This Ad Limina visit for the bishops is a moment of renewal in our apostolic ministry and is centered on two of the great witnesses of our faith in Jesus Christ, Sts. Peter and Paul. Another “Peter” and Paul met in Rome yesterday.
When I think about being ‘renewed’ in this episcopal ministry, my prayer leads me to the greatest possible witness of faith in Jesus Christ, which is the martyrdom of the saints, and for bishops, particularly the witness (martyrdom) of Sts. Peter and Paul. In the Greek language, Martyrdom and witness share the same root.
As I begin my ministry in Seattle, some people already know that we are beginning a pastoral planning process that will remind everyone within our archdiocese of the fundamental mission of the Church, which is to proclaim Jesus Christ to the world. The greatest proclamation of our faith in Jesus is the way we live our faith, and nothing makes our proclamation of Jesus more credible than our witness of faith in the way we live in the midst of the world.
At the time of this writing, we have now completed two days of this five day visit. The highlight was obviously yesterday’s two and a half hour conversation with Pope Francis. While he has asked that we keep in confidence the content of that conversation I can share that he is very well informed on the life of the Church in the United States. He encouraged us from the very beginning to ask anything we wished, to say what was on our minds, even to criticize if that was something we had on our hearts to share. He was genuine in his desire for open and honest dialogue. With that, using a soccer analogy, he said: “The ball is in play. Who wants to be the first to kick it?”
The Holy Father was very open in his remarks, and while he allowed for many of us to speak or ask questions he did the majority of the talking! He was so pastoral, fraternal, genuine and supportive. It was a very encouraging encounter. He was clearly ‘teaching’ not only in content, but leading by example, as if telling each of us, this is how you are to conduct your pastoral affairs also.
As a good friend of mine said: “This Pope is pure gift.”
Yesterday afternoon we visited with the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Today, we began with Mass at St. John Lateran, which is the cathedral church for the Bishop of Rome (another title for the Holy Father) and then had meetings at the Congregation for Bishops, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.
Our conversations during these meetings has been quite edifying in that they are not focused on statistics and programs, but rather our ministry as bishops. The prefects (heads) of these offices want to hear about our experience. They want to understand our challenges as well as our successes in accomplishing this mission of proclaiming Christ. After just two days, it seems pretty clear that this ‘focus’ on the New Evangelization is going to be a common theme during our meetings this week.
Thank you for your prayers and accompanying us on this ad Limina visit. But most especially, thank you for your faith in Jesus Christ, and the way you live the faith in your daily life in the world. The People of God are the Church, and this basic mission of proclaiming Christ to the world is yours!
I will close with another picture of a light moment with Pope Francis and our seminarians here in Rome, Kyle Poje and Joshua Nehnevaj. Also included is the group photo of Region XII Bishops with Pope Francis.