Local Church leaders anticipate seeing pope

BRIGHTON -- Pope Benedict XVI has already inspired hope in Boston as a result of his papal visit to the United States, entitled “Christ Our Hope.” Representatives from the Archdiocese of Boston told The Pilot they were looking forward to seeing the Holy Father in Washington, D.C. or New York City from April 15-20.

Father Christopher O’Connor, vice rector of St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, said of the pope’s visit, “This is a trip of hope. The hope comes from Christ himself and the Holy Father comes as the representative of Christ to our country.”

Pope Benedict will point the faithful toward Christ and remind the nation that it was founded on Judeo-Christian values that have a role to play in the nation and the world, he said.

Father O’Connor, a philosophy professor at the seminary, added that he believes the Holy Father will speak about the complementarity of faith and reason.

He, along with seminary rector Father Arthur L. Kennedy and the 50 seminarians studying at St. John’s, will attend the youth rally at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers on April 19. Two of the seminarians will serve at papal Masses.

On April 15, the seminarians lined up to ring the seminary bell for the pope’s arrival. They were “filled with joy,” Father O’Connor said.

“I think every priest has a special love for the Holy Father, so to see him on our shores and in our land proclaiming the gospel is a great gift and just a boost in spirits,” he added.

Pope Benedict will address educators at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. on April 17. Sister Janet Eisner, president of Emmanuel College, said she expects that the pontiff will affirm the importance of Catholic colleges that educate upcoming leaders of the Church and the world.

“Educating the current and future generations is an important part of the mission of the Church,” she said.

Sister Janet has attended two addresses to American educators with Pope John Paul II in Boston in 1979 and in New Orleans in 1987. She said she expects that, like Pope John Paul, Pope Benedict will remind educators of their responsibilities and encourage them in their significant work.

Unlike the meetings with educators in 1979 and 1987, the meeting on April 17 will include superintendents of Catholic elementary and secondary schools.

Sister Janet said, “I think that says he sees very clearly the link between the Catholic colleges and Catholic school systems in various dioceses.”

She added that in Boston, Catholic colleges have been assisting other Catholic schools, particularly through the archdiocesan 2010 Initiative to revitalize the elementary education system.

Several archdiocesan officials will represent Boston at a Mass for clergy and religious, held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City on April 19.

Sister Marian Batho, CSJ, the delegate for religious for the Archdiocese of Boston, said she is honored to attend and looking forward to the event “with great enthusiasm.”

She said she expects the pontiff to speak about the beauty and truths of the Catholic faith as well as the necessity of prayer.

“Prayer is the most important element of all, and we are surrounded by messages that are just so contrary to that,” she said. “Our relationship with God is really something that we need to continually work on and continually strive to make sure it is the priority in our lives.”

Father Arthur Coyle, secretary for pastoral and ministerial services of the archdiocese, will also attend the St. Patrick’s Mass and said he hopes the visit will be the impetus to a deeper appreciation of the Catholic faith. He was recently appointed episcopal vicar for the Merrimack Region, which will be effective July 1.

“Hopefully it’s going to be a reawakening of the faith of Catholics in the United States,” he said. “We have been through a lot the last several years.”

Father Coyle added that he expects Pope Benedict to address the clergy sexual abuse crisis directly and acknowledge all that Catholics in the nation have been through.

The pope is also scheduled to recognize the four dioceses -- Boston, New York, Louisville and Philadelphia -- celebrating their bicentennials in 2008 at the closing Mass at Yankee Stadium on April 20. There will be 3,000 Boston Catholics representing the archdiocese at that Mass.

“That will certainly give testimony to the great legacy of faith that has been the story of the Church of Boston for these 200 years that, amid trial and tribulation, has continued,” he said.

Neither the faith of Boston Catholics nor the ministry of the archdiocese has wavered in that time, he added.

Father Richard Erikson, vicar general and moderator of the curia, will also attend the Mass for clergy and religious on April 19 and will be one of 20 priests concelebrating the closing Mass on April 20.

Father Erikson said of meeting Pope Benedict for the first time, “I’m looking forward to being with him and celebrating the heritage of Boston with him.”

He added that he would like the papal visit to be a time of “inspiration, insight and perspective about our life with Christ.”

“I am hoping his visit will be not only be a celebration but also a moment of healing for Catholics in the United States and Catholics in Boston,” he said.