IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler OrsburnBy Carol ZimmermannWASHINGTON (CNS) -- Builders, church
leaders, choir members and journalists gathered atop eight floors of
scaffolding -- 159 feet high -- in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the
Immaculate Conception Oct. 28 for the blessing of the workspace where a new mosaic
will be installed on the shrine's Trinity Dome.
will be a wonder to behold," said Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of
the dome, which is expected to be completed by the end of next year. The mosaic will depict
the Trinity, Mary and 13 saints associated with the United States or the
national shrine, the four evangelists and words from the Nicene Creed.
finished dome also will mark the completion of the national shrine, according to the
original architectural plans for the church set to mark its centennial in 2020
-- the 100th anniversary of the placement of its foundational stone.
the blessing, Cardinal Wuerl offered prayers for the success of the project and
the safety of the workers involved. He said the shrine puts into "image
form" the message of the Gospel and does so "in a way that everyone can
bask in its beauty."
said the finished dome, with its particular emphasis on American saints, will remind
people of the "face of who we are and the face of God." He also said it
will reflect "living images of God and living images of everything we are
capable of being."
introductory remarks, Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the national shrine,
stressed the parallels between the mosaic design on the dome and the very
character of the shrine itself -- often described as America's Catholic church
-- representing a mosaic of Catholic parishioners from every corner of the
said a special one-time collection for the dome work will take place on
Mother's Day, May 14, 2017. The last time a national collection was done for
the shrine was in 1953 when it was being built.
Cardinal Wuerl and Msgr. Rossi noted that the scaffolding itself, allowing the
workers to complete the work on the dome, was an engineering feat. Work on the
scaffolding began early this year.
mosaic work is being done at the Travisanutto Giovanni mosaic company in Spilimbergo, Italy, and will be shipped to the national shrine in
30,000 sections weighing 24 tons and composed of more than 14 million pieces of
Wuerl, who blessed the work site, the workers and those present, urged the
group of about 90 people at the ceremony to be sure they touched the wall of
the dome before they left "because you'll never have a chance to do it
yourself, he said, that this is "the completion of a 100-year project"
which reflects to whoever comes in this building that God is with us.
today for a number of reasons," the cardinal added. "First of all you
were here. You were here at a moment in history."
- - -
Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS photo/Mohammed Badra, ReutersBy Rhina GuidosWASHINGTON (CNS) -- There is only one word to describe the
images coming out of Syria as the conflict advances: apocalyptic.
Aleppo, once Syria's largest city and once known as its jewel,
sits in rubble, but more tragically so do its people.
"The cradle of civilizations and the birthplace of Judaism,
Christianity and Islam, the Middle East has become the theater of incredible
brutality," said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican's permanent observer to
the United Nations in addressing the U.N. Security Council Oct. 19 about the
deterioration of the situation. "The corpses under the ruins and the wandering
refugees are a clear witness to this cynical contempt and trampling of
international humanitarian law."
U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said to a group of
European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Oct. 17 said that "between now and December, if we cannot find a solution, Aleppo will not
be there anymore." Images of children physically hurt or killed in the
conflict have gone viral, prompting pleas this fall from Pope Francis, who said
in an Oct. 12 general audience that he is "begging, with all my strength" for
an immediate cease-fire that would allow the "evacuation of civilians,
especially children, who are still trapped under cruel bombardment."
Almost everyone agrees that something has to be done. Some
worry that the repercussions of using force would only shift the violence toward
other minority religious groups. Russia and the United States, two external
players in the conflict -- one supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, the
other mildly supporting the rebels -- keep accusing each other of violating cease-fire
agreements. Meanwhile, the nation's leader keeps crushing those who want to see
him gone, regardless of how it hurts innocent civilians caught in the middle.
Since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, Washington has
been focused on an option that does not include military force even though President
Barack Obama in 2013 said: "We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but
also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing
a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would
change my calculus. That would change my equation."
Yet when the Assad regime was suspected of crossing that "red
line," not just once but twice, Washington was reluctant to use force. Secretary
of State John Kerry has not-so-secretly expressed frustration with a policy
that is not backed with any serious threat behind it. The U.S. has favored
hammering out a political solution instead.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican have
been urging an immediate cease-fire to allow humanitarian access to help
civilians trapped in the conflict and called for the beginning of talks that would yield "inclusive
governance," meaning a new Syrian government that could represent the religious
plurality of the country and include Christians, Sunni and Alawites, the religious
minority that has supported the Assad regime, in the nation's future governance,
said Stephen M. Colecchi, director of the Office of International Justice and
Peace at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.
"There is no military solution to the problem in Syria,"
Colecchi told Catholic News Service. "The only ultimate solution has to be a political one."
