Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.


De-coding Francis: Vatican media adviser offers “10 things to know”

Posted on October 22, 2013 by Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY — If people are still unsure about what to make of Pope Francis, the Vatican’s media adviser offered his take on decoding the pontiff.

Greg Burke, media adviser to the Vatican, participating in a Vatican press conference Dec. 3, 2012. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Pope Francis is not a politically-correct pope,” rather, he is “a loyal son of the church” who presents the hard truths with a heavy dose of mercy, said Greg Burke, senior communications adviser to the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

The former U.S. journalist, who’s been based in Rome the past 25 years, gave a behind-the-scenes talk last week to hundreds of benefactors celebrating the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums.

U.S. Msgr. Peter Wells — another top official at the Secretariat of State — also spoke at the same Oct. 18 event in the apostolic palace, where he gave his take on the reform of the curia and how they counteract secular media manipulating the pope’s message.

In trying to describe his papally-appointed role as the Vatican’s chief media strategist, Burke (an unabashed soccer fan) said, “We kick the ball to Francis and Francis scores the goals.” “We let the pope do his thing.”

He said Pope Francis clearly knows how to communicate and his effectiveness comes from his authenticity. “It’s not charm. It’s Christian charity, which is a whole lot more attractive than charm.”

He also said “Pope Francis is not a politically-correct pope, in my opinion.”

Pope Francis greeting people in wheelchairs after celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican June 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

There’s been a lot of spin in the press about what the pope has been saying, but “I believe the pope wants to get beyond left and right” by getting people to focus on the Gospels, on God and his truth and mercy.

“He’s a loyal son of the church” who sees its task as being like “a field hospital” that runs to and helps people who are hurting, he said.

The pope is not advocating a “feel-good” religion of “I’m OK-you’re OK-Catholicism,” but talks about the truth of the Gospel that includes mercy and forgiveness.

“The Gospel is not there to make us feel good. The Gospel is there and makes very practical demands on us,” and one of those demands is to “tell people the truth and walk with them to the Lord,” Burke said.

Burke said, “the pope’s picture should have one of those warning labels” on it, much like a pack of cigarettes does, but with the words: “Danger: This man could change your life.”

Here’s Burke’s Top Ten List to describe and better understand the Argentine pontiff:

Pope Francis greeting a man at Rio de Janeiro’s St. Francis of Assisi Hospital — a clinic for recovering drug addicts. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (July 24, 2013)

1. Mercy — The story of the Prodigal Son is a recurring theme and the pope repeatedly says that God never tires of forgiving and welcoming his lost children back home.  “The church is waiting here for you with open arms,” is the message, Burke said.

2. Moxie/courage — “We’re all going to get challenged by Pope Francis. Get ready!” People who live comfortably or live in developed nations will be especially challenged, Burke said, adding, “This is good. This is the Gospel.”

3. Margins, missions — Francis is continuing with his predecessors’ criticism of a world divided by haves and have-nots. The pope “is not a fan of cheap grace and feel-good religion. He wants to see Christians who are not afraid to get their hands dirty,” Burke said.

A woman in prayer as Pope Francis led a vigil to pray for peace in Syria in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sept. 7. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

4. Prayer — Non-believers often don’t notice how important prayer is for religious life. For example, Blessed Mother Teresa was often looked upon by the secular press as “a social worker wearing a habit.” But, Burke said, the pope has constantly been stressing the importance of prayer and urging people to pray.

5. Encounter — The pope is asking people to embrace a “culture of encounter” where they experience God and meet with others, including non-believers. This attitude of encounter and communion also starts at home, with your family, Burke said.

Pope Francis giving a thumbs up after celebrating Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican March 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

6. Joy — The pope “gets a thumbs’ up on that,” he said, as he’s able to show his joy so plainly. He said that according to Pope Francis, the biggest dangers and temptations in life are “discouragement, discord, the doldrums and the devil.”

