FOREVER CHANGED …

FOREVER CHANGED …

Nine days after the 9-11 attacks on New York and Washington, I wrote an email to everyone in my address book at that time, family and friends alike. Today, as we commemorate the 17th anniversary of those attacks, I thought about that letter and how I described my feelings, the reactions in Rome and in Europe, and how people marked September 11th, one of the blackest days in American history.

I am in Honolulu on the tail end of my vacation time and it was fascinating today to re-read that email – which I entitled “Forever changed” – at a distance of 17 years and now I’d like to share it with you. I was working for the Vatican Information Service at the time.

A month ago I visited Ground Zero and the amazing Museum erected to memorialize that event and the lives of the 2,977 people who died. The memorial fountains honor 2,983 people as they added the name f the 6 people killed in an attack on the Twin Towers in 1993. Visiting the museum was like being in a cathedral – the feeling of awe, reverence and recollection has made this a spiritual site for so many. People spoke in very low tones, or they did not speak at all. It was extremely impressive.

I’ve created a slide show of some photos I took and will try at a later date to explain each picture.

Dear Family and friends,

I had all the best intentions of writing to you last week, following the horrific, unspeakable events in our nation, but too many things got in the way and time just ran out each day. I had just returned to Rome from the States so there was some jet lag, but mainly a great deal of work as soon as I came back. And then our days became filled with and dominated by nonstop CNN coverage of doubtless the most incredible week in our nation’s history. I am not sure the magnitude of that terrorist attack is truly implanted in my brain yet.

Please sit down and have a second cup of coffee for this will be a long letter. Today I wanted to share with you not only my feelings but life in Rome as of 2:46 p.m. (local time on Black Tuesday.

On September 11, just before 3 p.m. Rome time (9a.m. in NYC), my colleague Alfonso called from his office next to mine and told me to turn on CNN to see something horrendous. I did so and thought for about one minute that I was looking at a horrible plane accident. And then I saw – right there on my screen, bigger than life – a second plane directly hit the other Twin Tower – and I knew it was terrorism. I was riveted to the screen, my brain not yet totally processing what my eyes had seen – and then the news that the Pentagon was burning! And then that a fourth plane, with terrorist commandos, had crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. Real became surreal.

The impossible became possible.

I watched TV in the office for a few hours and then went home. Since my satellite dish has not been working since July, I watched a bit of Italian news and then took a nap, trying to shake off jet lag, and later joined American friends for dinner that night at their house. These were times when one craved the company and comfort of friends, especially American friends.

The next hours and days the TV became like another limb on my body – I could not get through the days without it – especially because we were cut off from America. For a day or two it was tough or impossible to reach New York and Washington via phone and for a number of days there was no physical way to get to the United States from Rome – or anywhere else in the world. You’ll never understand that feeling – although some of you to whom I’m writing live in Rome or abroad so you DO understand.

I know all of you have been watching TV and I am sure you are fully aware of the support for the U.S. around the world – the candlelight vigils and processions, the myriad church services, the flying of flags at half mast, the countless bouquets of flowers laid near embassies or consulates, the Europeans who stopped their American friends – or even strangers – to pat their arms, express their condolences, give them a hug, buy them a meal or ask if they needed someone to be near them.

The three young children of an American colleague of mine in the press office all asked Joy if they could donate blood to help the wounded Americans. My friends at ZI GAETANA’s restaurant in Rome helped some of the Americans stranded here last week by offering them their meals. I am sure such stories were repeated throughout Italy – and the world.

I am also sure you saw the extraordinarily moving images of how Europe mourned last Friday when everyone and everything stopped for 3 minutes at noon and stores kept their doors closed for 10 minutes starting at noon.

Whoever they were – simple citizens, government leaders, tourists, salespeople, business men and women – alone, in twos, groups of 10, 100 and 100,000 – and wherever they were at noon – at outdoor markets, in churches, touring, eating lunch in a fancy restaurant or a fast food place, at work in factories, offices and stores – they simply stopped, frozen in their tracks, silent in prayer and reflection for 3 minutes. It was like the biblical story of Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt.

To see the images on the Italian news that afternoon and evening was remarkable, moving and unforgettable. One station played “Amazing Grace” for 3 minutes and simply showed images of how Europeans stopped, put their lives on hold for 3 minutes and mourned.