"I think that if the Alawites and Sunni and the Christians
within Syria, if they all felt that their interests would be protected in a
future Syrian government, they would be able to reach an agreement," added
Colecchi, who focuses on the Middle East for the USCCB. "Part of what's
pulling Syria apart are the external players that are fueling the conflict ... and
Syrians have paid the price of that."
The United States, along with Russia, is one of those players, and with an election
looming in November -- and one that could yield a new political equation in
Congress -- it's unclear what changes U.S. policy toward Syria will see, if
any, under a new administration.
"I think the Christian community in Syria is profoundly
afraid of a violent transfer of power in Syria, which then could lead to a further
breakdown of a rule of law which then could be exploited by extremists,"
Colecchi said. "I think they desperately want to see stability and a political
For its part, the Catholic Church, Colecchi said, via
agencies such as Catholic Relief Services, Caritas and many others, has been
busy providing humanitarian help, not just in Syria, but also to its refugees
fleeing to neighboring countries.
On its website, CRS says that the conflict has seen the
death of many as 400,000 Syrians since 2011, and has uprooted more than 11
million. Carolyn Y. Woo, the agency's CEO, said aid workers have provided food,
supplies, shelter and medical support for those who remain in areas of conflict,
even as the workers themselves have become targets.
"Our staff are now in situations where the average level or
risk is much higher than what it was before," said Woo. "My colleagues are my
heroes because they're the ones who raise their hands to be in these type of
The Holy Land Franciscans in October released a video about
their work in Syria, calling attention to the nation's importance for
Christianity: "Syria is the cradle of civilizations and Christianity after
Jerusalem. Damascus is the place where St. Paul converted" to Christianity,
they said in literature about the video, adding that the church had flourished there for decades. Christians once had
made up about 30 percent of the population, while today it's about 10 percent
and dwindling because of the conflict. The Holy
Land Franciscans said the "the friars will be there until the last Christian."
Colecchi said Catholics should care about what's happening
in Syria because "they're our brothers and sisters. And not just the large
Christian community that lives in Syria, an ancient Christian community dating
all the way back to St. Paul, but also because Syria is a rich culture and
there are men women and children caught up in this horrific situation. We should
care because there are people there who need our help."
One also has to consider, Colecchi said, the pressure put on
other nations to accommodate the refugees the conflict has yielded and who are flooding
into Europe, but also into Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
"This is not just about Syria, this is about stability in
the region and in the world," he said.
And Americans, who often voice concerns about terrorism, should
care, he said, because situations of desperation such as the one taking place
in Syria give rise to extremism.
"In the long run, it's not good for world security and it's
not good for U.S. security, so there's a self-interest," he said. "If we want
stability in our world, we need to see a solution to this situation."
The pope, he added, may have been saying something when he recently
designated Archbishop Mario Zenari, the apostolic nuncio in Damascus, a
"I think it was a way of sending a signal, saying he was
acknowledging the tremendous courage of this papal nuncio who remained within
Syria at great risk to himself but also it's a way of saying the church cares
about the Alawites and the Sunnis and the Christians and others within Syria,"
Colecchi said. "In a very direct way, that's a symbol of a universal church that's
concerned for the welfare of Syria."- - -Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- His toes curl in pain, his veins bulge
from exertion, his bony chest heaves in the last throes of death.
newly restored 14th-century wooden crucified Christ "has been
resurrected" from obscurity -- once caked over with dark paint and left
forgotten behind an elevator shaft, said Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest
of St. Peter's Basilica.
"We have discovered a hidden treasure under the dust
of many centuries," he told reporters at a Vatican news conference Oct.
The oldest crucifix in the basilica's possession, it was
made by an unknown sculptor of "exceptional artistic talent" and
technical skill sometime in the early 1300s, and hung in the original
fourth-century basilica of St. Peter, built by the Emperor Constantine, said
Bishop Vittorio Lanzani, secretary of the Fabbrica di San Pietro, the office
responsible for physical care and maintenance of St. Peter's Basilica.
torso and legs were
made in one piece from a
solid trunk of seasoned walnut, he said. The arms -- spanning nearly 6 and a
half feet -- and head were carved separately but came from the same already centuries'
Antique prints and a rich trail of archival material
track the crucifix's condition and its various locations inside the old basilica and its
transfer to the new basilica when it was completed in 1620. The
documents show that no matter where it was positioned, it was a popular and much-venerated piece of work, the bishop said.
It even managed to survive the Sack of Rome in 1527 and desecration
when the basilica was turned into a "horse stable" and the Christ
figure was dressed in the uniform of the invading mercenaries, he said.
Though made of strong solid wood, he said, termites feasting
on it for 700 years caused considerable damage, leaving bore holes peppering the face and
body and excavating large areas by the armpits.
