Thursday, November 23, 2017

"It Happened To Our Fathers...."

we do well to join all creation,
in heaven and on earth,
in praising you, our mighty God
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

You made man to your own image
and set him over all creation.
Once you chose a people
and, when you brought them out of bondage to
freedom, they carried with them the promise
that all men would be blessed
and all men could be free.

What the prophets pledged
was fulfilled in Jesus Christ,
your Son and our saving Lord.
It has come to pass in every generation
for all men who have believed that Jesus
by his death and resurrection
gave them a new freedom in his Spirit.

It happened to our fathers,
who came to this land as if out of the desert
into a place of promise and hope.
It happens to us still, in our time,
as you lead all men through your Church
to the blessed vision of your peace....
Granted, the text above is no longer in use, but as it's the old proper Preface for this Thanksgiving Day, it still makes for a worthwhile reflection.

Whether your centerpiece is dinner with family, the marathon football, a raid on the mall (God forbid), or something else, with thanks for all the blessings of these years, may all this day's joy and goodness be yours.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Suffice it to say, folks, so much for a quiet Thanksgiving Week.

No complaints there, of course – it comes with the turf... still, full as the last few days have been – with more on tap after the holiday – as this shop's still tackling the $2,000 in costs from covering last week on top of all the usual bills, as ever, it bears repeating that the budget for these pages depends completely on your support....

Most of all, with all the thanks under the sun for being able to keep at the work these many years, here's to a beautiful feast ahead for you and yours, and those you serve – travel safe, soak it up, and may all its blessings and joys be as abundant as the turkey.

And now, time for a memorable double-shot of press conferences. As always, stay tuned.


For US Bench, The Pope's "Doorbuster" – Nashville, Jeff City Land Long-Tipped Bishops

(Updated with presser video/statements.)

If anyone ever said the Vatican doesn't do Christmas ahead of December 25th, this Tuesday morning would prove them wrong.

In a significant double-shot of appointments following last week's November Meeting, at Roman Noon the Pope named Fr Joseph Mark Spalding, 52 (above) – until now vicar-general of Louisville and pastor of two city parishes – as 12th bishop of Nashville...

...and Fr William Shawn McKnight, 49 (right) – pastor of Wichita's flourishing Church of the Magdalen, already a familiar figure on the national stage from his five years as director of the USCCB's Clergy arm – to Missouri's capital as the fourth bishop of Jefferson City. With his appointment, the Sant'Anselmo-trained liturgist becomes the US' youngest head of a Latin-church diocese.

While the relative youth of both (not to mention their shared use of their middle names) will stand out on the wider scene – and, to be sure, their active service will stretch into the 2040s – the striking piece internally is the outsize experience and reputation each brings to the bench. Indeed, having known them both for what feels like ages, these choices respectively possess a degree of ecclesial firepower beyond their years, and from a national vantage, to see them come up together is the most significant thing of all.

Far unlike some recent nods which few, if any, could foresee, today's bishops-elect have been (pun intended) marked out for years by their colleagues and the prelates they now join. In Spalding's case, the Nashville pick has garnered "rising star" buzz since before 2011, when he replaced his close friend Chuck Thompson as Archbishop Joseph Kurtz's top deputy and pastor of the large, vibrant Holy Trinity parish upon Thompson's ascent as bishop of Evansville. (Likewise a son of Kentucky's "Holy Land," Thompson became the nation's youngest archbishop earlier this year on his transfer to Indianapolis.)

As successor to the beloved native son Bishop David Choby, who died in June after years of health struggles, Spalding inherits what is, by far, the most prominent of the posts for which he's been championed over recent years. Now comprising Tennessee's middle third, the Nashville church is in the midst of a significant boom – while diocesan figures state some 80,000 members on the books, a migration wave of undocumented Hispanics has been estimated at 200,000 or more on top of it, and that's not counting the ongoing addition of transplants from across the US amid the city's rise as a commercial and cultural capital.

Long story short, a young, enthusiastic "career pastor" steeped in administration and able to manage growth is just what the doctor ordered – and that the bishop-elect comes with sufficient Spanish to handle Mass and a scripted homily is icing on the cake. As an added sign of confidence, meanwhile, no priest from outside Tennessee has been elevated to the Nashville seat without prior episcopal experience since 1936... then again, as one of Spalding's email taglines once ran, quoting St Luke's Gospel, "To whom much has been given, much will be required."

In a notable nod to the diocese's burgeoning Latin presence – not to mention the horde of Louisvilleans angling to make the trip – early word from Nashville Chancery relays that Spalding's ordination on Presentation Day (February 2nd) won't be held at the century-old Cathedral of the Incarnation, but the far larger and newer Sagrado Corazon Church (above). Located just across the street from the Grand Ole Opry, the 2,500-seat Hispanic worship-space forms the centerpiece of the onetime Two Rivers evangelical megachurch, whose sprawling compound was acquired by Choby in 2014 to serve as the diocese's administrative and ministerial hub with an eye to its ongoing growth.

*    *    *
As for McKnight, it's probably not a stretch to say that the happiest place over today's move won't be the Wichita mega-parish losing its pastor, nor the destination where he's arriving sight unseen, but the USCCB Mothership in Washington.

Over his term as director of the bench's secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, Bishop-elect Shawn became an exceedingly well-regarded figure among staff and hats alike, so much so that, after returning home to Jayhawk Country, he was sought for an encore, being nominated as the "outside candidate" for the conference's top day-to-day post, the General Secretariat, at the 2015 election.

While custom held and the building's incumbent #2, Msgr Brian Bransfield, won the post – the vote-totals for which are never released – it's likewise traditional that the runner-up for the job is eventually made a bishop in his own right. And considering how some Whispers ops have mused over recent weeks how Kansas' fresh in-state opening in Salina was tailor-made for McKnight to "get the call," his elevation has come even more quickly than expected.

All that said, no indication has yet emerged on the reason behind Bishop John Gaydos' early retirement nine months before reaching the canonical age of 75. An ever-chatty figure with a raucous sense of humor, the St Louis native – who led the North-Central Missouri fold for over two decades – appeared to be in fine form during last week's meetings in Baltimore.

Per the canons, McKnight must be ordained and installed within four months of today's move. On the wider docket, meanwhile, today's twin nods leave all of two US Latin sees – Richmond and Salina – vacant, with just another three – Washington, Stockton and Las Vegas – led by (arch)bishops serving past retirement age until their respective successors are chosen.

SVILUPPO: From Nashville, Spalding's statement and video of this morning's introduction...

...and from Jefferson City, McKnight's opening remarks, and the presser vid:

Before introducing his successor, the retiring Gaydos told the locals that recent heart trouble, including a valve replacement, spurred his request to leave office a year ahead of schedule.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Live From "Friar Field": A Blessed for Detroit

It's like deja vu – this time, just bigger.

Much bigger.

Less than two months since the first-ever beatification of a priest on US soil, today in Detroit brings an even more massive moment, as the Church takes over the city's NFL stadium and a crowd of 75,000 witnesses the rites elevating the beloved local Capuchin Fr Solanus Casey to the step before sainthood.

While early reactions saw the choice of Ford Field for today's Mass as something akin to "crazy," as happened at September's Oklahoma City raising of Blessed Stanley Rother – when 5,000 more pilgrims converged on the convention center than could fit in the 15,000-seat venue – the Motor City crowd actually showed uncanny judgment. Tickets for today's event were gone within hours of their public availability last month, and the last-minute logistical hurdles required the coordination of drop-off and pickup spots across downtown for some 400 buses coming in from across the Midwest. And as weather's always the going concern for November in Michigan, even that ended up cooperating, staying above freezing with a touch of rain.

One of sixteen kids raised on a Wisconsin farm, Barney Casey entered the Capuchins after being deemed academically insufficient for Milwaukee's diocesan seminary. Eventually ordained in 1904, the future Blessed was prohibited by his superiors from preaching or hearing confessions, finding his niche instead as the compassionate doorkeeper of his community's houses over a half-century – a ministry from which miracles would come to be claimed during his life, credited to his prayers.

His cause for sainthood opened within a decade of his death at 86 in 1957, the miracle which secured today's beatification involved the inexplicable cure of a pilgrim to Solanus' Detroit shrine, who was instantaneously healed of a genetic skin disorder after praying for herself at his tomb. As Rother's elevation was made possible due to his martyrdom, the healing was the first miracle ever confirmed through the intercession of an American-born priest. (Above, Archbishop Allen Vigneron is seen at Solanus' burial site on the miracle's confirmation earlier this year.)

With the Vatican's Saintmaker-in-Chief Cardinal Angelo Amato again acting as papal legate and celebrant of today's Mass, here's your worship aid...

...and – with the Mass now completed – on-demand fullvid to come.

Per custom for the newly-beatified, the Pope will mention today's event and offer a brief word on Casey's example at tomorrow morning's Angelus.

