During his highly anticipated installation Mass as leader of the Archdiocese of Miami, Archbishop Thomas Wenski addressed his new flock on Tuesday, reflecting on the challenges faced by the Florida community and asserting that “Catholics should involve themselves in the public square – and do so coherently and unapologetically.”
Archbishop Wenksi made his remarks at the afternoon installation and ordination Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Miami, where earlier he was received by a throng of cheering attendees as the liturgical procession made its way inside. At the beginning of the Mass, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., read the Holy Father's greeting and appointment of Archbishop Wenski as shepherd of the archdiocese's 1.3 million Catholics.
After the Scripture readings, which were done in Spanish, English and Creole, the new archbishop opened his homily by remarking on the significance of the Miami archdiocese. The native Floridian called the city “a vital part of the various nations from which our people have come: Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Colombia and the rest of the Caribbean, South and Central America.”
“Sometimes, Miami boasts that it is the capital of the hemisphere,” he added. “The presence here today of Bishops from Cuba, Haiti and Puerto Rico, I think, shows that this is no idle boast.”
“Here in the Archdiocese of Miami, we have our problems, our challenges to face - the economic crisis and the closing of schools and more than a dozen parishes, have frustrated everyone and angered many,” he noted. “But let’s not feel sorry for ourselves. Our brothers and sisters in Haiti, Cuba and elsewhere have challenges much more daunting than our own – with far less resources than we have.”
Archbishop Wenski then referred to challenges that the Church faces “inside and outside,” speaking on clerical sex abuse scandals and referencing what Pope Benedict has called the “dictatorship of relativism” in the surrounding culture. The new archbishop explained that this “radically secular world view wishes to reduce faith to the realm of the 'private' and the 'subjective' and thus tries to limit our freedom to serve, whether in health care, education or social services.”
“To a world tempted to live as if God doesn’t matter and therefore a world that teeters on the brink of despair, we, the Church, need to witness to hope by showing– by what we say and do (and by what we won’t do) – how beautiful, how joyful life is when one lives convinced that God does indeed matter.”
“For this reason,” he stressed, “Catholics should involve themselves in the public square – and do so coherently and unapologetically. Thus, we bring to public policy debates on issues of human life dignity, justice and peace, immigration reform, and marriage and the family an understanding of the human person that, while founded on the Christian Scriptures, is also accessible to human reason.”
“While this understanding expressed in the Church’s social teachings can seem to be quite complex, I believe it can be summarized in one simple phrase: no man is a problem,” Archbishop Wenski said.
“This why as Archbishop of Miami I will continue to proclaim a positive and consistent ethic of life: no human being – no matter how poor or how weak - can be reduced to just a problem. When we allow ourselves to think of a human being as a mere problem, we offend his or her dignity.”
“For us, Catholics, therefore, there can be no such thing as a 'problem pregnancy,'” he explained, “only a child who is to be welcome in life and protected by law. The refugee, the migrant – even one without 'papers' – is not a problem. He may perhaps be a stranger but a stranger to be embraced as a brother.
“Even criminals – for all the horror of their crimes – do not lose their God-given dignity as human beings. They too must be treated with respect, even in their punishment,” he added.
In his concluding remarks, Archbishop Wenski implored the faithful for their encouragement. “As I begin my service to this local Church as its fourth archbishop, I ask for your support, your cooperation – and, most of all, I ask for your prayers.”