7. Service — By paying his hotel bill in person (even though he had just been elected pope), phoning people who write to him and other do-it-yourself tasks, the pope is leading by example with the message that “it’s not about power or privilege; if we’re here, we’re here to serve.”

Pope Francis stepping off a plane after returning to Rome July 29 from his trip to Brazil. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

8. Simplicity/Humility — Living in a Vatican guest house instead of the apostolic palace, carrying his own briefcase on a trip… that’s just how the pope is and people will have to “get used to it because we’ll see more of it,” Burke said.

9. Compassion — Burke, who’s a numerary member of Opus Dei and went to Jesuit-run St. Louis University high school in St. Louis, said he used to joke with people “that everyone should have a Jesuit education. Now with Pope Francis, everyone is getting the benefits of a Jesuit education.”

“Compassion and suffering with others is something Pope Francis has a knack for” and it’s especially evident when he embraces people and is totally present one-on-one with an individual, even in large crowds.

10. Energy — Burke said for a 76-year-old, the pope “has a lot of energy and we’re going to be in for an interesting ride!”


Pre-Cana Class Information

The Parishes of Manayunk and East Falls will present Pre-Cana Marriage Preparation on Saturday, November 9, 2013 in the Parish Hall of Holy Family Church, 242 Hermitage Street.  The day will begin with registration at 8:00 a.m. and conclude with attendance at the 4:00 p.m. Vigil Mass.  Registration is $60.00 per couple.  To register, please call Holy Family Rectory, on Tuesday or Thursday between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., at 215-482-0450

Bucket List


My Bucket List


I’ve wanted to participate in the Franciscan Study Pilgrimage for a long time now.  You can say, it’s been on My Bucket List.  I thought I’d have the opportunity to participate at long last in this three week long retreat when I celebrated my 20th Anniversary as a priest in 2011.  But, for reasons both personal and professional, this was not to be.  Well, I’m thrilled to say, this year I’m finally going to have this blessed opportunity.

 I’m participating in the Franciscan Study Pilgrimage/Retreat September 13 – October 7, 2013.  The pilgrimage is to Rome and Assisi, Italy, visiting the main shrines associated with St. Francis of Assisi.  

 This will be a trip of a lifetime – a time of travel, prayer, reflection, silence, solitude, community, learning, sharing; and of experiencing Franciscan spirituality.  

 What is more, just by coincidence, Pope Francis is also going to be in Assisi for the celebration of the St. Francis’ Feast Day on October 4th.  How exciting is that?!?!  Being in Assisi for the Holy Father’s visit – on the feast of St. Francis, no less – only adds to the gratitude I feel at being able to participate in this pilgrimage.  

 I’m traveling with two of my priest friends, Father Martin Kern and Father Bill Murphy; we will be joining a group from all over the United States and several other countries.  The pilgrimage is being led by two OFM Friars and one Poor Clare Nun.  

 I will be praying for all of you when I’m on this Pilgrimage.  

 While I’m away, Father Charles Noone, a retired priest of the Archdiocese will be filling in for me.  Father Noone is a good priest and a nice man – I feel confident, I’m leaving you in good hands.

Thank you Sisters of Saint Joseph

Thank You Sisters of Saint Joseph


Today St. Bridget’s parish celebrates a very significant anniversary, 125 years of faithful service to St Bridget’s of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill!!!!! 


Wow!!!! Isn’t that wonderful???!!! 


We are so blessed to have the Sisters of St. Joseph serving in our midst for a “century and a quarter.”  The SSJ’s who currently serve our great parish are part of a rich legacy of dozens of sisters who have generously served St. Bridget’s since 1888.  More than several young women of the parish have become Sisters of Saint Joseph, including a former Mother Superior of the Congregation, Mother Alice Anita, SSJ who grew up on Sunnyside Ave.   