According to the Michigan Catholic, Blessed Solanus' feast is slated to be declared for July 30th, the day before the anniversary of his death.

As beatification only affirms local devotion to a Blessed, Solanus' liturgical celebration in this case is restricted solely to the 1.4 million-member archdiocese of Detroit and the wider Capuchin order, unless and until the US bishops vote to petition the Vatican for its wider observance.

SVILUPPO: As the well-produced livefeed ostensibly hiccuped under the weight of some 20,000 viewers, until on-demand video of the full Mass emerges, here's the Rite of Beatification itself, with the customary unveiling of the image on Casey's formal declaration as Blessed Solanus...


Friday, November 17, 2017

"Nothing Will Be As It Was!" – In The Council and Francis, The Church's "New Consciousness"

As one of the bench put it, the week just past always makes for a "full immersion" experience... and to be sure, that the lounge of the USCCB hotel was dead by 10 on Wednesday night goes to show how knocked out everyone tends to be by Plenary's end.

Along those lines, while this scribe has five days of catch-ups and notes to unwind and assemble for print, let's start with something apparently lost in the wider mix (even if this crowd was duly forewarned).

Building upon his historic message to open the 100th Plenary, as the bench's elections unfolded on Tuesday morning, the Cardinal-Secretary of State Pietro Parolin delivered an even more extensive – and, quite possibly, even more significant – word, appearing at the Catholic University of America in Washington to propose Pope Francis as the ultimate figure of continuity with Vatican II, citing how he's "taken up anew" the Council's teaching and rebooted model of church.

Especially given two of the examples cited by Papa Bergoglio's top deputy – episcopal collegiality and what Francis has termed the "poor Church for the poor" (with global Catholicism's first-ever Day of the Poor accordingly being marked this weekend) – the hourlong talk is as salient to the moment as the interest in it has been sparse.

While publication of Parolin's text has been prohibited – Lord only knows why – gratefully a fullvid of his Italian address is around, with a captioned translation in English....

And here it is:


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Naumann Wins – In Bench Shocker, Cardinal's Pro-Life Bid Combusts

BALTIMORE – Just as it did on another Tuesday seven years ago this week, the Floor shook a bit first thing this morning.

Upending the last ironclad tradition of the Stateside bench, the USCCB denied its most prominent chairmanship to a cardinal, choosing Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas as its next Pro-Life Czar in a 96-82 vote over Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago.

The result represents the most surprising major conference vote since this week in 2010, when the Kansas prelate's fellow St Louis native, then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, bested the sitting vice-president, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, to take the body's helm. Now, Naumann will succeed Dolan as chair of Pro-Life Activities in late 2018 after the usual yearlong transition. Having served as auxiliaries together in the "Rome of the West," in what was viewed as a stealth sign of support, Dolan tapped Naumann to fill in for him as the life committee's representative at yesterday's lunchtime press conference.

Aside from the conference president and his deputy, the Pro-Life chair is essentially the only prelate whose national duties require daily contact and coordination with the bench's Washington headquarters, reflecting the church's marquee public square concern in the era since abortion was legalized nationwide in 1973. While scores of advocacy letters, pastoral materials and action alerts are issued through the year in the chairman's name, the post's visibility reaches its annual peak on the eve of the January March for Life, when the chair leads hundreds of the US hierarchy in celebrating Vigil Mass in Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for tens of thousands of pilgrims on-site and a global TV audience.

Giving Naumann his first chairmanship after nearly two decades as a bishop, today's result flips that of 2008, when the archbishop lost the Pro-Life post to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo by a 165-59 vote. Long devoted to a robust defense of the unborn – to the point of publicly calling on Kansas' then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius (later an Obama administration Cabinet Secretary) to refrain from receiving the Eucharist due to her support for legal abortion – the incoming chair is the US church's first Pro-Life Czar to have pursued that degree of open friction with a pro-choice public official. As with the choice of a non-cardinal for the seat, this thread defies a long-standing history of relevant conference votes; in the most evocative example, after becoming the bench's most prominent advocate for sanctions, then-Archbishop Raymond Burke lost the chair of Canonical Affairs and Church Governance by a 60-40 margin in 2007. (Just over six months after that vote, the Wisconsin-born canonist was brought to Rome by Benedict XVI as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the church's "chief justice," then given the red hat.)