Here in the Vatican the staff members of each office in the Roman Curia prayed the angelus at noon and sang the requiem. I sincerely hope you all saw the unforgettable pictures of an anguished Pope John Paul praying in his private chapel at Castelgandolfo. And, in a first in the history of weekly general audiences, the Holy Father dedicated his weekly catechesis during the September 12 audience in St. Peter’s Square, not to a religious or spiritual theme, but entirely to the attack in the United States. And that is what my show on Vatican Radio that Wednesday was dedicated to – as were many shows in many languages.

Italians have called and written me (and just about every American living in this great country) to express their condolences, horror, indignation, disbelief, anger and support for our country. They have also expressed in recent days their fears that the U.S. will retaliate in such a way that they will stoop to the level of the terrorists and ending up killing innocent people. Europeans, to a man, woman and child, have said they are all Americans now. Every Italian who has spoken to me has said how well they know that their country, that Europe, would not be what it is today had it not been for America during and after World War II – especially the Marshall Plan. “For once in our lives, we can now help America,” is what they tell me.

As the hours, then the days, then the first week passed, feelings have changed very little. If anything they are more profound. The mourning will be lengthy, the anger deep, the revulsion everlasting. All of us STILL want to wake up – because we know this was all just a terrible nightmare and things will be right when dawn comes and the sun rises and warms us and dissipates the darkness that surrounds us.

Like it or not, we have awakened ,only to discover that this has not been a dream or a nightmare but rather our worst nightmare come true. And the full impact will come in small ways and large: a greater police presence at monuments, embassies, government buildings, military bases and “symbols” such as the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, St. Peter’s, etc. There will be more requests for IDs as we move about, and also a terrific impact on the world of travel – passengers, airline employees, travel agents, airport employees and so on.

I’d like to interject two personal notes here: 1. I don’t mind if some of my rights are abbreviated if the new measures being enacted will help to eradicate terrorism in the world; 2. I do not agree with the media who feel that the public “has a right” to know everything that is going on. We do not have a right – nor do we need to know what the government is planning. I don’t want America to cease being an open society – but we don’t have to know what the CIA, FBI, etc., etc., are doing to entrap and/or capture terrorists, to infiltrate their organizations, to destroy their economic base.

This past Sunday at 10:30 at the church of Santa Susanna here in Rome, the parish for Americans which has been run by the Paulist Fathers since 1922, there was an extraordinarily touching and beautiful Mass for the victims and families and friends of the victims of this attack. American Cardinal Edmund Szoka presided, about 50 priests (one of whom lost a relative) concelebrated and I was honored to be one of the three lectors. There were so many people that they flowed out of the church and onto the adjacent piazza. The new ambassador to the Holy See, Jim Nicholson was there with his wife Suzanne, as well as former Ambassador Thomas Melady and his wife, Margaret. A surprise guest, who found himself stranded in Rome after the attacks, was Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his wife.

Father Paul Robichaud, our rector, gave a beautiful homily and tried to answer the questions “Where was God?” and “Why did God allow this to happen?” Half of Sunday’s collection will be sent to New York to help the families of the victims.
At the end of Mass Cardinal Szoka offered some stirring reflections in both English and Italian and then Ambassador Nicholson spoke. He had paper in front of him but rarely looked at it – the words came straight from his heart. As we processed out of church, we three lectors were last and Richard Zaccaroli carried the U.S. flag – which received an enormous round of applause. We stood outside the church and sang patriotic songs, reluctant to leave each other.

I know that what we did here in Rome was repeated thousands of time, in tens of thousands of churches, all around the world. Our fears, our hurt and anger, our pride, our solidarity, our patriotism, our hopes, our prayers – the entire spectrum of emotions – you felt and lived these and so did we.

Well, dear family and friends, I think that is it for now. I’m sure I will think of things I missed, but thanks for hanging in there.

A closing note before I leave you: I have a colorful sign on my desk that I’d like to share with you: “Don’t just live the length of your life, Live the width of it as well.”

God bless you one and all! May He protect you and yours – and may He give you an extra big hug today!

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AN OPEN LETTER FROM YOUNG CATHOLICS

I spent one of the most fascinating afternoons imaginable in New York City yesterday, a city of countless fascinating places to visit.

In the company of two very dear friends, I visited – for the first time – Ground Zero.

Also for the first time, I visited the indescribably remarkable and compelling 911 Museum.

One of my friends, Maria, is a docent at the 911 Museum and if anyone could resurrect miracles out of mounds of rubble or somehow give life back to death, it is Maria.

