March 13, 2013: Habemus Papa! Welcome, Pope Francis!

The reaction of St. Peter’s Square to the white smoke and the announcement of a Pope

When the white smoke appeared at 7:06 p.m. on March 13, 2013, a loud applause erupted from St. Peter’s Square.

More than an hour later, at 8:12 p.m., Cardinal Protodeacon delivered the Habemus Papam from the large balcony of the Vatican Basilica.
The Argentine Cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected as the 265th successor of the Apostle Peter. We had just begun the pontificate of Pope Francis.
Brothers and sisters, good evening!
You know that it was the duty of the Conclave to give Rome a Bishop. It seems that my brother Cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth to get one… but here we are… I thank you for your welcome. The diocesan community of Rome now has its Bishop. Thank you! And first of all, I would like to offer a prayer for our Bishop Emeritus, Benedict XVI. Let us pray together for him, that the Lord may bless him and that Our Lady may keep him.
(Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory Be.)
And now, we take up this journey: Bishop and People. This journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches. A journey of fraternity, of love, of trust among us. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world, that there may be a great spirit of fraternity.
It is my hope for you that this journey of the Church, which we start today, and in which my Cardinal Vicar, here present, will assist me, will be fruitful for the evangelization of this most beautiful city.
And now I would like to give the blessing, but first – first I ask a favor of you: before the Bishop blesses his people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that he will bless me: the prayer of the people asking the blessing for their Bishop. Let us make, in silence, this prayer: your prayer over me.
Now I will give the blessing to you and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will.
Brothers and sisters, I leave you now. Thank you for your welcome. Pray for me and until we meet again. We will see each other soon. Tomorrow I wish to go and pray to Our Lady, that she may watch over all of Rome.
Good night and sleep well!

A Message from Father Rich about Confession


As I mentioned in my homily last week, I am adding a couple additional times that I will be in the confessional so as to give more opportunity for people to take advantage of the sacrament.

Monday, March 14:  5:30 – 7:00 pm

Tuesday, March 15:  4.00 – 5:30 pm

There is also the regular time on Saturdays: 3:30 pm and by appointment.

I also mentioned we all need to go to confession, and for many people it has been way too long.  Confession is more difficult the less we go.  If we were to make a habit of it every month or every other month, it would be a breeze.

There is nothing you will say that will shock me and there is nothing I am going to get mad at you about in the confessional.  The sacrament is one of mercy not judgement, and we all need it.

As we approach the final days of Lent, this is one of the better things we can do to get ready for Easter.  –Father Rich

Confession: Jesus’ Most Important Gift to Us
Father Rich

Lent is a season of repentance of sin.  Repentance from sin for Catholics mostly means going to confession—yet another subject that is often misunderstood by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and for that matter, the most unused of the sacraments.

From time to time, you will hear people explain what the most important day in their life was.  Maybe it was a wedding day, a particular birthday, the birth of a child, a big promotion, etc.  What do you suppose the most important day in Jesus’ life was?  I will give you a hint.  It was the most important day in the history of the created universe: the day of his resurrection, the day that he rose from the dead.

Immediately after this most important event, Jesus appeared to his closest disciples, and of course the first thing he is going to say to them is going to be pretty important, if not most important.  The Gospel of John tells us he said, “’Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’”  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”

The first thing Jesus said, the first thing Jesus did upon his resurrection was to give his disciples the very same authority he had—to forgive sins.

Some might say, “Well, that was the Apostles, not priests.”  If Jesus were to give that type of great assurance of forgiveness only through the Apostles, then it would have been offered only to the first generation of Christians.  Through the laying on of hands of ordination, the priestly presence of the Apostles continues through them to the bishops, and then to the priests.  God’s great gift of forgiveness was not limited to one generation.

But why do I have to go to a priest to have my sins forgiven?  Why can’t I go directly to God?  The short answer is that you are going directly to God when you go to confession.  The priest is “in persona Christi,” that is, “in the person of Christ.”  In the same way, we believe that Christ works through the priest at Mass for the Eucharist, baptisms and other sacraments, so too Christ works through the priest to forgive sins.  I, as a person, have no authority or ability to forgive sins, but by the fact that I share in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ, it is he who is doing the forgiving.

Here is an analogy: Suppose I walked into your house and I saw you watching television on an eight-inch black-and-white television set.  I would probably encourage you to get into the 21st century.  Now being the good friend that I am, I go to buy a 72-inch plasma TV to give to you as a gift.  You, of course, are thrilled and delighted at the same time.  Two weeks later, I stop by for a visit, and your are watching your favorite show on your old black-and-white; the plasma television I gave you is back in the box and in the garage.  How do you suppose I would feel?

Jesus gave the great gift of sacramental forgiveness on the most important day of his  life; it is a far greater gift than a big television.  We all know the intangible feeling we get once we have gone to confession; we know we are forgiven!  It is a gift the Catholic Church has kept.  Jesus said, “Everyone to whom much is given, of him will much be required” (Luke 12:48).  We should not be asking why we have to go to confession; we should be beating down the priest’s door to be able to get to confession.  It is a gift that we have a responsibility to use.