While rhetoric surrounding today's ballot portrayed the faceoff as a kind of Armageddon on the nature of the church's pro-life witness – which, by longstanding tradition, has placed the unborn at the center – with abortion policy currently at a de facto stalemate, the prime challenge arguably facing the national life-desk is a burgeoning push at the state level for the legalization of assisted suicide for the terminally ill, the practice now permitted in six US jurisdictions (led by California and the District of Columbia) and under consideration in several others. Backed by a well-funded lobbying effort with a formidable messaging component, the way the issue has begun to track has been compared to the gradual advance of same-sex marriage in the early to mid-2000s.

All that said, as the run-up to today's election saw no shortage of invective and sensationalism hurled by activists and commentators across the ecclesial spectrum, finding one dominant thread in reading the result doesn't hold water. To recall the conference's time-honored moniker, a "flock of shepherds" might come to a shared conclusion, but in this case, 96 voters likely had just as many reasons for bucking a decades-old custom. In other words, with the ink still dry, parse the result at your own risk – at least, for now.

In that light, the pro-life vote was the most-watched of seven ballots for conference slots from which no overarching interpretations can be drawn – indeed, looking at each, the traditional key factors of seniority, prominence or geography went heeded in some races and dispensed in others, with little to no ideological pointers likewise to be found.

Even more than the respective national portfolios today's winners will take up in the leadership of the nation's largest religious body, with their selections, the incoming committee chairs will each have seats on the 30-man Administrative Committee – the USCCB's steering body, which meets four times a year to guide the conference's agenda and oversee its work outside of the June and November plenaries.

As previously reported, this meeting's major snapshot of the body's mind will come in Wednesday's closed-door executive session, when the bishops elect the four-man US delegation to next October's global Synod on Young People.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Our Egos, Our Worldliness, Our Desire For Respect Must Be Crushed" – On Bench's 100th, The Vice-Pope's Prayer For "Wisdom"

BALTIMORE – We've been building up to this for a good while... and now, you'll understand why.

Well, we can always hope.

Bringing the expected mix of affirmation and challenge to global Catholicism's oldest episcopal conference on its 100th anniversary – and in only the second appearance of its kind from the Pope's lead deputy over said century – Cardinal Pietro Parolin delivered a pointed, resonant homily at tonight's USCCB Centennial Mass in the Basilica of the Assumption, one of two major talks during his first solo trip to the country. (Above right, Parolin is seen before Mass in prayer at the tomb of John Carroll, the founding shepherd of the Stateside Church, in the crypt of the cathedral he envisioned.)

A rare turn in English by the Cardinal-Secretary of State, the 13-minute message delivered on Pope Francis' behalf effectively serves as a papal charter on the qualities that should mark the bench's "second century" of collegial governance... and those that shouldn't.

Here, fullvideo:

After an hour of regional meetings, the business piece of this 100th Plenary begins at 10am Eastern Monday with the usual formalities, headlined by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo's first annual address as conference president, and the customary speech from the Nuncio to Washington, Archbishop Christophe Pierre.

SVILUPPO: After a couple hours' delay due to the institutional convergences at hand, a text copy of the homily – which couldn't be heard in the Basilica due to acoustic hiccups – is now available as a pdf.


On Plenary Eve, Lockdowns and Ballots

BALTIMORE – In the life of a 1.2 billion-member church, there's no event quite like this.

Among global Catholicism's major outposts, the Italian bishops meet at the Vatican or their Roman headquarters, the Brazilians at the country's patronal shrine, the Mexicans in a hall that resembles a parliamentary chamber, all of them more or less behind closed doors.

For the US, however, the annual convening of some 450 prelates, staffers, press, observers and interest groups – and all of it in the glare of TV cameras – can only be compared to one thing: The Circus. And, this time, that's already more the case than usual.

A century since its inception in what's now called the "Gibbons Room" at the Archbishop's Residence here (above), while this 100th Plenary of the Stateside Bench had a quiet first lap in yesterday's opening round of committee meetings, last night brought a bit of panic to the harborside hotel which has now hosted a dozen of these mid-November weeks.

Amid the impending arrival of the Cardinal-Secretary of State Pietro Parolin – as the Pope's principal deputy, the Holy See's head of government – last-minute word spread quickly that the Secret Service would be swooping in for today's events commemorating the USCCB's centennial. And considering this crowd's experiences of hours-long sweeps during papal visits to these shores – not to mention the Federal squad's customary lack of specifics – the news didn't so much produce a sense of security as a siege mentality.

