Dear brothers and sisters,
Greetings and blessings to each of you from the Eternal City!
As you are reading this column, I am praying for you at the Tombs of the Holy Apostles in Rome. Msgr. Steven Aguggia, Chancellor of our Diocese, and myself have arrived safely to Italy. Due to stringent Covid restrictions currently in force throughout the European Union, we had to undergo a rigorous screening process which included a test and submission of all kinds of documentation prior to the flight and upon arrival. Once in Rome, however, we were able to use our own US Vaccination Card to move about freely.
During the last few days, I have had some important meetings with the various offices of the Holy See, including the Congregation for the Clergy, the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, and the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life. In the name of our Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, I was also able to reach out to certain leaders of our Church in an effort to promote some matters of importance to our Diocese. The highlight of the week so far was a visit to my former office, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, where all my former Superiors and Colleagues received me with open arms; some even with happy tears. In the limited time that I had left each evening, I made time to get together with our Brooklyn priests who are serving the Church in Rome, visited some of my friends and former neighbors, and enjoyed a couple of leisure strolls along the cobblestone streets which I have missed so much. As you can imagine, returning to this beloved city where I had been living for more than thirteen years has been quite an emotional experience for me.
This Sunday, October 17, I will have the honor to presiding a special Mass for the members of the Vietnamese Clergy and Religious Association in Rome. This group of about three hundred people is dear to my heart because I have served as their President and Treasurer for many years. These young men and women are sent by the Church in Vietnam to pursue advance theological studies at Rome’s Pontifical Universities. A few of them now serve the Pope as prelates and officials of the Holy See. Following this gathering, I will have the privilege of participating in a special prayer service presided by the Holy Father, Pope Francis. As promised to you, I will make it a point to pray for your needs and for the intentions of our parish family in that unique encounter.
Next week, I will begin my canonical Retreat in Assisi with the Franciscans. I am thankful to many of you who have sent me your best wishes for this much needed time of rest and spiritual renewal. Be assured that you and your loved ones will be remembered at the Tombs of St. Francis and St. Clare. Again, this return to the City of Peace will be very special to me because it is where I have had many memorable Spiritual Retreats before.
My time in Rome will conclude with a Pontifical Mass celebrated by His Eminence, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of His Holiness, and the members of the Roma Curia, as they gather next Sunday to celebrate a special Jubilee for Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council of Legislative Texts and my former Superior. I am very happy that this joyful event coincides with my time there this time.
While the trip has not turned out to be as restful and free from official business as I had hoped for, I am nonetheless happy to just have a few days to attend to what I value most in life: spiritual and human relationships. God willing, I will return to you with a renewed vigor and greater passion.
Commending you all to the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary, and assuring you of my special remembrance at the Altar each day, I remain
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham