by Bishop Edward Burns
Over the centuries, the Vatican Museums have accumulated a great collection of ancient Greek and Roman art. Amid the many world-famous statues of the Olympian gods can be found a small marble bust, of a bearded man with two faces. One face looks backward while the other looks forward. It is a representation of the ancient Roman god of doorways, Janus, from whom the month of January takes its name. For the ancient Romans, New Year’s Day was the door opening up to the year to come and so they thought it appropriate to name the month to follow after Janus. His two faces came to symbolize both reflection on the year which had passed and consideration about the year to come.
As we begin this New Year it is appropriate to reflect on what lies ahead during this year of our Lord, 2013 AD.
Here in Juneau we can look forward to the return to our community of our state legislators and their staffs as the 28th Alaska legislature convenes mid-January. As the legislature winds up in May, we can also look forward to the arrival of thousands of summer visitors coming to Juneau as well those who work as crew members on the many cruise ships.
Nationally, I’m hoping that the President and the Congress will find a just and compassionate way resolve the questions of tax revenue and deficit reduction that brought us up to the “fiscal cliff.” I pray that our nation’s leaders will take action on those issues that threatened the poorest and the most vulnerable of our fellow citizens (especially children) with the loss of critical and necessary government assistance.
In the aftermath of the horrific events in Newtown, Conn.; Aurora, Colo. and other places around our country, it will be imperative during 2013 to find more effective ways to treat and safeguard those with mental illnesses; effectively address the issues surrounding assault style weapons and handguns in our society, and work to stop the violence in our culture and its depiction in the entertainment industry.
During the coming year, I am hoping too that our economy may finally begin to recover from the long recession and that all those searching for work, especially young people, will be able to find employment.
I hope that our country is strengthened by embracing the values that uphold the sanctity of life and the sacredness of marriage between one man and one woman — especially as we approach the 40th anniversary of the tragic Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the United States this month and wait for a Supreme Court ruling on marriage this Spring. And with my fellow bishops I will continue to work to end the practice of capital punishment in our country.
Catholics around the world celebrated Jan. 1 as the World Day of Peace and, in that spirit, I pray for a negotiated settlement of the long war in Afghanistan and that the remaining American and other foreign troops there may finally come home. Similarly, it is my hope that during this coming year the conflicts raging in Syria and Eastern Congo come to an end and that there may be a peaceful resolution to the nuclear crisis with Iran.
As we begin this New Year, we know that over a billion people live in desperate poverty. My hope is that, throughout 2013, the industrialized countries, including the United States, will continue to generously provide development and relief aid for the poorest countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America; and bring progress in addressing the spread of HIV/AIDS and eradicating malaria and polio in Asia and Africa.
As always, during this “Year of Faith” the Catholic Church hopes for progress in ecumenical efforts to achieve unity between Christian communities. I hope too that during the coming year there will be a greater awareness of and solidarity with persecuted Christians, especially in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Egypt and an end to intolerance and discrimination against Christian believers in India and China.
For Catholics in the Diocese of Juneau and around the world, 2013 is the “Year of Faith.” During the coming year we are inviting inactive Catholics back to Mass on Sundays and to the practice of the sacraments. This summer I plan on attending World Youth Day with young people from our diocese and the state of Alaska. This event will bring hundreds of thousands of young people to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for a week-long international celebration of their faith with Pope Benedict XVI.
Here in Alaska, a high level international Church delegation plans to visit our state this August to learn more about the impact of global warming and climate change on the people of our state, especially those living in the villages.
As I look back on 2012, I’m grateful for all the blessings that occurred and saddened by the missed opportunities to work for the common good. As I look forward to 2013, I am hopeful that we can better ourselves and our world.
• Burns is the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Juneau and Southeast Alaska.