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Summer brings chance to rejuvenate body and spirit

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

I hope that these summer days provide you and your friends and family with many opportunities for rest and relaxation. W all need times to be rejuvenated and refreshed both in body and spirit. Let us continue to thank God for the beauties of Creation, especially present here in Iowa, and not forget to praise and thank Him each weekend at the Sunday Eucharist. Even on vacation, there is no vacation from worshiping our God the best way we can at the celebration of the Mass.

SAINT PETER AND SAINT PAUL

As I write these reflections, today is the Solemnity of the great apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul. In Rome, our native son, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, Archbishop of Cincinnati, is receiving from our Holy Father the “pallium.” He and thirty-seven other archbishops from around the world (all those named during the past year) will receive a “three fingers broad’ pallium woven of white lamb’s wool. This small garment fits over the head of the archbishops and covers the chasuble when the archbishops celebrate the Liturgy. It is a symbol that these archbishops are in a special way united with the ministry of the Pope as they guide and govern not only their own archdiocese, but also give assistance to the dioceses that fall under the jurisdiction. (Archbishop Hanus of Dubuque is our Metropolitan Archbishop here in Iowa and wears the pallium.)

The ceremony today in Rome is a reminder to all of us that the Church we belong to is centered around respect and obedience to the successor of St. Peter, our first Pope. His Holiness, Benedict XVI has been given the role of St. Peter for us today. On this feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, I ask all of you to continue to remember in prayer not only our Pope, the Bishop of Rome, but all bishops (including me!). We depend on your prayerful support and appreciate your remembrance especially in these difficult days of leadership and proclaiming the truth of the gospel to a world who does not always want to hear what our Holy Father and Bishops have to say. We all admit that, as bishops, are still frail human beings; we can and do make mistakes. But we also know the Christ has promised to be with the Church forever and He promises that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the leadership of good and holy Bishops, the Church will survive and continue to proclaim the truth of the gospel.

THE CHURCH OF BELGIUM

One example of difficulties that we as bishops face is what recently has taken place in Belgium.
Last week police raided the private residence of Godfried Cardinal Danneels, retired Archbishop of Mechlin-Brussels; the residence of the current Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard; and penetrated the crypt of the Cathedral of St. Rumbold, drilling into the tombs of two deceased cardinal-archbishops to view the interiors with small cameras. At the same time, a general meeting of the Belgian bishops was interrupted, and the bishops detained for several hours while their cell phones and other items were confiscated. The police claimed to be searching for documents related to sexual abuse allegations. It is hard to see how some of these actions could be considered “due process.”

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, summoned the Belgian ambassador to the Holy See – one imagines a very polite, yet firmly unambiguous, dressing down – and then issued a public letter to Archbishop Léonard, expressing his solidarity with the Belgian bishops “in this moment of sadness, in which, with certain surprising and deplorable methods, searches were carried out in Mechlin Cathedral and in places where the Belgian Episcopate were assembled in plenary session.”

We have seen in our own country in the last decade how this scandal has become a rhetorical club, vigorously wielded to drive the Church’s voice from the public square on every issue. All are tarred with the same brush, and none is permitted any credibility on anything. Here, we see the same excuse taken a step further than rhetoric. Even given the current fervor of the scandal in Europe, and the public admissions by Bishop Vangheluwe, and the need for cooperation with secular authorities so that both ecclesial and civil justice may be pursued, it is still quite unacceptable, and a grave threat to the liberty of all, to tolerate such unequal treatment under the law, such disrespect for the dead, or such evident presumption of guilt, with which the bishops were treated. The Catholic Church and especially our bishops, are being attacked in all kinds of ways. We will always accept just criticism and accept appropriate accountability for our actions, but we must speak out against unjust and unfair treatment when necessary.

THE BISHOP OF PHOENIX

Another example, closer to home is lack of respect and failure to accept the teachings of the Church, especially the bishops’ teachings on life and health care issues. We are familiar with the conflict between the Catholic Hospital Association and the teachings of the American Bishops on the recently passed Health Care Bill.
The Church, in fact, must have her freedom and her public voice, in order to defend both created and supernatural goods. Socially and politically, the bedrock of defending the Good is to defend the right to life. The Church teaches clearly, constantly, and unequivocally the sanctity of human life, from natural conception to natural death. Nothing ever justifies deliberately killing an unborn child.

This was the good which Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix was defending in May, when he confirmed the excommunication of a religious sister for permitting an abortion at their Catholic hospital last November. There has been swathes of confusing semantics thrown up on all sides, to excuse this act as something necessary, or somehow not an abortion, or just to browbeat Bishop Olmsted for daring to speak the truth without excuses. But the facts are finally being recognized. This was a case of direct abortion, and those who caused and permitted it have placed themselves outside the communion of the Church. Yet “God desires not the death of a sinner.” Pray, therefore, for repentance and mercy for all involved in this tragedy. May God’s most generous and abiding grace heal all the wounds of our human frailty, and may His love always be poured out for us in the ministry of the Church.

We must never tire of praying for the Church which is being attached on so many sides in our day. May the witness and perseverance of the apostles Peter and Paul encourage us to hold fast to hope and trust that God still guards and protects the Church.

125 YEARS: ST. MARY’S, REMSEN
This past Sunday, I had the great privilege of celebrating the Mass for the people of St. Mary’s Church in Remsen. It is a beautiful Church and the Liturgy and music were outstanding. I thank Father Bill McCarty, Deacon Rick Roder, Simon Pick, Andrew Galles, Norine Harvey and so many others for making this such a special event. The Knights of Columbus were present and accompanied the statue of Our Lady of Consolation of the Afflicted (Our Lady of Luxembourg) to a place of honor in the Church. This was indeed a wonderful example of how a parish community comes together in worship and thanksgiving for God’s many blessings bestowed on this community over the years. Congratulations to all the parishioners, past and present at St. Mary’s in Remsen.

TRINITY HEIGHTS

I also had the pleasure of joining hundreds of people at the annual Trinity Heights Dinner in support of the work and shrine of Queen of Peace. This year’s event was co-sponsored by Catholic Radio in Siouxland, KFHC. We were entertained by Dr. Ray Guarendi of the program “The Doctor is In” and special recognition was given to Beanie Cooper and Duane Sudbeck as they retired after many years of dedicated service to Trinity Heights. We are blessed here in our Diocese to have two beautiful shrines to help us in our prayer and devotion, Trinity Heights and the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend. If you are looking for inspirational places to visit this summer, I recommend both!

As our country prepares to celebrate our Independence this 4th of July, I wish all of you peace and joy. Let us never take for granted the freedom we enjoy in this great land called America. May God continue to bless America and may we be thankful for all who make up this great land of blessing. Enjoy a safe and happy holiday.

May the Lord grant you peace. Thank you for taking time to read these words and all the helpful information in our Catholic Globe.

Your brother in Christ,

Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City


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