Twelve thousand legions of angels cannot forgive sins.  The Blessed Virgin Mary in all her heavenly glory cannot forgive a single venial sin.  But a priest can!  What a gift!  God gives this to us as a great gift of his infinite mercy.  Nothing we can do can out-do God’s mercy.  Hitler’s sins are a speck of dust compared to the fountain that is God’s mercy.  But in order to have a good confession, you first have to be truly sorry for your sins, and then have the resolve to try not to sin in the future, which is why the Act of Contrition is important in the confessional.

What might be thought to be unique to Catholics in reality is not.  Nearly all Christian denominations believe that God forgives sins through another person.  Most believe that at baptism our sins are washed away.  Well, if God can use a person to forgive sins in baptism, who are we to say that God cannot forgive sins after baptism, in the confessional, especially since he was the one who said so on the day of this resurrection.

To deny the reality of confession is limiting the power and mercy of Christ.  It is Lent.  Prepare yourself for the high feast of Easter.  Prepare yourself for the day that Jesus gave us this great gift.  Cleanse your soul, and go to confession.  —Father Rich

In Defense of Christians: A Petition Led by the Knights of Columbus to Stop the Christian Genocide

 KC coat of arms   IDC image







A new online petition is urging Secretary of State John Kerry not to exclude Christians from a declaration of genocide at the hands of ISIS. Co-sponsored by In Defense of Christians (IDC) and the Knights of Columbus, the petition can be signed at

The petition is being promoted by a new nationwide TV ad that includes quotes by presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio endorsing a genocide declaration for Christians in the Middle East, a position supported by 55 percent of Americans, according to a 2015 K of C-Marist poll.

“Christians in Iraq and Syria have suffered injustice after injustice by being kidnapped, killed, having their homes and churches confiscated or destroyed, and being forced to flee for their lives. Because of hit squads, they fear to enter UN refugee camps and, as a result, are then often excluded from immigration to the West,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who signed the petition and testified on the matter before a congressional subcommittee in December.

He added, “After all of this, these people deserve to have the U.S. State Department call what has happened to them by its rightful name: genocide — just as the European Parliament, Pope Francis, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and so many other prominent individuals and institutions have already done.”

IDC Executive Director Kirsten Evans said, “The International Association of Genocide Scholars, over 200 members of Congress and over seventy human rights experts and organizations, spanning the nation’s religious and political spectrum, have raised their voices that the treatment of these communities by ISIS meets even the strictest definition of genocide under international law, and must be treated as such.”

The State Department is required by law to make a designation one way or the other on the matter by mid-March.

Signers of the petition “implore” Secretary Kerry “to speak up on behalf of these brutalized minority populations.” They conclude by urging him “to declare that Christians, along with Yazidis and other vulnerable minorities, are targets of ongoing genocide,” arguing that such a declaration meets the criteria established by the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

In just its first hours, the online petition attracted some 15,000 signatures, including those of Gov. John Kasich of Ohio; Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York; U.S. Bishops Conference President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz; Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals; Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America (Eastern Prelacy); historian Philip Jenkins; human rights experts and activists; and Hollywood producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.

The Knights of Columbus began its Christian Refugee Relief Fund in 2014, with a particular focus on the Middle East. To date, more than $8 million has been raised to provide housing, food, medical aid, education and general relief to persecuted Christians and other religious minorities, especially from Iraq and Syria, and to raise awareness about their plight, including through a #40BucksForLent effort launched on Ash Wednesday. Additional information is available at

IDC is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that seeks the protection and preservation of Christians and Christianity in the Middle East through raising global awareness, mobilizing international support, and educating policymakers toward constructive international policies on their


Pope Francis Celebrates His 15th Anniversary as Cardinal

Jorge Bergoglio as cardinal


This is an autographed photo of Pope John Paul with the newly consecrated Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, our Pope Francis.

I’m always impressed by the brotherhood of the priesthood. You can see that in this photograph as well as the recognition that Pope John Paul II as recently   canonized by Pope Francis. They were really brothers in this life and especially in their priesthood. Sharing the priesthood: you can see this in this photograph.

Another thing that is interesting is the humility of Pope Francis, because his signature on the top line just simply says, Bergoglio. The bottom line says, Bishop of Buenos Aires, in German, because it was a German who actually got this item in person.

This photograph was taken during the conclave of the consistory that elevated Bergoglio to the cardinalate. It was the largest consistory elevation of cardinals in the history of the church. Historically speaking, in more than one way, it was choosing the future pope. It’s also interesting that Pope Francis is the first pope, obviously, that was made a cardinal by John Paul II—the last three popes were elevated by Pope Paul VI.

I love the fact that he puts Bishop of Buenos Aires below his name. He takes such pride in his role as bishop. And he’s assumed the great role of being the Bishop of Rome now as one of John Paul II’s successors.  —Father Rich







Commentary on the First Reading for the 2nd Sunday of Lent

Father Rich gave an outstanding homily today, based on the first reading for this 2nd Sunday of Lent, which we have included in this update. This particular reading is what establishes God’s covenant with Abraham.  It is, Father says, the central most important message of the Hebrew scriptures.  Please take the time to listen to this information if you’d like some in depth understanding of today’s first reading and Father’s homily about it.  The presentation starts at Chapter 11 of Genesis.  Commentary on the covenant God establishes is at Chapter 15.