Early restorers filled the gaping holes with wads of
cloth, reinforced weakened areas with canvas wrappings and stucco, and hid dirt,
discoloration and black termite burrows with dark "bronze-colored"
paint, the bishop said.
in 1749 to make way for Michelangelo's marble masterpiece, the Pieta, the
progressively darkening statue was gradually moved further and further away
from the main area of the basilica, eventually ending up in closed chapel.
Even worse, Bishop Lanzani said, Pope Pius XI had an
elevator put in the closed chapel to connect the basilica with the papal
residence above in the apostolic palace.
"Darkened and confined in a neglected spot and
nearly unreachable, it was forgotten by many and was in some way taken away
from the devotion of the faithful," he said.
When Pope Francis called the Year of Mercy, the basilica
accelerated plans to have the crucifix studied and restored, which took 15
months of difficult and delicate work, Cardinal Comastri said. Because moving
it too far from where it had been abandoned was too risky, the canon's sacristy nearby was turned into
a makeshift restoration studio.
With funding from the Knights of Columbus, restorers used
thermal lasers to blast off one layer of paint at a time and "cutting-edge"
solvents that dissolve specific substances like oils, lacquers and grime,
leaving desired colors unaltered, said one of the lead restorers, Lorenza D'Alessandro.
Experts monitored their progress with stereo microscopes --
which are often used in microsurgery -- to make sure they removed only selected
areas and layers. She said they identified nine successive layers of paints, varnishes
and protective coatings on the body and 15 layers on the white, gold-bordered loincloth.
They filled the gaps, she said, by mixing the sawdust
left behind by the termites with a binding material that was then shaped to the
body. They replaced a thick painted rope that had been wrapped around Christ's
head with a crown of real thorn branches from a species known as Christ's Thorn
found near the Mediterranean.
The original cross the Christ had been nailed to was lost
long ago, she said, so workers at the Fabbrica crafted a new one from seasoned walnut
wood that had grown near an ancient Marian sanctuary in central Italy.
Cardinal Comastri said the newly restored crucifix will
be shown to the
public for the first time Nov. 6 during Pope Francis' jubilee for prisoners to
be "a beautiful sign of hope and a message of mercy."
It will then be placed back in the main part of the
basilica in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament and dedicated in
"perpetual memory of the Jubilee of Mercy."
It will be hung on the wall to the left of the entrance,
so when people enter, they will immediately be met by Christ's gaze at the very
moment he readies himself to give his life for all of humanity, he said.
The Knights provided the funding for its restoration to
show "solidarity with the Holy Father" for the Year of Mercy, said Carl
A. Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus.
In a written statement, he said, "We hope that this
remarkable image of Christ's suffering will serve as a reminder to all who see
it of the great love our savior has for each of us, and of the depths of his
mercy, always ready to embrace and forgive us."- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.
By Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said he wanted his trip to Sweden to focus purely on promoting Christian unity, although in the end, he added a day to the visit so he could respond to the "fervent request" by the country's small Catholic community that he celebrate a Mass for them.Accepting his responsibility as "pastor of a flock" of Catholics, he decided to add the Mass Nov. 1, although he insisted it be celebrated in a location different from the ecumenical events, he told Jesuit Father
Ulf Jonsson, director of the Swedish Jesuit magazine
The interview was released in Italian and English Oct. 28 by the Italian Jesuit journal, La Civilta Cattolica. Pope Francis was scheduled to visit Sweden Oct. 31-Nov. 1. The first day, marked as Reformation Day by Lutherans and other Protestants, was to include an ecumenical prayer service and a larger event focused on Catholic-Lutheran cooperation in charity, justice and humanitarian work. All Saints' Day, Nov. 1, the pope was to celebrate Mass before returning to Rome.
Pope Francis said his goal for the trip is to come "closer to my brothers and sisters" in the Lutheran community. The trip will include an ecumenical launch of a year of events before the celebration in 2017 of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
"Closeness does all of us good," he told Father Jonsson. "Distance, on the other hand, makes us bitter."
Asked about his personal experience with the Lutheran Church, Pope Francis said the first time he ever entered a Lutheran church was when he was 17 and went to a co-worker's wedding.
Later, as a Jesuit and professor at the Jesuit school of theology in Argentina, he said he had frequent contact and exchanges with professors at the nearby Lutheran school of theology.
"I invited a professor of spiritual theology from that faculty, a Swede, Anders Ruuth, to hold lectures on spirituality together with me," the pope said. It was "a truly difficult time" for the pope personally, he said, "but I had a lot of trust in him and opened my heart to him. He helped me a lot in that moment."
Friendships and formal exchanges with Lutheran pastors and leaders continued while he was archbishop of Buenos Aires and now as pope, he said.
Asked what Catholics can learn from Lutherans and what they should value of the Lutheran tradition, Pope Francis responded, "Two words come to my mind: reform and Scripture."
