From Cardinal Seán’s blog

Hearing the news of the earthquake in Peru on Aug. 15, our thoughts and prayers turn to the people of that nation. So many of the priests from the Archdiocese of Boston are working there through the St. James Society. I have heard from Msgr. Finbarr O’Leary, the director of the society, that no Boston priests are located in the area hardest hit by the earthquake. I am requesting all pastors in the archdiocese to have a second collection at all Masses on the weekend of Aug. 26 for the victims of the earthquake. Boston has a long-standing tradition of great generosity with the victims of natural disasters, and Peru is very close to our hearts through the works of so many Boston priests who through the years have ministered there serving the poorest among the poor in Peru.

Greeting Dr. Haas

John M. Haas, a bioethicist and president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Pennsylvania, was in town last week and came to see me.

Their center has been a very important think tank for the Catholic Church in the United States and a great source of education about the Church’s teachings on morality and medical ethics.

For many years they organized an annual seminar with different themes. They would invite the bishops to come together with their theologians and ethicists to study different themes of the Church’s teaching on medical ethics, which in today’s world is becoming more and more complicated.

In addition, they provide courses for St. John’s Seminary, and John Haas was in town because they were having a seminar at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Brighton for our Catholic doctors, nurses and health professionals. It has been very important for us to promote the Catholic identity of our hospitals by having these kinds of seminars.

The bioethics center’s headquarters are in Philadelphia, and they provide a great service to the Church in the United States. They send us a monthly publication, Ethics and Medics, which we pass on to the priests. It is important for our priests to be informed of the current concerns in the area of medical ethics.

Also at the center is a priest from the Diocese of Fall River, Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, whom I ordained when I was bishop there. We are very proud of him and very grateful that Bishop George Coleman has allowed him to dedicate himself full-time to this ministry.

When we filmed a CatholicTV program about stem-cell research in March 2005, it was with the help of Father Tad. The program was called “Cutting Through the Spin on Stem-Cells and Cloning.”

Father Tad is also a regular contributor to our archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot, and his opinion pieces, which eloquently explain very complicated issues, can be read on The Pilot’s Web site.

Visiting Fatima Shrine

This week I am in Portugal visiting Fatima at the request of the Portuguese bishops’ conference. The conference commonly invites bishops from other parts of the world to preside at a Fatima celebration, and this time I was invited. From May to October, special pilgrimages take place in Fatima on the 12th and 13th of the each month. They commemorate the 1917 apparitions of Our Lady to the three shepherd children of Fatima.

The celebration in August is always dedicated to immigrants and refugees. August is traditionally the month in Europe when people take their vacations, and many people travel back to their home country. At least a third of the Portuguese people are immigrants to other countries, so this is a time when they return home to visit their families. While home, many of them go to visit Fatima...

... It was very touching to see so many people crossing the plaza on their knees or praying in front of the place of the apparitions. Although the vast majority were Portuguese, there were thousands of pilgrims from Germany, France, Africa, Vietnam, the Philippines, England, Ireland and the United States. It really does represent the catholicity of the Church. We all come from so many different backgrounds and so many different cultures, and still we all turn to Mary as our mother in the faith. We ask her to help us to lead our lives of discipleship with a renewed spirit of generosity and fidelity.

It was interesting to see that in Portugal this event was televised on two national television stations and covered extensively on the broadcast news and in the country’s newspapers. It just shows how important, how central, the phenomenon of Fatima is, even in the popular culture of Portugal.

In Europe at a time when participation in the Sunday Mass has fallen off considerably, the life of the shrines has taken on even greater importance. All of the shrines in Europe attract thousands of people, and it is an opportunity to reach families and to evangelize. Certainly, witnessing the great devotion of the people to Our Lady of Fatima is a very moving experience.

Also in this week’s blog:

> Meeting with a regional director for the Bishop Conference’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD)

> Cardinal’s homily in Fatima