Both Maria and our mutual friend Blanche (they’ve been friends since college) lost friends in 911 so there were many extremely poignant moments during our afternoon together.

I will tell you about that visit and do so as soon as possible, putting together all my memories, my feelings and the stories Maria told us, together with some photos.

Today, I’d really like you to focus on the following letter as the drama of the sex abuse crisis and reaction to the McCarrick scandal, seem to have no end.

AN OPEN LETTER FROM YOUNG CATHOLICS

Another excellent offering from First Things on the sad and sordid case of Archbishop McCarrick and the situation of sexual abuse by clergy in the Church.

These young people will make you think. They tell you of their love for the Church and for the good and faithful servants of the Lord and they tell you of their fears and hopes and their demands on Church leaders. These youth in their own ways are all leaders now, as you will see by their signatures, and will surely be even greater ones in coming years.

I hope and pray that the Holy Father and the October Synod of Bishops for youth put everything the young people have said in this Open Letter at the top of the synod agenda.

In fact, I hope and more than anything else that someone on the papal staff brings this to the attention of Pope Francis.

Here’s the First Things article:

Archbishop McCarrick’s predatory career would not have been possible without the culpable silence or active complicity of men at the highest levels of the Church. Revelations of his abuse have therefore gravely damaged the credibility of the whole Catholic hierarchy. Here a group of young Catholics speaks with one voice about the need for a cleansing fire.

Their statement is non-partisan, assuming nothing but the eternal validity of the Church’s teaching. They call for an independent investigation of who knew what and when, a new intolerance of clerical abuse and sexual sin, and public acts of penance by Catholic bishops. They promise to work and suffer for the Church, and to strive for holiness in their own lives. As children of the Church, they ask for fathers who honor the Father above. They are confident that their pleas are heard by God. They hope that they will likewise be heard by the priests and bishops who fear him.

“Dear Fathers in Christ,

In preparation for the upcoming Synod on Young People, the Vatican asked for reports from young Catholics around the world concerning their faith and the role the Church plays in their lives. Some of us are younger than others, but we were all children in the decades leading up to the sexual abuse crisis of 2002. In light of that experience and the recent revelations about Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, we answer the Church’s invitation to speak.

Our experiences have given us cause for gratitude, but also for anger.

We are grateful for the way good priests and bishops lay down their lives for us day after day. They say the Mass, absolve us from sin, celebrate our weddings, and baptize our children. Through their preaching, teaching, and writing, they remind us that Jesus Christ has conquered evil once and for all. Their daily sacrifices give us blessings of infinite worth. For all of this, we are profoundly thankful.

We are also angry. We are angry over the “credible and substantiated” report of Archbishop McCarrick’s abuse of a minor. We are angry over the numerous allegations of his abuse of seminarians and young priests. We are angry that “everybody knew” about these crimes, that so few people did anything about them, and that those who spoke out were ignored.

In addition, we have heard reports of networks of sexually active priests who promote each other and threaten those who do not join in their activities; of young priests and seminarians having their vocations endangered because they refused to have sex with their superiors or spoke out about sexual impropriety; and of drug-fueled orgies in Vatican apartments.

As Catholics, we believe that the Church’s teaching on human nature and sexuality is life-giving and leads to holiness. We believe that just as there is no room for adultery in marriages, so there is no room for adultery against the Bride of Christ. We need bishops to make clear that any act of sexual abuse or clerical unchastity degrades the priesthood and gravely harms the Church.

We are scandalized by the fact that men like Archbishop McCarrick have held positions of authority in the Church. Indeed, we are alarmed by reports that Pope Francis acted on McCarrick’s guidance in creating cardinals and appointing men to senior positions in the Church. Men McCarrick mentored and lived with are now important archbishops and heads of Vatican dicasteries.

We want to know what those men knew about McCarrick and when they knew it, especially since “everybody knew.” If the pope himself knew, we want to know that as well.

You are the shepherds of the Church. If you do not act, evil will go unchecked. As members of your flock, we therefore ask the following of you.

We ask you to agree to a thorough, independent investigation into claims of abuse by Archbishop McCarrick, both of minors and of adults. We want to know who in the hierarchy knew about his crimes, when they knew it, and what they did in response. This is the least that would be expected of any secular organization; it should not be more than we can expect from the Church.

