Father Eric Banecker’s Weekly Message

Dear friends in Christ,


It is not every day that Pope Francis and the Economist Newspaper are encouraging people to do the same thing. But that is exactly what is happening as we approach the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri, the author of that great work of Western literature, the Divine Comedy.


Ever since its writing, the Catholic Church has always given a unique status to this great poem. Of course, that is not to say that Dante had some kind of prophetic ability to say who was in heaven, hell, or purgatory at any given moment. The poem is, after all, a work of fiction, but one that has perennial truths to teach us. As Dante in the poem continually looks up to the stars, so the Divine Comedy has a unique ability to raise our minds above the travails of this world. If we take it on its own terms, this literary journey from the depths of despair to the heights of glory will remind us that while this earth is passing away, our actions here and now have eternal consequences.


The passages about hell – perhaps understandably – have fascinated the popular imagination the most. And of course, there is a call to responsibility in those sad passages about those who are separated from God for eternity. Yet it is the Paradiso to which we are called as readers and as human beings. Each of us has an eternal destiny, to share in the life of God forever with the great multitude of the blessed whom Dante meets along the way. It is not, in the end, a poem about punishment and evil, but about hope, joy, and the “love which moves the sun and the other stars” (Paradiso, Canto 33). I plan to read the Divine Comedy over the next few months and invite you to do the same.


May God be Blessed!


-Father Eric Banecker



P.S. You may find a website called 100daysofdante.com helpful – they are reading the poem between September and Easter, releasing three videos per week. Pope Francis’ letter on the subject “Candor Lucis Aeternae” (Splendor of Light Eternal) is also worth a read!

Father Eric Banecker’s Weekly Message

Dear friends in Christ,


“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68). With these words, pronounced at the end of the longest chapter in any of the Gospels, Simon Peter declares his continual loyalty to Christ, one based on human ties of friendship and affection, but above all on the supernatural virtue of faith that Jesus recognized in him when he said, in another context, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father” (Mt 16:18).


Where do you and I go with our wounds, our problems, our anxieties and fears? The dreadful situation in Afghanistan, the seemingly never-ending effects of covid-19 on our society, and a noticeable rise in anger, distrust, and malaise can get us all down from time to time. The world knows what we should do with our problems: we should buy more things we don’t need with money we don’t have; we should live for the moment and deal with consequences later; we should distract ourselves with social media.


But if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that none of the solutions the world offers are any good. In fact, they only make us more unsettled. They cannot satisfy us because only God can satisfy the deepest yearnings of the human heart. And so, we must return to the Lord with Saint Peter: “Lord, to who shall we go?” Indeed, many of Jesus’ disciples left him precisely at the moment when he announced to them that they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood if they wanted to have eternal life. Our Lord’s teachings were just too much for many of his disciples (Jn 6:54). His proclamation to “take up [one’s] cross” and follow him must not have been pleasant to hear, either (Mt 16:24). Yet the road to happiness is to follow Christ, who alone has the words of eternal life.


May God be Blessed!


-Father Eric Banecker

Statement of Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez Regarding Reinstating the Obligation to Attend Sunday Mass

“We have all felt the impact of COVID-19 in as individuals and
families.  It has been a time of acute hardship and struggle, of
separation and isolation.  It has also had an impact on our lives of
faith.  Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, has been with us throughout
this challenging period and is most especially near to us when we
encounter him in the Eucharist.  The Eucharist offers us His healing and
peace, His mercy and reconciliation.  It is now time for everyone to
return to the Eucharist with renewed faith and joy.

As many aspects of life are now returning to normalcy, each Catholic
Bishop in Pennsylvania will reinstate the obligation to attend Mass in
person on Sundays and Holy Days beginning on Sunday, August 15, 2021,
the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Bishops previously jointly decided to dispense  the faithful from
this obligation in March of 2020 in order to provide for the common good
given concerns over the developing pandemic.  Now, with the impact of
the pandemic considerably reduced, it is again possible for the faithful
to assemble for the Eucharist. It is time to lift the dispensation from
the obligation.

The obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days comes from our
Baptism as Christians.  Baptism compels Christians to unite themselves
with Christ at the altar in his saving Sacrifice of the Cross.
Participation in the communal celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is a
testimony of belonging and of being faithful to Christ and to his Church
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2182). This is the foundation
for the law of the Church that binds Catholics to attend Mass on Sundays
and Holy Days (Code of Canon Law, canon 1247) and the Christian way
fully to observe the Third Commandment, to keep holy the Lord’s Day
(Deuteronomy 5: 12; Exodus 31: 15; Catechism of the Catholic Church,
nos. 2180-2181).

This obligation, as is always the case, does not apply to those who are
seriously ill, have a serious health risk, as well as those who have
serious anxiety about being a part of large groups at this time.
Likewise, the obligation does not apply to those who care for those who
cannot attend Mass in person (Catechism of the Catholic Church_, no.
2181).  Those who are legitimately excused from Mass on Sundays and Holy
Days are encouraged to spend time in prayer, meditating on the Death and
Resurrection of the Lord, reading the Sacred Scriptures, and uniting
themselves to Christ in his worship of the Father of us all.  Those who
are legitimately excused are also encouraged to view a broadcast of the
Mass which is intended for those who cannot participate in person.

As Bishops, we welcome this moment of the reinstatement of the
obligation for all Catholics in Pennsylvania.  This is a moment to thank
God anew for the great gift of the Mass and the Real Presence of Jesus
to us in his Holy Body and Blood as well as the joy of gathering
together as people of faith.”


Most Reverend Nelson Pérez                                     _
Archbishop of Philadelphia




Inquirer Article

Archbishop Pérez Joins with Other Cuban American Bishops to Issue Joint Statement Regarding the Protests in Cuba

“In dramatic and courageous images that have been seen throughout the world, the people of Cuba went to the streets in massive demonstrations of solidarity, in towns, villages and cities on July 11 and 12. Their motto ‘Patria y Vida’ expressed their frustrations as they experience record cases of Covid-19, a lack of vaccines, adequate medical care and needed supplies – inhuman circumstances that add to the existing lack of food and essential human necessities. Their chant of ‘Libertad’ underscores their desire for every Cuban citizen to enjoy basic human rights, as recognized as part of our human dignity by the United Nations, and defended for centuries by the Catholic Church in its social teaching.


As Cubans and as bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States, we are ever-mindful of the constant suffering and frustration of our brothers and sisters on the Island. We recognize that, while hundreds of thousands have experienced the need to emigrate, in order to enjoy basic human rights and a future filled with possibilities, those who have not – by choice or inability to do so – as Cubans in Cuba, are to be the actors of their own future and aspirations. The right and courage of the people in Cuba to raise their voice publicly, casting away their fear of repression and revealing authentic solidarity as a people, are acknowledged and applauded.


We, Cuban-American bishops, join in solidarity with the Cuban people in their quest for responses to their human rights and needs. We are deeply troubled by the aggressive reaction of the government to the peaceful manifestations, recognizing that ‘violence engenders violence.’ Such a reaction seems to negate the basic Cuban principle of having ‘una patria con todos y para el bien de todos’ (a homeland with all and for the good of all). We stand in solidarity with those detained because they have voiced their opinions. We pray for their families and call for their immediate release.


Finally, we call on international governments and all charitable organizations to collaborate in assisting in this urgent humanitarian crisis for the sake of the suffering people of Cuba, especially the sick and the poor. We commend the care of Caritas Cubana, as it continues to mediate – with ever so limited resources – a response to the basic human needs of the people of the Island, recognizing that the alleviation of suffering is a moral imperative.


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As always, together with our brother-bishops in Cuba, and our brothers and sisters inside and outside the Island. We continue to place our trust in the motherly gaze of the patroness of Cuba, Our Lady of Charity.”


Most Reverend Nelson Pérez – Archbishop of Philadelphia

Most Reverend Felipe Estevez – Bishop of St. Augustine

Most Reverend Manuel Cruz – Auxiliary Bishop of Newark

Most Reverend Octavio Cisneros – Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Brooklyn