Well named after St. Joseph, the SSJ’s embody the virtues and wonderful qualities found in Jesus’ “Foster Father.”  St. Joseph, a person of great faith, who loves, cares for and serves the Holy Family with great generosity and with great fidelity. 


Always helping, creating, reaching out to the “Dear Neighbor” in Nazareth; St. Joseph was the go- to neighbor who can fix, build, and see to your needs.  He’s the one you can always depend on – consistently doing what needs to be done, always ready to help.  Aren’t these the same good qualities – holy qualities – we have always seen in our Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill?


They have been and are women of great faith, of faithful prayer, who reach out with love and service to those in their midst; women who create community here at St. Bridget’s who build relationships and who are “ready for any good work,” as Bishop Kendrick said of the SSJ’s back in the day.


I know you join me in thanking the Sisters for these 125 years of dedicated service to St. Bridget’s parish.  Please also join me in uttering a prayer of Thanksgiving for all of the Sisters who have so generously served – and continue to serve – St. Bridget’s Parish!  Thank you, Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill.  In appreciation of their work a donation has been made to the Sisters of St. Joseph in the name of St. Bridget Parish.  If you would like to send your own thank you their address is:

            Mount St. Joseph Convent

            9701 Germantown Avenue

            Philadelphia, PA 19118

Congratulations Rich & Terry Lambert

Congratulations to Rich & Terry Lambert!

50 years of Marriage – that’s something to celebrate!  Present at the 4 PM Vigil Mass on August 31st with members of their family, Rich & Terry renew their commitment to each other through the renewal of their vows after Mass.  We congratulate the Lamberts and thank them for their fidelity to each other.  Faithful married love is a sign of the never failing love of Jesus; Rich and Terry, thank you for being that sign of Christ’s love for us.  Congratulations!  May you have many, many more years of life together. 

 Thank you to your daughter, Kathleen for alerting us to your special anniversary and for donating the altar flowers for the occasion.  As always, Mr. Angelo DiGiovanni, our parishioner, of Something Different in Flowers supplied beautiful arrangements.

Two Important Items Concerning the Former School Buildings

Two things: I have an update concerning the School Building.  And, as pastor, I’d like to make an important appeal that affects our future as a parish.

First, the update:  An Agreement of Sale has been signed with a developer to purchase both the former St. Bridget School Buildings to develop into apartments, and the small parking lot on Stanton Street.

This sale is subject to structural and environmental review as well as zoning variances with the City of Philadelphia.

The zoning process is expected to take at least 6 months so it is projected that the final sale will not be completed until 2014.

When the sale is finalized St. Bridget’s debt to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will be paid off and the net proceeds will be available to St. Bridget parish to provide a cash reserve for any major repairs and projects.

Secondly, I remind everyone that the parish is in debt nearly a ½ million dollars.  This debt was accrued as the result of running of St.Bridget Parochial School.

As the constant news reports of the financial woes of the Philadelphia Public School District make abundantly clear, schools are very expensive to run.

At the same time, the Archbishop has repeatedly made it crystal clear that a parish community’s future is in jeopardy when it can not satisfy all of its financial obligations.

Therefore I urge all St. Bridget’s parishioners to support the sale of our school buildings.  This will allow the parish to satisfy its debt,  put the parish on more solid financial ground and secure its future.

At the same time, I strongly urge you not to be supporting – especially with money – any organization that represents itself as restoring the former St. Bridget’s School.

Doing so, you are inadvertently putting the parish’s future in jeopardy.  Thank you.

Father Devlin

Thank You Very Much!

Thank you one and all for the beautiful chalices given in memory of my father, James Devlin.  These new chalices will be used by the parish when we have Holy Communion under both species at Sunday Masses.

New chalices for those time is sorely needed by St. Bridget’s.  The finishing inside the chalices we’ve used until now has started to flake and wear away.  The new chalices purchased with your donations are of a finer quality, more worthy to be used at Mass and should last for generations.