At a "difficult time for the church," Martin Luther tried "to remedy a complex situation," the pope said, but for a variety of reasons, including political pressure, his reform movement triggered the division of the church. But Luther's intuition was not altogether wrong, the pope said, because the church is called to be "'semper reformanda' (always reforming)."
In addition, he said, "Luther took a great step by putting the Word of God into the hands of the people" and giving them the Bible in their language, rather than in Latin.
Pope Francis also reiterated a point he frequently has made in the last few months: In the search for Christian unity, "theological dialogue must continue." However, he said, "personally, I believe that enthusiasm must shift toward common prayer and the works of mercy -- work done together to help the sick, the poor and the imprisoned. To do something together is a high and effective form of dialogue."
"Look," he said, "in ecumenism the one who never makes a mistake is the enemy, the devil. When Christians are persecuted and murdered, they are chosen because they are Christians, not because they are Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, Catholics or Orthodox. An ecumenism of blood exists."
In September, he said he met with 400 people who survived or lost loved ones in the July terrorist attack in Nice, France. "That madman who committed that massacre did so believing he did it in God's name," the pope said. "Poor man, he was deranged! Charitably we can say that he was a deranged man who sought to use a justification in the name of God."
Sweden, although nominally Lutheran, has a reputation as one of the least religious countries in the world. Without faith, he said, people do not develop their natural capacity for transcendence.
"The path of transcendence gives place to God, and in this the little steps are important, even that of (going from) being an atheist to being an agnostic," he said. "The problem for me is when one is closed and one considers their life perfect in itself, then one closes in on oneself."
To help another open up to the possibility of transcendence and then to faith, he said, words and speeches are not necessary and sometimes not helpful. But seeing another person who lives with faith, who is open to God, speaks for itself.
A lack of faith, he added, is closely "tied to affluence. Restlessness is rarely found in affluence. This is why I believe that against atheism, that against closure to transcendence, prayer and witnessing are truly worthwhile."
Father Jonsson also asked Pope Francis who Jesus is for him. "Jesus has given meaning to my life here on earth and hope for the future life," the pope responded. "He looked at me with mercy, he took me, he put me on the road."- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz MuthBy Donis TracyBRIGHTON, Mass. (CNS) -- Rapid growth
in the number of men entering St. John's Seminary in Brighton to study for the
priesthood has prompted the Boston Archdiocese to buy back space from Boston
College to accommodate the increase.
Msgr. James Moroney, seminary rector,
signed a purchase and sale agreement with the Jesuit-run college Oct. 20 to buy
back more than 13,000 square feet of space within the current seminary
"I am so very happy to be able
to announce the purchase of the annex," Msgr. Moroney said. "Right after I
became rector of the seminary, one of the great dreams that both Cardinal (Sean
P.) O'Malley and I began to articulate was the restoration of the seminary to a
By purchasing the annex, located
above the present kitchen and refectory space, the current St. John's Seminary
buildings will now be owned "free and clear, without any leases or encumbrances
of any kind" by the seminary, Msgr. Moroney said.
Built in 1884 by Boston Archbishop
John Joseph Williams, the seminary had seen the number of seminarians dropping
significantly, to an all-time low of 22 men studying for the priesthood in
"Having experienced, in the last
10 years, the most extraordinary growth the seminary has witnessed in its
entire lifetime," Msgr. Moroney continued, "we are in desperate need for
He said in September, when
the seminarians returned to St. John's Seminary, there were 98 men living at the
"We had seven more men than
space for them," he said with a smile, adding that the St. John's Seminary board
of trustees purchased a neighboring house for additional space. The property,
called Cheverus House, currently is home to seven of the 12 deacons at the
The annex became part of Boston
College in the early 2000s. Having purchased St. Clement Hall, a building adjacent
to the seminary, they asked St. John's Seminary for additional rooms not being
used. Because the annex had not been used since the 1960s, the seminary agreed
to a 99-year lease on the facility.
With the signing of the purchase
and sale agreement, Msgr. Moroney explained, St. John's Seminary has bought
back that 99-year lease.
This comes after "extended
discussions" between Msgr. Moroney, Cardinal O'Malley and Jesuit Father William
Leahy, president of Boston College.
"I doubt there's been a month
that has gone by since I became rector when Cardinal Sean and I have not spoken
about this," said Msgr. Moroney, who has been in the post since July 2012.
Msgr. Moroney noted that since
the annex has not been used since the mid-1960s, the rooms "will have to be
brought back to the studs" and remodeled. Currently, three different
architectural firms have brought their proposals to the seminary's board of
"There is enormous possibility
that our newly returned annex can bring," the rector said.
- - -
Tracy writes for The Pilot,
newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.