Senior Vatican figure 'comes home' to Cullen
Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke, prefect of canon law in the Vatican, traces his roots to North Cork
"I THANK God for the gift of my life and faith, which is so connected to this place"
These were the opening words of a homily from a man who resides in Rome, works with the Pope, and holds one of the highest positions in the Church. Last week Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke 'came home' to Cullen in North Cork.
Archbishop Burke is, in fact, the highest ecclesiastical court in the Roman Catholic Church apart from Pope Benedict. Archbishop Burke is prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, which functions as the supreme tribunal and also ensures that justice in the Church is correctly administered.
He is described as one of the world's foremost authorities on Roman Catholic Canon Law and guides the Archdiocese of St Louis, USA in the teachings of the Catholic faith.
On Thursday, July 8, Archbishop Burke celebrated mass in Cullen parish church along with nine other members of the clergy. It was very evident that this part of North Cork and his Irish roots are very dear to his heart.
He told the Corkman that in 1910 his grandmother, Hannah O'Keeffe, left Cullen and sailed from Queenstown (Cobh) to begin a new life in Wisconsin, USA. She married John Burke who's father came from Tipperary. Archbishop Raymond was the youngest of six children born to Hannah and John's son Thomas Burke and his wife Marie.
Raymond Burke was ordained in St Peter's Basicila, Rome by Pope Paul VI in 1975. As he continued to study, he quickly began to attain more significant posts within the church. In 1989, Pope John Paul II assigned him to be the first American defender of the ' Bond of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura'.
In 1994 he became bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin and was later promoted to archbishop. In 2008, Archbishop Raymond was honoured by Pope Benedict, who made him a member of the pontifical council for legislative texts, and also a member of the Congregation of the Clergy.
As recently as last week, Pope Benedict further honoured Archbishop Raymond by making him a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship.
Despite his huge importance in the Catholic hierarchy, Archbishop Raymond came across as a very warm, cheerful, down to earth man. Just before celebrating mass in Cullen he was delighted to chat to some relatives from the Duhallow area who were eager to meet him.
His second cousin, Hannah O'Connor (nee O'Keeffe), is his closest relative, but there were lots of cousins from Millstreet, Rathmore, and Cullen delighted that he had taken the time to come to meet them and celebrate mass in the local church.
The following priests concelebrated with Archbishop Raymond; Fr James O'Brien, Buttevent; Fr Paddy Byrne, Millstreet; Monsignor Michael Crotty, Rome and Mitchelstown; Fr Patrick McCarthy, St Peter & Paul's, Cork; Fr Arturo Arcos, Naples; Fr Kieran Von Sperling, Limerick; Peter O'Rourke, Limerick; Alex Stewart, Ennis, and Robbie Higgins, Newmarket on Fergus.
In a very moving homily, the archbishop praised his grandparents for bringing the Catholic faith to the USA from Ireland. "I always think of Ireland with gratitude, because my grandparents brought the Catholic faith to the USA," he said, "and they and my parents nurtured it in a very steadfast way in the home and the wider community.
"The older I became the more grateful I became for the way the faith was handed down from grandparents and parents to the next generation."
He then asked the congregation to "continue to honour Mary the mother of God, as my grandparents always turned to Mary to seek her help in the many challenges they met in a new land".
He finished his address to the congregation with the following words: "pray for the church which is facing great challenges in Ireland and all over the world. Ask our blessed mother to intercede for us that all Catholics will be renewed in the faith and show the same loyalty and generosity as those who have gone before us."
A hymn sung in Latin by Archbishop Raymond and his nine concelebrants brought the exceptionally moving and very spiritual ceremony to a close.