Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
Your Excellency, Archbishop Sambi, as Papal Nuncio in the United States, I ask you to convey to the Holy Father my gratitude for the confidence he has placed in me in entrusting to me the care of this Archdiocese – in spite of my own limitations and shortcomings. Of course, if you forget to, perhaps Archbishop Barney Auza, Papal Nuncio to Haiti, who is also present here today, could carry that same message for me.
Sometimes I tell people – only half in jest – the best thing about Miami and South Florida is that it is so close to the United States. Miami is certainly, to be sure, part of the United States, this great land of opportunity and freedom. And Miami can rightfully claim to be our nation’s new Ellis Island – for it has become a port of entry for refugees and immigrants from around the world, but especially from the Caribbean, Central and South America. Of course, there was no Statue of Liberty here to welcome the newcomers – and sometimes those newcomers were not very welcomed anyway; but for the past 52 years under the leadership of my predecessors, Archbishops Coleman Carroll, Edward McCarthy and John C. Favalora, the Church of Miami was here to extend her maternal embrace to all. For the Church is the Father’s House – and all God’s children should feel at home in their Father’s House, and here in the Archdiocese of Miami – in our parishes, schools and charitable institutions – we have welcomed newcomers – from the first refugees fleeing the Cuban Revolution to this year’s victims of Haiti’s January earthquake. And we’ve learned that the best way to make someone feel at home in their “Father’s House” is to speak their Mother’s tongue.
And while Miami (and South Florida) is part of these United States, it also has become a vital part of the various nations from which our people have come: Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Colombia and the rest of the Caribbean, South and Central America. South Florida is truly a transnational community – and that, more than the sun and the beautiful beaches, explains why those who live here find it such a dynamic and exciting place to live. Sometimes, Miami boasts that it is the capital of Latin America, if not the entire hemisphere. The presence here today of Bishops from Ecuador, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Haiti shows that this is no idle boast.
Al asumir las responsabilidades de la arquidiócesis, yo tengo presente las repetidas palabras del Siervo de Dios, Juan Pablo II: No tengan miedo. Gracias a esta calurosa bienvenida y a los innumerables mensajes de apoyo que he recibido desde el día de mi nombramiento, no tengo miedo – pero si, yo estoy temblando.
Quiero agradecer la presencia solidaria de tantos obispos que han venido de todas partes de nuestra América -- norte y sur, y en especial, de esta delegación de obispos de Cuba que ha venido a participar en esta ceremonia. De los obispos cubanos a quienes tanto admiro, he aprendido lo que quiere decir esta frase: “no es fácil”. ¡Y, qué testimonio de fe, esperanza y caridad nos han dado! Pues, a pesar que no es nada fácil, han permanecido fieles a la misión confiada a ellos por Cristo para llevar a los pobres la Buena Nueva, para anunciar la liberación a los cautivos y la curación a los ciegos, para dar libertad a los oprimidos y proclamar el año de gracia del Señor (Lucas 4: 16-21). Se nos acerca el aniversario del hallazgo y la presencia de la imagen de la Virgen de la Caridad en Cuba: 400 años en el año 2012. Que este jubileo de la Virgen Mambisa una al pueblo cubano que, a pesar de tristes divisiones y agravios, sigue siendo un solo pueblo.
Como los obispos cubanos han dicho: A Jesús por María, la caridad nos une. A este fin, hagamos nuestro el Grito de Guerra de Ignacio Agramonte: “Que la Virgen de la Caridad nos ilumine”. Que ella nos ilumine con esa luz brillante como la estrella solitaria de la bandera cubana – que es la luz de Cristo, el único Salvador del mundo.
M pa kapab pa di kèk mo an kreyòl – ki preske tounen pou mwen lang manman mwen, Yo te konn di, Miyami se dizyèm depatman an, jodi a lè m wè prezans Nons Apostolik Ayiti a ak 5 evèk ayisyen ki soti Ayiti, mwen konnen se pa manti.
Lè m te ale Orlando, ayisyen Miyami yo ki te monte ave m jou m te ale a te di moun Orlando yo: se prete l n ap prete l. Konsa, jan pwovèb la di: prete pa vle di bay. Jodi a, mwen tounen lakay, mwen tounen Miyami kote m te premyè kontre ak kominote ayisyen an.
Mezanmi, pèp ayisyen an se yon pèp ki gen kouray: malgre tout dezas - tout kalite ak tout jan – kouray pèp ayisyen pa piti, epi lafwa pep sa nan Bondye pa piti. Menm lè apre tranbleman tè sa ki frape peyi lè 12 janvye, Ayisyen konnen pou yo fè Bondye konfyans. Lè yon jounalis etranje sezi we tout déga, tout moun mouri, moun blesi, li mande: Kote Bondye te ye? Li te kanpe bò kote debri katedral Potoprens; epi, nan moman desespwa sa a te gen yon ti granmoun ki mennen l nan plas devan katedral la kote gen yon kalve – ak imaj Jezi krisifye – ki te rete entak. Epi, li di jounalis la: men, li te vle montre etranje sa, Bondye toujou la ak pep li a. Li pat lage li; men, l ap kriye, l ap soufri ansanm avè li. Epi, si Bondye pa lage pèp la, nou pa kapab lage l nonplis.
