It has been awesome taking part in the events in Rome these past three weeks, saying goodbye to Benedict, and then taking part in the conclave last week to elect Pope Francis. Today I will be joining our new Holy Father for his Mass of Installation, in Saint Peter’s Square. At the same time, I am sorry that I will not be able to join my brother bishops of New York State as they undertake two days of advocacy on important public policy issues in Albany, as well with as the nearly 1,000 Catholics from every part of our state who will join them Wednesday for Catholics at the Capitol. I do love Rome, but, boy, do I wish I could be with all of you in Albany.
Pope Francis has a reputation for intense devotion to the poor, of humility, of promoting the Culture of Life. That’s what we, as the Church, must be all about as well, and that is what we must bring in our meetings with our elected representatives in Albany.
I will certainly be with my brother bishops in spirit as they meet with Governor Cuomo, Senators Skelos and Klein, and Speaker Silver Tuesday afternoon to lay the ground work for Catholics at the Capitol by affirming the Church’s beautiful teaching on the dignity of every human person made in the image and likeness of Almighty God from the moment of conception until natural death.
And I will be praying for those committed advocates traveling to Albany to join with your bishops in proclaiming a great big Yes! to life, by working together to build a Culture of Life in New York by providing real choices for pregnant women and girls who may find themselves pressured to abort, and who so often suffer quietly for years afterward as a result. Surely, we can find some area of agreement among our elected leaders to help those who make the heroic choice to keep their babies, as well as those who have already aborted and need love, compassion and healing to move forward with their lives.
You will also uphold the Culture of Life and proclaim the dignity of every human person by fighting for the safety of all children, wherever their parents send them to school. We bishops stood in support of Gov. Cuomo in his stand for sensible gun control, but while the NY SAFE Act rightfully included money for public school safety, no such funding was included for religious or independent schools in that legislation. We worry about the message that this sends. We’re also grateful for those who supported our efforts to get full reimbursement for all of the state mandates on our schools.
And, of course, you will passionately advocate for more state funding for affordable housing and for health care for the poor and vulnerable, because these are basic human rights that preserve human dignity. And you will speak out as well for the dignity of those in our state’s prison system, because our Lord taught us very clearly that whatever we do for any of the least of our brothers and sisters, we truly do for Him.
Know that my brother bishops and all of our laity, religious and clergy doing this important work in Albany will hold a special place in my prayers these next few days, even if I cannot be there with you in person.
A blessed St. Joseph Day, Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter!