March 15, 2013

Archbishop Tobin celebrates Mass for election of new pope

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin elevates the Eucharist during a March 12 Mass celebrated at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. Concelebrating the Mass was Father Stephen Giannini. The liturgy was an opportunity for Catholics to pray with the archbishop for the 115 cardinals who gathered in the Sistine Chapel that day to begin the balloting to elect a new pope. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin elevates the Eucharist during a March 12 Mass celebrated at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. Concelebrating the Mass was Father Stephen Giannini. The liturgy was an opportunity for Catholics to pray with the archbishop for the 115 cardinals who gathered in the Sistine Chapel that day to begin the balloting to elect a new pope. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

At almost the same time that 115 cardinals from around the world solemnly processed into the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican to begin the conclave to select the 265th successor of St. Peter, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and several hundred Catholics prayed for the cardinals during a special Mass on March 12 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

Cameras from various television stations across Indianapolis recorded the liturgy. And at the start of his homily, Archbishop Tobin joked about the attention that the conclave has drawn around the world.

“You are certainly aware of the great interest in this election,” he said. “The selection of a pope generates analysis from across the globe, a tsunami of tweets and, probably, some foolish bets in Las Vegas and with the bookies of London.” (Watch his homily here)

In contrast, Archbishop Tobin said, Catholics praying for the cardinals “listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd, who never abandons his Church,” and seek “to do what he asked us to do the night before he died for us.”

Matt Schlimgen, a member of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis, was one of those Catholics whose focus was on God at the start of the conclave.

“I thought it was important as we begin a new era in the Church with a new pope and new leadership,” said Schlimgen of his motivation for attending the Mass. “My hope is that [the new pope] will be somebody who can make us all become one.” (Related: More coverage of the papal transition)

In reflecting on the state of the Church and the world at the start of the conclave, Archbishop Tobin recalled the words of St. Alphonsus Liguori at the time of a papal election in 1774.

The saint, who then was serving as a bishop in “a backwater diocese in southern Italy,” recommended prayer above all to help bring about the election of a worthy man as pontiff.

St. Alphonsus said this was especially important at that time when “ ‘evils … desolate the Church.’ ”

Returning to 2013, Archbishop Tobin said that evil beset the Church today as it did in the late 18th century, “whether we speak of the scandals of sexual abuse or the stumbling blocks of factionalism, intrigue and discord.

“In many regions of the world, we are no longer successful in communicating to young people the beauty of the Christian life,” Archbishop Tobin said. “And as a result, the rich seed of the Gospel falls on barren soil.”

In response to this challenging situation, Archbishop Tobin said that Catholics should do what St. Alphonsus recommended in 1774—pray.

“This celebration and similar gatherings throughout the archdiocese are opportunities for us to make our voices heard, not as political parties or focus groups,” Archbishop Tobin said, “but as a ‘chosen race, a royal priesthood, a nation set apart,’ a people that God has called out of darkness into his wonderful light [1 Pt. 2: 9].

“We are praying with brothers and sisters across the world and, because of the communion of saints, our prayer extends across the vast river of time that flows into eternity. My brothers and sisters, prayer reminds us, especially today, that we are but one family in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”

That universal nature of the Church was experienced in a special way at the Mass by Elizabeth White, 20, a member of St. Kilian Parish in Mission Viejo, Calif., who was in Indianapolis visiting friends.

“There’s such unity all across the world,” said White. “Everybody’s gathering together to pray for the conclave and for God’s will and the Holy Spirit to guide us. It’s beautiful that everybody’s praying for it.”

That universality is important to Father Stanley Pondo, archdiocesan vicar judicial. Eight years ago when Pope Benedict XVI was elected, Father Pondo was a graduate student in Rome studying canon law. He was able to be in the square with Catholics from around the world when the new pontiff appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time.

This year, Father Pondo concelebrated the March 12 Mass at the cathedral. But he knew that similar prayers were being offered by Catholics around the world.

“Even though there’s not the immediacy, we’re [praying] here in Indianapolis,” Father Pondo said. “People in New York, people in Prague, people in Warsaw are, at the same time or very nearly the same time, doing the same thing, joining together in prayer universally. That really does capture the catholic part of Catholicism, the one Church spread throughout the world.”

Archbishop Tobin concluded his homily by suggesting that prayer at the start of the conclave can be effective because “Jesus prays with us and for us.

“Because Jesus prays for his Church, we can believe that the Spirit will be present in the Sistine Chapel later today, when balloting begins,” Archbishop Tobin said. “For our part, we beseech God to help those cardinals be sensitive to the Spirit, and to follow its urging. Many of the evils that afflict the Church today demonstrate a deafness to the Spirit and a preference for selfishness, fear or ambition.

“Let us beg our loving Father that the electors be moved to choose the candidate best disposed to lead the Church today, a shepherd in whose voice we will recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd, who alone gives us direction, light and peace.” †

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