We ask that the silence surrounding sexual impropriety in the Church be broken. We ask that bishops take clear action when priests flout the Church’s sexual teaching and that networks of sexually active priests be rooted out. We ask that good priests be given the freedom to tell their bishops what they know, without fear of reprisal. Along with these actions, we ask that bishops engage in formal acts of public penance and reparation.

We also commit to the following. We will refuse to be silent when we see or hear of sexual assaults taking place anywhere in the Church and by any person, clerical or lay. When those we know are assaulted, we will encourage the victims to come forward. We will stand with them until justice is done. We will not accept silence and inaction. Rather, we will publicly name and expose those who harm others and superiors who fail to take action when others are harmed.

We will likewise speak out when we discover clerical sexual impropriety. We will work to protect the good priests and seminarians who are threatened when they refuse to condone the sins of their fellow clerics, or when they speak out about them.

Above all, we pray for holiness in our Church and in ourselves. We pray for good priests and bishops who can lead us on to the vision of God. You constantly remind us that Jesus Christ is the fountain of mercy. Please do not forget that he is also the judge of the world.”

The letter is signed by 43 young people who contribute to various publications, including First Things, Commentary, National Review and Catholic Herald. They attend Catholic universities and public institutions. They hail from the U.S. and the UK. I have not listed their names for reasons of space but they are here: https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2018/08/an-open-letter-from-young-catholics

FOREVER CHANGED …

The date appears as September 12 on this blog, although it is mid-afternoon on September 11 here in Hawaii…..about the time of the attacks 16 years ago in New York, DC and Pennsylvania. My computer must be on Rome time – which is 12 hours ahead of Honolulu.

FOREVER CHANGED …

Nine days after the 9-11 attacks on New York and Washington, I wrote an email to everyone in my address book at that time, family and friends alike. Today, as we commemorate the 16th anniversary of those attacks, I thought about that letter and how I described my feelings, the reactions here in Rome and in Europe, and how people marked September 11th, one of the blackest days in American history.

It was fascinating to re-read that email – which I entitled “Forever changed” – at a distance of 16 years and now I’d like to share it with you:

Dear Family and friends,

I had all the best intentions of writing to you last week, following the horrific, unspeakable events in our nation, but too many things got in the way and time just ran out each day. I had just returned to Rome from the States so there was some jet lag, but mainly a great deal of work as soon as I came back. And then our days became filled with and dominated by nonstop CNN coverage of doubtless the most incredible week in our nation’s history. I am not sure the magnitude of that terrorist attack is truly implanted in my brain yet.

Please sit down and have a second cup of coffee for this will be a long letter. Today I wanted to share with you not only my feelings but life in Rome as of 2:46 p.m. (local time on Black Tuesday.

On September 11, just before 3 p.m. Rome time (9a.m. in NYC), my colleague Alfonso called from his office next to mine and told me to turn on CNN to see something horrendous. I did so and thought for about one minute that I was looking at a horrible plane accident. And then I saw – right there on my screen, bigger than life – a second plane directly hit the other Twin Tower – and I knew it was terrorism. I was riveted to the screen, my brain not yet totally processing what my eyes had seen – and then the news that the Pentagon was burning! And then that a fourth plane, with terrorist commandos, had crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. Real became surreal. The impossible became possible.

I watched TV in the office for a few hours and then went home. Since my satellite dish has not been working since July, I watched a bit of Italian news and then took a nap, trying to shake off jet lag, and later joined American friends for dinner that night at their house. These were times when one craved the company and comfort of friends, especially American friends.

The next hours and days the TV became like another limb on my body – I could not get through the days without it – especially because we were cut off from America. For a day or two it was tough or impossible to reach New York and Washington via phone and for a number of days there was no physical way to get to the United States from Rome – or anywhere else in the world. You’ll never understand that feeling – although some of you to whom I’m writing live in Rome or abroad so you DO understand.

I know all of you have been watching TV and I am sure you are fully aware of the support for the U.S. around the world – the candlelight vigils and processions, the myriad church services, the flying of flags at half mast, the countless bouquets of flowers laid near embassies or consulates, the Europeans who stopped their American friends – or even strangers – to pat their arms, express their condolences, give them a hug, buy them a meal or ask if they needed someone to be near them. The three young children of an American colleague of mine in the press office all asked Joy if they could donate blood to help the wounded Americans. My friends at ZI GAETANA’s restaurant in Rome helped some of the Americans stranded here last week by offering them their meals. I am sure such stories were repeated throughout Italy – and the world.

I am also sure you saw the extraordinarily moving images of how Europe mourned last Friday when everyone and everything stopped for 3 minutes at noon and stores kept their doors closed for 10 minutes starting at noon.

Whoever they were – simple citizens, government leaders, tourists, salespeople, business men and women – alone, in twos, groups of 10, 100 and 100,000 – and wherever they were at noon – at outdoor markets, in churches, touring, eating lunch in a fancy restaurant or a fast food place, at work in factories, offices and stores – they simply stopped, frozen in their tracks, silent in prayer and reflection for 3 minutes. It was like the biblical story of Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt. To see the images on the Italian news that afternoon and evening was remarkable, moving and unforgettable. One station played “Amazing Grace” for 3 minutes and simply showed images of how Europeans stopped, put their lives on hold for 3 minutes and mourned.

Here in the Vatican the staff members of each office in the Roman Curia prayed the angelus at noon and sang the requiem. I sincerely hope you all saw the unforgettable pictures of an anguished Pope John Paul praying in his private chapel at Castelgandolfo. And, in a first in the history of weekly general audiences, the Holy Father dedicated his weekly catechesis during the September 12 audience in St. Peter’s Square, not to a religious or spiritual theme, but entirely to the attack in the United States. And that is what my show on Vatican Radio that Wednesday was dedicated to – as were many programs in many languages.

Italians have called and written me (and just about every American living in this great country) to express their condolences, horror, indignation, disbelief, anger and support for our country. They have also expressed in recent days their fears that the U.S. will retaliate in such a way that they will stoop to the level of the terrorists and ending up killing innocent people. Europeans, to a man, woman and child, have said they are all Americans now. Every Italian who has spoken to me has said how well they know that their country, that Europe, would not be what it is today had it not been for America during and after World War II – especially the Marshall Plan. “For once in our lives, we can now help America,” is what they tell me.

As the hours, then the days, then the first week passed, feelings have changed very little. If anything they are more profound. The mourning will be lengthy, the anger deep, the revulsion everlasting. All of us STILL want to wake up – because we know this was all just a terrible nightmare and things will be right when dawn comes and the sun rises and warms us and dissipates the darkness that surrounds us.

We have awakened, like it or not, only to discover that this has not been a dream or a nightmare but rather our worst nightmare come true. And the full impact will come in small ways and large: a greater police presence at monuments, embassies, government buildings, military bases and “symbols” such as the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, St. Peter’s, etc. There will be more requests for IDs as we move about, and also a terrific impact on the world of travel – passengers, airline employees, travel agents, airport employees and so on.

I’d like to interject two personal notes here: 1. I don’t mind if some of my rights are abbreviated if the new measures being enacted will help to eradicate terrorism in the world; 2. I do not agree with the media who feel that the public “has a right” to know everything that is going on. We do not have a right – nor do we need to know what the government is planning. I don’t want America to cease being an open society – but we don’t have to know what the CIA, FBI, etc., etc., are doing to entrap and/or capture terrorists, to infiltrate their organizations, to destroy their economic base.

This past Sunday at 10:30 at the church of Santa Susanna here in Rome, the parish for Americans which has been run by the Paulist Fathers since 1922, there was an extraordinarily touching and beautiful Mass for the victims and families and friends of the victims of this attack. American Cardinal Edmund Szoka presided, about 50 priests (one of whom lost a relative) concelebrated and I was honored to be one of the three lectors. There were so many people that they flowed out of the church and onto the adjacent piazza. The new ambassador to the Holy See, Jim Nicholson was there with his wife Suzanne, as well as former Ambassador Thomas Melady and his wife, Margaret. A surprise guest, who found himself stranded in Rome after the attacks, was Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his wife.

Father Paul Robichaud, our rector, gave a beautiful homily and tried to answer the questions “Where was God?” and “Why did God allow this to happen?” Half of Sunday’s collection will be sent to New York to help the families of the victims.

At the end of Mass Cardinal Szoka offered some stirring reflections in both English and Italian and then Ambassador Nicholson spoke. He had paper in front of him but rarely looked at it – the words came straight from his heart. As we processed out of church, we three lectors were last and Richard Zaccaroli carried the U.S. flag – which received an enormous round of applause. We stood outside the church and sang patriotic songs, reluctant to leave each other.

