

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.