I know my father would be so very pleased to know that these chalices have been purchased  and donated to St. Bridget’s parish in his memory.  He was a life long, devoted catholic who participated in the Sunday offering of the Mass faithfully.  And before his health problems prevented him from being able to do so, my Dad always enjoyed visiting St. Bridget’s parish.

I’m going to take one of the chalices home this afternoon, to show my mother.  I know she’s going to be so touched by such a generous, thoughtful gift to St. Bridget’s in memory my Dad, and her husband of 52 years.

My Mom was discharged from Jefferson Hospital yesterday after having undergone her third back surgery since Monday, March 25.  It has been a long haul for her health-wise, let alone emotionally in the recent past.  Thank you for your prayers for her too.  We’re hoping “#3 is the charm, ” and now my Mom will begin to travel the road back to full health.

It is only through our faith in God, our trust in Jesus and his promises, and thanks to the prayers, love and support of so many people – people like the wonderful parishioners of St. Bridget’s – that me and my family have found the strength to live through such a painful, difficult time.

I was also given an ipad mini from the parish today – in honor of Fathers Day.  Thank You very much!  That’s a perfect gift!  I love it already and I haven’t even taken it out of the box yet!  Again, I am so very touched by your generosity.

As I said at the end of the 9 AM Mass today, I am the luckiest priest in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to be assigned to serve this wonderful parish of St. Bridget.  I am blessed!


Father Devlin

Important update on the School Buildings

Two members of the parish finance council, Mr. Terry Cunningham and Mr. John Grady, provided an update at the Masses this weekend on the ongoing process to find a new and productive use for the former St. Bridget Parochial School buildings.


Here are those remarks:


“As you know from our last update in the Fall, Brendan Kelley, a parishioner and principal with Virtus Realty, has been actively marketing the School buildings since early September, 2012.


When hiring Virtus, the members of the finance council made clear, our initial preference was for Virtus Realty to find a long-term tenant that would pay the parish rent and operate a compatible use in the buildings.


Over these last six months, there has been no meaningful interest from parties interested in renting our former school buildings. Although two or three charter school operators have toured the building, with the recent school closings and changes at the school district regarding new charters, none of this initial interest has resulted in any offers to lease the facilities.


What has become very clear though is strong interest from developers to purchase the St. Bridget’s school buildings to convert the space into apartments.  This interest is consistent with what we have seen at other parish properties in places like Manayunk and South Philadelphia.


The financial reality of St. Bridget’s Parish is that we remain in debt nearly a “half-a-million-dollars” to the Archdiocese due in large part to the parish’s subsidy of the former St. Bridget’s Parochial School.


Faced with this reality and the response from the real estate market, the parish Pastoral Council and Finance Council met jointly last week and recommended that we proceed with entertaining offers for the sale of the former school buildings. To date, we have received one proposal and we expect to receive interest and offers from others over the next few weeks.


Any sale of the school assets would be limited to the two school buildings and the Stanton Street lot and would not include the Midvale Avenue parking lot.


Any redevelopment of these buildings for residential use would also require the normal zoning approvals from the surrounding community through the East Falls Community Council and the City of Philadelphia.


The eventual sale of these assets will allow the parish to become debt free.  It will also allow us to establish a strong reserve fund that will put the parish on a more solid financial ground, helping to assure the parish’s viability both now and well into the future.


We will continue to provide periodic updates to the parish community as additional information becomes available and we thank you for your support.”

Parish Scholarship for Elementary School

St Bridget Parish partners with “Fully Participating Parishioners” in the form of a Parish Tuition Scholarship of up to $1,000 per child towards education at any archdiocesan elementary school.  A “Fully Participating Parishioner” (as defined by the Office for Catholic Education) is a Catholic who attends Sunday Mass weekly and who also weekly supports the parish financially.  St Bridget Parish will review participation status yearly.

Any Families not currently registered in Catholic School will need to contact the Parish Business Office  to determine the Scholarship Amount.

For more information: