Fr. Raymond J. de Souza

Fr. Raymond J. de Souza

Fr. Raymond J. de Souza is the pastor of Sacred Heart of Mary parish on Wolfe Island, and chaplain at Newman House at Kingston, Ont.’s Queen’s University.

WHITEHORSE, YUKON - On my first visit to Canada’s territories, and the farthest north I have ever travelled on the globe, I was even more curious than I usually am, and asked a lot of questions of those who were kind enough to meet me. One word kept being repeated in almost every answer: “capacity.” The bishop of Whitehorse explained the importance of it, the premier of the Yukon emphasized it, a young couple raised it in relation to housing, an aboriginal shop-owner mentioned it in terms of suppliers — even the receptionist at the local newspaper spoke of it in terms of the newsroom.

There is a new archbishop in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city. That might not strike you as big news, but it is. The last time Lagos had a new archbishop was in 1973. Cardinal Anthony Okugie, now 76, retired in May after an astonishing 39 years as archbishop. His successor, Archbishop Alfred Martins, is already 52, so likely will only serve for about 25 years or so.

In the four decades since Cardinal Okugie was appointed, Nigerian Catholicism has come to the forefront of the universal Church. Nigeria’s explosive growth, its sending of missionary priests to the dying Churches of Europe and North America, and its face to face confrontation with militant Islam all have lessons to teach Catholics the world over.

ROME - Pentecost is a feast of unity, as the gift of the Holy Spirit makes possible the unity that the Lord Jesus desires for His Church. To preserve the unity of the Church is one of the first duties of the pastor. The flock is to be brought into the one sheepfold. Yet that remains a very difficult and delicate task. Two current examples, much discussed in Rome these days, point to different approaches.

Consider first the Anglicans. For the better part of 40 years there have been significant numbers of Anglicans looking Romeward, particularly after the unilateral decision in the Anglican Communion in the 1970s to ordain women, something never done by either the Catholic or Orthodox Churches. Many thought that such a unilateral rupture of common sacramental practice meant a definitive abandonment of the ecumenical path by the Anglican Communion, and therefore some measure should be adopted by Rome to make it easier for Anglicans to become Catholic while preserving something of their ecclesial communities and liturgical heritage. The Holy See took rather a different view. While provision was made for individual Anglican clergy, and individual Anglican lay people could always become Catholic in the normal fashion, there was no provision for groups to enter full communion together.

BETHLEHEM - Ten years ago, for 40 days in April and May 2002, the Church of the Nativity was occupied by armed gunmen. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were outside, the Palestinian armed forces inside, and the Christian world fervently tried not to take offence.

It was a shameful episode, both in its substance and in the reaction to it, a sad signal at the beginning of this century that the persecution of Christians would proceed apace.

ROME - Much of the recent news from Rome deals with matters that, though important, will have minimal effect on the life of the Church as a whole. The negotiations with the Society of St. Pius X, the admission of former Anglicans to full communion, even the doctrinal assessment of one of the leadership associations of American women religious — all of these items are at the margins, rather than the centre, of the universal Church. The Society of St. Pius X has a significant presence in only a few countries, the former Anglicans in even fewer and the congregational leadership subject to doctrinal assessment represents an aging and rapidly diminishing component of American religious life.

Yet one recent piece of news is potentially of great significance for the daily life of the Church throughout the world. The Holy See announced last week reformed statutes for Caritas Internationalis, the global umbrella group of various Catholic development agencies.

On May 1 in Ottawa I had the pleasure of delivering a speech to politicians and others at the annual National Prayer Breakfast. Below is an abridged version of that address.

My topic is “Faith in our Common Life: Why Politics Needs Religion.” But permit me to say a few words first about why politicians need religion.

Exactly one year ago, many of you were in the final moments of a federal election campaign. It was a Sunday and the people’s verdict was to be rendered the next day. On a typical Sunday morning I am found in my parish on Wolfe Island, in the St. Lawrence River across from Kingston, but a year ago I was in Rome awaiting the pronunciation of a rather different judgment. Pope John Paul II was declared blessed.

ROME - With the papal birthday and anniversary last week, attention in Rome was understandably focused on reviewing the seven-year pontificate of Benedict XVI. I had the unexpected pleasure though of reading about the other end of the Holy Father’s life — the early years of his Bavarian youth.

Last year an interview book was published by Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the pope’s older brother. They were ordained priests together in 1951 and have enjoyed a close relationship through the years. After his election as Pope, the younger brother, Joseph, was not able to travel to Germany to spend time with Georg, so now the monsignor comes several times a year to Rome to spend time with his little brother, the Pope. They had originally planned to retire together to their home in Regensburg, but the events of April 19, 2005, permanently altered that plan.

OTTAWA - “I have never been in a church this big,” said one soon-to-be ex-Anglican priest to Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa in the sacristy of St. Patrick’s Basilica on Divine Mercy Sunday.

The occasion was a solemn Mass in the “Anglican Use” to receive some 40 members of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada into full communion with the Catholic Church. The several dozen new Catholics will form a quasi-parish that, while fully Catholic, will celebrate the Eucharist according to approved liturgical books which draw upon their Anglican heritage.

OTTAWA - About a month ago it was cardinals’ week here in the nation’s capital. Our chaplaincy at Queen’s University was hosting the visit to Canada of the archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Oswald Gracias. Given that it was his first visit to our country, and that he was flying into Ottawa, it was arranged that he would visit Parliament. The Speaker of the Senate, Noel Kinsella, received him and gave him a tour of the red chamber and the speaker’s offices. Afterward, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Andrew Scheer, hosted a dinner in Cardinal Gracias’ honour.

April 3, 2012

Into the silence

Holy Week is not a particularly tranquil time for a priest.

In the midst of all the activity, I find Good Friday is the most resonant. My favourite service is actually extra-liturgical, the preaching of the Seven Last Words in our cathedral. It’s a two-hour service of readings, hymns and meditations, reflecting upon the seven times Jesus speaks from the cross. I have been preaching the Seven Last Words for nine years now, accompanied by the students at Newman House, who provide the music and do the readings.