I know that what we did here in Rome was repeated thousands of time, in tens of thousands of churches, all around the world. Our fears, our hurt and anger, our pride, our solidarity, our patriotism, our hopes, our prayers – the entire spectrum of emotions – you felt and lived these and so did we.

Well, dear family and friends, I think that is it for now. I’m sure I will think of things I missed, but thanks for hanging in there.

A closing note before I leave you: I have a colorful sign on my desk that I’d like to share with you: “Don’t just live the length of your life, Live the width of it as well.”

God bless you one and all! May He protect you and yours – and may He give you an extra big hug today!

FOREVER CHANGED …

FOREVER CHANGED …

Days after the 9-11 attacks on New York and Washington, and the downing of the plane over Pennsylvania, I wrote an email to everyone in my address book at that time, family and friends alike. Today, as we commemorate the 14th anniversary of those attacks, I thought about that letter and how I described my feelings, the reactions here in Rome and in Europe, and how people marked September 11th, one of the blackest days in American history.

It was fascinating to re-read that email – which I entitled “Forever Changed” – at a distance of 14 years and I’d like to share it with you (I have shared this before if you have a sense of deja vu). As I read it, I could only think, “plus ça change, plus ça reste le meme” (the more things change, the more they stay the same).

At the time, I was working for the Vatican Information Service.

The horror of terrorism is with us still, perhaps even stronger today than on 9-11 especially with the killing claws of ISIS.

Here is that September 2001 letter.

Dear Family and friends,

I had all the best intentions of writing to you last week, following the horrific, unspeakable events in our nation, but too many things got in the way and time just ran out each day. I had just returned to Rome from the States so there was some jet lag, but mainly a great deal of work as soon as I came back. And then our days became filled with and dominated by nonstop CNN coverage of doubtless the most incredible week in our nation’s history. I am not sure the magnitude of that terrorist attack is truly implanted in my brain yet.

Please sit down and have a second cup of coffee for this will be a long letter. Today I wanted to share with you not only my feelings, but life in Rome as of 2:46 p.m. (local time) on Black Tuesday.

On September 11, just before 3 p.m. Rome time (9 a.m. in NYC), my colleague Alfonso called from his office next to mine and told me to turn on CNN – the only American channel we had on our office TV at the time – to see something horrendous. I did so and thought for about one minute that I was looking at a horrible plane accident. And then I saw – right there on my screen, bigger than life – a second plane directly hit the other Twin Tower – and I knew it was terrorism. I was riveted to the screen, my brain not yet totally processing what my eyes had seen – and then the news that the Pentagon was burning! And then that a fourth plane, with terrorist commandos, had crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside.

Real became surreal.

The impossible became possible.

I watched TV in the office for a few hours and then went home. Since my satellite dish has not been working since July, I watched a bit of Italian news and then took a nap, trying to shake off jet lag, and later joined American friends for dinner that night at their house where we watch FoxNews. These were times when one craved the company and comfort of friends, especially American friends.

The next hours and days the TV became like another limb on my body – I could not get through the days without it – especially because we were cut off from America. For a day or two it was tough or impossible to reach New York and Washington via phone and for a number of days there was no physical way to get to the United States from Rome – or anywhere else in the world. You’ll never understand that feeling – although some of you to whom I’m writing live in Rome or abroad so you DO understand.

I know all of you have been watching TV and I am sure you are fully aware of the support for the U.S. around the world – the candlelight vigils and processions, the myriad church services, the flying of flags at half mast, the countless bouquets of flowers laid near embassies or consulates, the Europeans who stopped their American friends – or even strangers – to pat their arms, express their condolences, give them a hug, buy them a meal or ask if they needed someone to be near them. The three young children of an American colleague of mine in the press office all asked Joy if they could donate blood to help the wounded Americans. My friends at a restaurant I frequent(ed) in Rome helped some of the Americans stranded here last week by offering them their meals. I am sure such stories were repeated throughout Italy – and the world.

I am also sure you saw the extraordinarily moving images of how Europe mourned last Friday when everyone and everything stopped for 3 minutes at noon and stores kept their doors closed for 10 minutes starting at noon.