The media featured here is one of the classes on the book of Genesis that Father taught on Nov. 7, 2011.  The whole class on Genesis, as well as all the books of the Bible taught in his Bible studies, (Mondays at 9:00, and all are invited..) are featured under Media/Scripture Classes on this web site.  

We are so fortunate to have these classes on scripture and apologetics available to us, both in real time and on this website.  Please consider availing yourself of the opportunities to learn what is presented in each of these great classes.  (Plus, it’ll give you a chance to hear how the classes are both intelligent and entertaining!)

Apologetics class follows the Stations of the Cross on Wednesdays (6:30)  in the Gathering Space at St. John’s.  Please join us!  


Genesis Scripture Class, Nov. 7, 2011:

Reading 1   GN 15:5-12, 17-18

The Lord God took Abram outside and said,
“Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.
Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.”
Abram put his faith in the LORD,
who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.He then said to him,
“I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans
to give you this land as a possession.”
“O Lord GOD,” he asked,
“how am I to know that I shall possess it?”
He answered him,
“Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat,
a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
Abram brought him all these, split them in two,
and placed each half opposite the other;
but the birds he did not cut up.
Birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses,
but Abram stayed with them.
As the sun was about to set, a trance fell upon Abram,
and a deep, terrifying darkness enveloped him.When the sun had set and it was dark,
there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch,
which passed between those pieces.
It was on that occasion that the LORD made a covenant with Abram,
saying: “To your descendants I give this land,
from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.”


February 22: Some Thoughts on The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Apostle

st. peter 2st. peter

Since the fourth century the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Apostle has been celebrated at Rome as a sign of the unity of the Church founded upon that apostle.  This is an image of Pope St. Peter sitting on the throne from the Jubilee Year of 1950. Although the artwork of the item is crude, the plastic container embedded into the statue has a little case of dirt from his tomb. The container has the symbol of the papacy on it, the cross keys and tiara.

The statue is a replica of the one in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Notice the extended foot of the saint has been reverenced so many times it has literally been rubbed smooth.

st. peter in rome

Father Rich:

Last Monday we had President’s Day in the United States, which was established in 1885 to honor President George Washington’s birthday. Officially it is celebrated on the 3rd Monday of February, giving our federal government a three day weekend. However his actual birth is this Monday, the 22nd of February, which I find interesting, because that day is a national holiday in another country: Vatican City State. What President’s Day is to the United States, February 22nd is to the Vatican.

It might as well be called “Pope’s Day,” but it isn’t. The Church celebrates the feast day “The Chair of St. Peter the Apostle” every February 22nd, honoring the authority of the office of Pope. And, like in the US for President’s Day, all official Vatican offices are closed and  on holiday on this date.

Because of my long fascination with the history of the papacy, for years this has been my favorite liturgical feast day. And for the Catholic Church it is a pretty high ranking feast, as it is one of the few times during Lent that the commemoration takes precedence over the season: liturgically speaking, Monday the 22nd is not Lent.

So I hope you all enjoy a great Pope’s Day on Monday.

I know I will.  –Father Rich

Father brought relics  to Mass to venerate after Mass: they are first class relics of Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II.  He also used a 19th century chalice, which is new to his papal artifacts’ Collection.  Details about all of these precious artifacts made be found at Papal


chalice, new

The chalice is a very ornate and beautiful artifact that dates between the years 1814 and 1870. Unlike the chalice belonging to Pope Leo XIII,  it does not have a particular pope’s coat of arms. And so we can only surmise that it was used by a pope, but we know it was used in service of the pope because of the maker’s mark located on the lip of the chalice.

Every metal worker, jeweler, and medal maker or silversmith addmaker’s marks to the items they create. This practice also allows us to identify the time period in which the item was created.

This chalice indicates it was made between 1814-1870 because it has a maker’s mark of the cross keys and tiara–a very, very tiny mark in this piece of metal. This was just to show it was made in service to the Holy Father.  In the case of this chalice, it was added to the lip, the middle and the base.  On the base, the name of the priest who gave this chalice to St. Charles’ Church is also included.

Beginning in 1814 fine metal artists in the Papal States used this particular maker’s mark. Napoleon Bonaparte had released Pius VII from custody after nearly four years. Jubilation was so great in Rome upon his release that the artists started putting this maker’s mark of cross keys and tiara on their works in honor of the Holy Father’s safety. That practice continued until 1870 when the Papal States were taken over by United Italy.

There is no indication that any one particular pope used this chalice, but the symbol of the cross keys and tiara maker’s mark deem this totally appropriate for this Collection.

It is interesting to speculate in whose hands and on what altars this 200-year-old chalice was used. It always goes back to the central source and summit of our faith, the Eucharist. It is part of the living history of the Eucharist and the priests who are its celebrants. It helps us to recognize that the Eucharist is a part of the living history of the papacy.   Father Richard Kunst.