By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Bishops make their “ad limina” visits to the Vatican to report on how well they have cared for their faithful, but also to give thanks to God for their bonds with the pope, the successor of the Apostle Peter, said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.
Presiding at Mass Jan. 16 at the tomb of St. Peter, the cardinal led his fellow bishops in singing the creed in Latin and thanking God for the gift of apostolic faith that lives through the ministry of the pope.
“Our celebration is a visible sign of the communion of faith spread throughout the whole world and how it is anchored here in Rome, where Peter lives now, bearing the name Benedict XVI,” the cardinal said.
The bishops from District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, the U.S. Archdiocese for Military Services and from the Virgin Islands began their Jan. 16-21 “ad limina” visits with the Mass. The visits formally are called “ad limina apostolorum,” which means “to the thresholds of the apostles” Peter and Paul, who were martyred in Rome.
Bishops are charged with tending “the flock of God” entrusted to their pastoral care, Cardinal Wuerl said, and “we are here, in fact, to render an accounting of that sacred stewardship entrusted to us.”
Cardinal Wuerl and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the military archdiocese, along with their auxiliary bishops, and Bishop Herbert A. Bevard of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, had their audiences with Pope Benedict a few hours after the Mass.
Walking into St. Peter’s Basilica before sunrise, a handful of seminarians joined the bishops for the liturgy. A Washington seminarian, Matthew Fish, a first-year student at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, read the first reading after having been installed formally as a lector the previous day.
He and his fellow seminarians sat behind the bishops facing St. Peter’s tomb for the liturgy.
“It was pretty amazing” to have his first official lector’s assignment be to read at St. Peter’s, the 31-year-old seminarian said.
Attending Mass with his bishop, who is at the Vatican to reaffirm his ties with the pope and the universal church, “brings back the fact that the church is a living thing,” and not just a museum or example of amazing architecture, Fish said. Praying in the basilica “with the living successors of the Apostles is a reminder — as the cardinal said in his homily — that God is with us, God is with the church and he makes that clear to us by giving us bishops.”
“It’s hard being out there in the world. It’s hard living a Christian life. And as human beings, we need the comfort and support of another person, of a living, embodied presence of Christ,” which is what the bishops and pope are, Fish said.
“As a seminarian, when bishops come to visit, it’s the best because you get pumped up, you get excited,” he said. “You can’t wait to go back home and minister to the people, listen to them and help them.”
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