Whoever they were – simple citizens, government leaders, tourists, salespeople, business men and women – alone, in twos, groups of 10, 100 and 100,000 – and wherever they were at noon – at outdoor markets, in churches, touring, eating lunch in a fancy restaurant or a fast food place, at work in factories, offices and stores – they simply stopped, frozen in their tracks, silent in prayer and reflection for 3 minutes. It was like the biblical story of Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt. To see the images on the Italian news that afternoon and evening was remarkable, moving and unforgettable. One station played “Amazing Grace” for 3 minutes and simply showed images of how Europeans stopped, put their lives on hold for 3 minutes and mourned. >

Here in the Vatican the staff members of each office in the Roman Curia prayed the angelus at noon and sang the requiem. I sincerely hope you all saw the unforgettable pictures of an anguished Pope John Paul praying in his private chapel at Castelgandolfo. And, in a first in the history of weekly general audiences, the Holy Father dedicated his weekly catechesis during the September 12 audience in St. Peter’s Square, not to a religious or spiritual theme, but entirely to the attack in the United States. And that is what my show on Vatican Radio that Wednesday was dedicated to – as were many program in many languages.

Italians have called and written me (and just about every American living in this great country) to express their condolences, horror, indignation, disbelief, anger and support for our country. They have also expressed in recent days their fears that the U.S. will retaliate in such a way that they will stoop to the level of the terrorists and ending up killing innocent people. Europeans, to a man, woman and child, have said they are all Americans now. Every Italian who has spoken to me has said how well they know that their country, that Europe, would not be what it is today had it not been for America during and after World War II – especially the Marshall Plan. “For once in our lives, we can now help America,” is what they tell me.

As the hours, then the days, then the first week passed, feelings have changed very little. If anything they are more profound. The mourning will be lengthy, the anger deep, the revulsion everlasting. All of us STILL want to wake up – because we know this was all just a terrible nightmare and things will be right when dawn comes and the sun rises and warms us and dissipates the darkness that surrounds us.

We have, like it or not, awakened – only to discover that this has not been a dream or a nightmare but rather our worst nightmare come true. And the full impact will come in small ways and large: a greater police presence at monuments, embassies, government buildings, military bases and “symbols” such as the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, St. Peter’s, etc. There will be more requests for IDs as we move about, and also a terrific impact on the world of travel – passengers, airline employees, travel agents, airport employees and so on.

I’d like to interject two personal notes here: 1. I don’t mind if some of my rights are abbreviated if the new measures being enacted will help to eradicate terrorism in the world; 2. I do not agree with the media who feel that the public “has a right” to know everything that is going on. We do not have a right – nor do we need to know what the government is planning. I don’t want America to cease being an open society – but we don’t have to know what the CIA, FBI, etc., etc., are doing to entrap and/or capture terrorists, to infiltrate their organizations, to destroy their economic base.

This past Sunday at 10:30 at the church of Santa Susanna here in Rome, the parish for Americans that has been run by the Paulist Fathers since 1922, there was an extraordinarily touching and beautiful Mass for the victims and families and friends of the victims of this attack. American Cardinal Edmund Szoka presided, about 50 priests (one of whom lost a relative) concelebrated and I was honored to be one of the three lectors. There were so many people that they flowed out of the church and onto the adjacent piazza. The new ambassador to the Holy See, Jim Nicholson was there with his wife Suzanne, as well as former Ambassador Thomas Melady and his wife, Margaret. A surprise guest, who found himself stranded in Rome after the attacks, was Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his wife.

Father Paul Robichaud, our rector, gave a beautiful homily and tried to answer the questions “Where was God?” and “Why did God allow this to happen?” Half of Sunday’s collection will be sent to New York to help the families of the victims.

At the end of Mass Cardinal Szoka offered some stirring reflections in both English and Italian and then Ambassador Nicholson spoke. He had paper in front of him but rarely looked at it – the words came straight from his heart. As we processed out of church, we three lectors were last and Richard Zaccaroli carried the U.S. flag – which received an enormous round of applause. We stood outside the church and sang patriotic songs, reluctant to leave each other.

I know that what we did here in Rome was repeated thousands of time, in tens of thousands of churches, all around the world. Our fears, our hurt and anger, our pride, our solidarity, our patriotism, our hopes, our prayers – the entire spectrum of emotions – you felt and lived these and so did we.

Well, dear family and friends, I think that is it for now. I’m sure I will think of things I missed, but thanks for hanging in there

A closing note before I leave you: I have a colorful sign on my desk that I’d like to share with you: “Don’t just live the length of your life, Live the width of it as well.”

God bless you one and all! May He protect you and yours – and may He give you an extra big hug today!