(SVILUPPO: Now on-site, the shot below of Parolin with the American cardinals and the conference's Administrative Committee was released this afternoon by the USCCB general secretary, Msgr Brian Bransfield, via his Twitter account; flanking the Cardinal-Secretary are the bench's president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, and the Nuncio to Washington Archbishop Christophe Pierre.)

While Parolin's visit to mark the conference's milestone has been in the works for over a year, plans for an overarching protection effort have only transpired over the last 48 hours. Even so, the cardinal's diplomatic status as the #2 official of a sovereign state has made a Secret Service detail for him on American soil a given from the get-go.

As senior officials were still grappling with the shape of the Feds' security demands for the plenary's hotel-base and the Basilica of the Assumption – where Parolin will lead the bench in a 5pm Eastern Mass tonight – the full protection protocols remain unclear, but access to both an afternoon symposium on the conference's history and an evening dinner has been restricted to the bishops and closed to staff and press. Though the liturgy in the nation's first cathedral has been slated to be open to the public, lest anyone was planning on it, actually getting in will take a bit of jumping through hoops.

In any case, the Mass will be broadcast by the usual suspects, and live-streamed here at the hour. As for the rest, just pray that it won't be too tough for this scribe to make the rounds... gratefully, this ain't one's first rodeo.

Given the scenario here, it's apparently the case that a similar flurry will be descending Tuesday morning on the campus of the Catholic University of America, where Parolin will deliver a major lecture on Vatican II as "a prophecy that continues" under Francis.

As if the Floor needed another distraction – and just when the votes are being taken, no less.

Even before embarking on his first solo US trip, the Cardinal-Secretary previewed his message for the occasion in a significant written interview to Catholic News Service, the conference's official outlet.

*   *   *
Speaking of Tuesday's climactic round of elections and ballots, while no shortage of ink's been spilled to foment a showdown in the body's vote on the chairmanship of its most prominent and intensive portfolio – the formidable arm for Pro-Life Activities – a brief lesson on Episcopal Calculus 101 is in order.

To be sure, the matchup between Chicago's Cardinal Blase Cupich and Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas is like catnip for a chattering class divided along partisan lines – depending on how one views it, the choice between unusually contrasting figures is being portrayed as a "plebiscite" on either the definition and scope of the church's pro-life witness amid the current challenges to it, or on the soundness of calling public officials who support abortion laws to refrain from Communion. Yet between the dueling perceptions lie just as many simple facts: first, that since the Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide, the bishops' pro-life efforts have always been led by a cardinal to underscore their significance... and second, that long before he took the reins of the nation's third-largest diocese three years ago this week, no living prelate has so needled – and infuriated – this conference's rightward flank as the one who suddenly emerged as cardinal-archbishop of Chicago.

All that said, though, any sense that these votes take place in some sort of vacuum where ideology is the sole, or even prime criterion simply has no foundation in practice.

In reality, conference elections function more according to an algorithm of factors: a shifting mix of qualifications, geography, relationships and seniority, with just a pinch of ecclesiology – or, for lack of a better word, "political" leanings – thrown in. (As a corollary to this, strange as it may sound, you could take the same two people, run them against each other for two different posts, and end up with diverging results.)

As a case in point, for those who buy the narrative of a "conservative" Stateside bench, then logic would dictate that this scribe's archbishop would've been the top vote-getter among the committee chairs chosen here two years ago. The thing is, he wasn't – by three votes, 2015's most decisive pick was the then-archbishop of Indianapolis, his decade-plus bond with the Pope now in full light on his ascent as that most unprecedented of things: a Cardinal in Jersey.

That Joe Tobin took the post overseeing clergy, consecrated life and vocations by besting Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver – a favorite of the "orthodox" set and, indeed, the founding rector who built his hometown's seminary into one of the nation's largest formation houses – merely reinforces the principle.

Back to this week's voting, a factor which has gotten little attention is the ever-changing makeup of the electorate, which has been set into overdrive of late.

To be specific, at last year's annual Roman course for new bishops – widely known as "Baby Bishop School" – there were 15 new US prelates.

This past September (above), that figure was closer to 25.

Change forty slots within two years in a 230-member body – let alone one in which a 60-40 margin is akin to a "landslide" – and a wave is bound to be felt, especially considering the tweaked identikit Francis has sought for the candidates presented to him: one in which "pastoral" isn't a politicized euphemism for a progressive, but a descriptor of a life and ministry lived with a heart for people, albeit one in which its different exemplars won't always reach the same conclusions.

How that mass infusion of new blood will impact the shape of things – not just votes, but the tenor of the debates – is a key focus of the week ahead. Along the way, though, what's arguably this coming week's most significant ballot isn't the Pro-Life chair, but one being reported here for the first time.

In its executive session on Wednesday, the bench will select the US' usual complement of four delegates (and alternates) to next year's Synod on Young People. Yet at least in a few cases, the voters didn't get the memo – literally: while requests for nominations were sent to each bishop by mail early in the fall, several told Whispers over the last week that they had never seen the letter.

Per custom, the 12 most-cited names submitted from that consultation form the first round of a Synod ballot. On a related note, meanwhile, as the Synod Secretariat has made an unprecedented effort to seek direct consultation from young people on the Vatican summit's topics via an online survey, the deadline for responses to it comes at the end of this month.

Long story short, given Francis' super-emphasis on an increased synodality – and with it, the monthlong meeting's evolution from rubber-stamp Roman junket to an intensely collaborative, even contentious process – once it emerges, the makeup of the US delegation to next October's gathering won't just serve as a snapshot of the bench's state of mind on its 100th anniversary, but where a new generation is taking the project for the road ahead.

And to think, this is just the start of what's always a long, full week.

As ever, more to come... yet since pulling off this kind of coverage has its (boatload of) costs, it bears recalling that all this comes your way solely by means of your support.


Friday, November 03, 2017

For USCCB's 100th, "Peter" Takes the Wheel

Ten days from now, it's showtime again in Baltimore, as the nation's bishops return to American Catholicism's birthplace for another edition of the Fall Classic – and, this time, a week with history at the forefront even more than usual.

As this plenary marks the centenary of what's now known as the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, in just the second such instance through the years, the gathering will be presided over by the Pope's top deputy – the Cardinal-Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, who'll lead the bench in an Opening Eve Mass in the Basilica of the Assumption (above), the nation's mother-church.

Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli (who represented John Paul II in the same place to mark the American hierarchy's bicentennial in 1989), the presence of the Vatican's "prime minister" in the chair of John Carroll highlights the moment's extraordinary significance, all the more as the trip represents Parolin's first US visit that isn't at Francis' side or to lead the Holy See's delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

At the same time, however, there's more to it than just the keen symbolism: as the milestone commemorates the global church's first modern effort of collegial governance by a national body of bishops – and with it, the inception of the church's return toward a spirit of synodality which the pontiff has aimed to turbo-charge – between Parolin's current role and his personal history as a doctoral student of the Synod of Bishops, the message the Cardinal-Secretary delivers with his master's voice is likely to have a resonance far beyond these States. (Adding to the context, while the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, was initially slated to preach the Centennial Mass, the Canadian hatmaker-in-chief suddenly evaporated from the plans over the last year, with Parolin taking the homily for himself.)

Indeed, the scene is bigger than the moment: after decades of Curial attempts to crack down on the purview of the conferences, Francis' new norms on liturgical translations (and the pontiff's subsequent doubling-down on them) are just the latest proof of how dramatically the pendulum has shifted back in the benches' direction. And considering the historic tension in which the oldest conference has been perhaps the ultimate pawn – namely, in the age-old battle between Rome and America for the soul of the Stateside Church – amid its 100th anniversary, the state of affairs today almost couldn't be more poetic.

Accorded abroad with the rank of a head of government – that is, of the Holy See (the church's central authority), not the Vatican City-State – Parolin's only known public event apart from the centenary will be a visit to the Catholic University of America in Washington, the specifics of which remain to emerge.

*   *   *
As a well-timed primer for the moment ahead, yesterday Francis' designated hand in the States – the Nuncio to Washington, Archbishop Christophe Pierre – traded his usual easy humor for the role of a professor, giving one of the year's key lectures for the canon law faculty at CUA, and choosing Francis' synodality push as his focus.

Much as the topic has become increasingly worthy of attention, in the wake of Magnum Principium, that the lecture serves as the university's annual memorial to Msgr Fred McManus – the legendary Catholic dean in the canons, who played an instrumental role in the founding of ICEL – became all the more fitting over recent weeks.

While the hourlong talk makes for a sound primer on the Pope's concept of shifting the church's balance of deliberation back to the local churches, what might be its most brow-raising line was one of Pierre's trademark unscripted asides.

"We are still far away in this church from receiving Evangelii Gaudium – maybe in a few years," the Nuncio mused on Francis' "blueprint" for his papacy. "But we could accelerate the process."

And as the principal architect of the US bench's next generation, he's aiming to do just that.

That said, here's video of the complete lecture....