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Transcript of Homily

Father McGivney ‘Exemplary American Priest,’ Says Pope Benedict

Father Michael J. McGivney

Pope Benedict XVI on April 19 cited Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney as an “exemplary American priest” whose “remarkable accomplishment” and “vision and zeal led to the establishment of the Knights of Columbus.”

The Holy Father attributed the “secret of the impressive growth of the Church” in the United States to the “unity of vision and purpose” of generations of priests and religious, that included Father McGivney, who devoted themselves to charitable work, education and evangelization.

Pope Benedict made his reference to Father McGivney, whom he declared a Venerable Servant of God in March, in his homily at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral during a Mass for priests, deacons, religious and seminarians.

He placed Father McGivney among those who, “rooted in faith and a spirit of constant conversion and self-sacrifice,” contributed to the growth and holiness of the Church in America and who should serve as models today as the Catholic faithful seek to heal the divisions that grew after the Second Vatican Council.

He also mentioned Father McGivney in the context of holy guides for the faithful as the Church moves toward “that true spiritual renewal desired by the Council, a renewal which can only strengthen the Church in that holiness and unity indispensible for the effective proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world.”

Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said in a statement, “The pope’s selection of Father McGivney as a role model for today’s priests and religious is very important for us.

“Thousands of priests are among the 1.7 million members of the Knights of Columbus, including Cardinal Egan and hundreds of others in the Archdiocese of New York. Each and every day, all of us in the Knights of Columbus look to Father McGivney’s vision and example as a guide to our work of charity and evangelization.

“At a time when our priests are in need of our support more than ever, the pope’s promotion of Father McGivney as a role model for clergy everywhere is both timely and enormously appreciated. We pledge our fervent support for his call to revitalize and renew the Catholic Church here and around the world.”

‘Choose Life’

At the Mass in St. Patrick’s, Pope Benedict also made his strongest pro-life statements thus far during his U.S. trip. The Church “is called to proclaim the gift of life, to serve life, and to promote a culture of life,” he said. He praised two previous New York archbishops – Cardinals Terence Cooke and John O’Connor, both of whom were members of the Knights of Columbus – for their “heroic witness to the Gospel of life.”

“The proclamation of life, life in abundance, must be the heart of the new evangelization,” the pope said. “For true life – our salvation – can only be found in the reconciliation, freedom and love which are God’s gracious gift.”

The Holy Father said that Moses’ words “choose life!” expressed the spirit of joy that should underlie obedience to the Commandments.

“Perhaps we have lost sight of this,” he explained. “In a society where the Church seems legalistic and ‘institutional’ to many people, our most urgent challenge is to communicate the joy born of faith and the experience of God’s love.”

‘New Springtime’

Declaring a message of hope to the thousands of priests, deacons, men and women religious and seminarians who filled the magnificent Gothic cathedral on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, Benedict said, “Let us lift our gaze upward! And with great humility and confidence, let us ask the Spirit to enable us to grow in holiness that will make us living stones of the temple which is even now rising up in the midst of our world … In fidelity to the deposit of faith entrusted to the Apostles, let us be joyful witnesses to the transforming power of the Gospel!”

“In this way,” he concluded, “the Church in America will know a new springtime in the Spirit and point the way to that other, greater city, the New Jerusalem, whose light is the Lamb of God.”

Words of Welcome

Celebrated April 19, the Mass marked the third anniversary of Pope Benedict’s election to the papacy in 2005.

After the cathedral was filled with priests, religious and seminarians from all 195 U.S. dioceses, and more than 100 bishops processed to the sanctuary, Mayor Michael Bloomberg stepped to the lectern to welcome the Holy Father to New York City.

He praised Benedict’s witness for peace and unity and said that the city was pleased to have such a holy and humble religious leader in its midst.

Soon after, the Pope processed into the cathedral to the applause of those assembled. He prayed for a few moments before the tabernacle in the Lady Chapel behind the main altar, then vested for Mass.

New York’s Cardinal Egan offered words of welcome, pointing out that the New York Archdiocese is celebrating its 200th anniversary and that the cornerstone of the cathedral was laid in 1858 by Archbishop John Hughes. “Since then it has become a beloved house of prayer not only for Catholics all over the nation, but for people of all faiths from every corner of the world.”

After Mass, Pope Benedict rode his popemobile up Fifth Avenue, along the route of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, with tens of thousands of well-wishers thronged behind the barricades.


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