Se pou Manman Mari, ki toujou ban n sekou, li menm ki patwon peyi d’Ayiti Toma kore nou byen kore pou tout ayisyen yo ak tout zanmi Ayiti yo konsekan ak angajman yo pou Ayiti refè, pou tout Sòyèt ak Frèjis nan peyi a gen yon lavni espwa.
As I just said in Creole, I am grateful to the bishops of Haiti who join with us today in this celebration. The faith of the Haitian people in the face of adversity has edified us all. Even after the January 12 earthquake, when a foreign reporter asked: Where was God in all of this, a Haitian lady could point to a crucifix that stood in the midst of the rubble of Port-au-Prince’s cathedral, as if to say: God is here, suffering with us. And that God who takes on our own suffering in the death and resurrection of his Son calls us all to a greater solidarity. Geography has made Haiti and the United States neighbors; but Jesus Christ has made us brothers and sisters.
Here in the Archdiocese of Miami, we have our problems, our challenges to face - the economic crisis and the closing of schools and more than a dozen parishes, have frustrated everyone and angered many. But let’s not feel sorry for ourselves. Our brothers and sisters in Haiti, Cuba and elsewhere have challenges much more daunting than our own – with far less resources than we have. We can be tempted, like Martha in the Gospel, to be worried about many things – but let us not forget the one thing necessary: our relationship with Jesus Christ.
With the light of the Risen Christ and with the power of the Holy Spirit we must continue to announce the good news of Jesus Christ and invite all to an encounter with him in the Church so that they might have life in him. We have no other treasure but that: the gift of encounter with Jesus Christ. As the bishops of Latin America said at the Fifth Conference of CELAM in 2008: “We have no other happiness, no other priority but being instruments of the Spirit of God, in the Church, so that Jesus Christ may be known, followed, loved, adored, and communicated to all, despite difficulties and resistances.”
Some of those difficulties and resistances are found within us – sometimes faith is found weakened, hope uncertain and charity grown cold. Pope Benedict remarked last month commenting on the scandal of clerical sex abuse of children and young people: “The greatest persecution of the Church does not come from the enemies outside, but is born from inside the Church.”
This “suffering of the Church that comes from the sins that exist from inside the Church” will not be solved by better computer programs, more efficient business practices, or even by better preaching –what is required rather is conversion, a recommitment on the part of all to live the faith coherently.
But there are other difficulties and resistances found outside as well as inside the Church. The increasing sway within our culture of what Pope Benedict has called the “dictatorship of relativism” is a growing challenge to the Church’s mission to bring the Gospel to all. This radically secular world view wishes to reduce faith to the realm of the “private” and the “subjective” and thus tries to limit our freedom to serve, whether in health care, education or social services. It tries to exclude our voice, the voice of the Church, in the public square. To a world tempted to live as if God doesn’t matter and therefore a world that teeters on the brink of despair, we need to witness to hope by showing– by what we say and do (and by what we won’t do) – how beautiful, how joyful life is when one lives convinced that God does indeed matter.
And, because God matters, we are also called to model a life in which man matters as well.
For this reason, Catholics should involve themselves in the public square – and do so coherently and unapologetically. This is not to “impose our views” but to “make our proposal” about what is necessary for human flourishing in society. Thus, we bring to public policy debates on issues of human life, dignity, justice and peace, immigration reform, and marriage and the family an understanding of the human person that, while founded on the Christian Scriptures, is also accessible to human reason.
While this understanding expressed in the Church’s social teachings can seem to be quite complex, I believe it can be summarized in one simple phrase: no man is a problem. This is why as Archbishop of Miami I will continue to proclaim a positive and consistent ethic of life: no human being – no matter how poor or how weak - can be reduced to just a problem. When we allow ourselves to think of a human being as a mere problem, we offend his or her dignity. And, when we see another human being as a problem, we often give ourselves permission to look for expedient but not just solutions. The tragic history of the 20th Century shows that thinking like this even leads to “final solutions”.
For us, Catholics, therefore, there can be no such thing as a “problem pregnancy” – only a child who is to be welcome in life and protected by law. The refugee, the migrant – even one without “papers” - is not a problem. He may perhaps be a stranger but a stranger to be embraced as a brother. Even criminals – for all the horror of their crimes – do not lose their God-given dignity as human beings. They too must be treated with respect, even in their punishment. This is why Catholic social teaching condemns torture and advocates for the abolition of the death penalty.
As I begin my service to this local Church as its fourth Archbishop, I ask for your support, your cooperation – and, most of all, I ask for your prayers. We begin a new chapter in this history of this local Church – and so, this is the time for us all – priests, deacons, religious and members of Christ’s faithful – to assess our fervor and to find fresh enthusiasm for the spiritual and pastoral responsibilities that lie ahead of us. We must look ahead and, like Peter, trusting in Christ’s words, “put out into the deep”. Duc in altum. The Lord has already assured us: “I am with you always.”
So let us begin. Let us start afresh from Christ. (Novo Milenio Ineunte)
Note: Updated June 4, 2010, to reflect the homily as preached by Archbishop Wenski on the day of his installation. Some additions were made to the text just prior to the ceremony.