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Red Mass to kick off legislative session will feature N.Y. bishop

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Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., talks to parishioners of St. Mary of the Isle Church in Long Beach, N.Y., during Mass in the parish auditorium Nov. 4. Bishop Murphy will be the homilist at this year’s Red Mass. (Gregory A. Shemitz/CNS)

Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., talks to parishioners of St. Mary of the Isle Church in Long Beach, N.Y., during Mass in the parish auditorium Nov. 4. Bishop Murphy will be the homilist at this year’s Red Mass. (Gregory A. Shemitz/CNS)

Lawyers, elected officials, canonists and judges will gather Jan. 22 at St. Mary’s Basilica to take part in the annual Red Mass sponsored by the St. Thomas More Society and the Diocese of Phoenix.

Alan Tavassoli, president of the board for the St. Thomas More Society, said the event is a very traditional form of blessing the new legislative session.

“For Catholics, particularly for those who are lawyers, it’s a good way to see government and religion doing something in harmony, something that can bless both the spiritual and secular sides,” Tavassoli said. “There are always big names there, important people who shape the laws of the state of Arizona.”

Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, the legislative arm of the three Arizona Roman Catholic dioceses and the Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Eparchy, said the Red Mass is a key event for those concerned with the law.

“It’s important for Catholic lawyers in particular to attend events like the Red Mass to really focus on their faith and be Catholics in the public square, as Bishop Olmsted would say, because it’s important to live their faith in whatever they’re doing,” Johnson said.

“The Red Mass is certainly a great opportunity for all lawyers — not just Catholic lawyers — as well as elected officials and judges to really focus on how they can fulfill their vocations as lawyers and lay people to the fullest potential.”

This year’s homilist will be Bishop William F. Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y. Bishop Murphy served in Rome for 13 years in various capacities. He was named vicar general and moderator of the Curia for the Archdiocese of Boston in 1993.

Blessed John Paul II appointed him bishop of Rockville in 2001. Bishop Murphy is a member of several USCCB committees relating to justice and peace as well as interreligious and international affairs.

The first Red Mass was celebrated in 13th century France and later spread to England and other European countries. The Mass seeks the guidance of the Holy Spirit for those who deal with the law.  Lawyers in attendance at the annual Red Mass in Phoenix are asked to renew their oath to uphold ethical principles.

“The renewal of the oath every year certainly makes a profound statement, especially doing it at Mass in the basilica,” Johnson said. “It takes on an extra significance of what our professional ethical responsibilities are as well as being mindful of our spiritual responsibilities.”

Red Mass

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted will celebrate the Red Mass for legislators, lawyers, judges and canonists at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 22 at St. Mary’s Basilica, 231 North 3rd Street.

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