Monday, March 25, 2013
Back To The Office
By Sister Mary Ann Walsh
The new energy in the Catholic Church has people wondering what Pope Francis will do next. Soon eyes will focus on his trip to a detention center in Rome where he will offer Mass and wash the feet of troubled youth on Holy Thursday.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs reports that Pope Francis is drawing applause from its constituencies, the Christian and non-Christian religions with whom they are in dialogue. The Secretariat is justly proud of the huge response they got on Facebook and to a blog by Father Ronald Roberson. Father Roberson focused on the pope’s attention to ecumenical outreach and 13,000 people saw a Facebook post about the blog, the USSCB's most popular blog post last week.
Overall, posts on the USCCB Facebook page last week reached more than 800,000 people with more than 42,000 people engaged in posts, record highs for the page. People are connecting with the images of Pope Francis and are inspired by his kind works, including taking care of the poor, the disabled and the young.
A CNN star pointed out to me in Rome that the church got lots of free publicity with the papal transition. Perhaps, but the nets were not doing a favor for the Church; they were responding to viewers glued to their TV sets, even to watch a smokestack.
Stopped by the offices of Msgr. Richard Hilgartner and Father John Guthrie to thank them for being TV commentators during the papal transition. Msgr. Hilgartner spent long hours on CNN and Father Guthrie spoke on ABC. Haven’t seen Father Juan Molina yet to thank him for his help with Spanish-language media.
It’ll be a short week because we’re closed on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. However, tomorrow and Wednesday will be busy as we monitor U.S Supreme Court arguments on California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, popularly known as DOMA. Prop 8, which was passed by the California electorate, said marriage is between a man and a woman. DOMA, a federal law signed by President Bill Clinton, said marriage is between a man and a woman as far as the federal law and programs are concerned. The Obama Administration, however, refuses to defend the law in court.
Feelings are strong for and against redefining marriage. Arguments about adults’ right to marry whomever they want show little less sensitivity to the right of children to have a mother and a father. A change in the understanding of marriage would be a lawyer’s dream or nightmare, and hundreds of laws relating to protection of spouses and children would have to be revisited.
Holy Saturday will be special for tens of thousands of people who will come into the Catholic Church or into full communion with the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil, Saturday night. Among those entering will be some who were never baptized, some who were baptized in another Christian tradition and now wish to become Catholic, and some who have let their religious obligations lapse and want to reconnect with their faith. They have prepared for this through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Conversion stories are often interesting and reveal the way God touches souls, often through spouses, teachers, neighbors and friends.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh is the media relations director for the USCCB.