Living the Truth in Love. At the Threshold of the Apostles

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1 Living the Truth in Love At the Threshold of the Apostles At regular intervals, every bishop is required to make an ad limina visit to meet with the Pope and to give him an account of the bishop's particular diocese. The term, ad limina, literally means "to the threshold" for the visit is to the threshold of the Apostles, the tombs of the two foundational Apostles, Saints Peter and Paul, in Rome. With the visit to the Pope and the tombs of St. Peter and Paul, the Bishop also meets with the various congregations in the Vatican which collaborate directly with the Pope in carrying out his ministry as Shepherd of the Universal Church. The Bishops of Region XIV of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which includes the two Provinces of Miami and Atlanta, have just completed its ad limina visit. This was truly a spiritual pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles and an opportunity for us to join together as bishops in union with each other especially through the center of unity within the Church, the Pope who is the Successor of St. Peter. On this occasion, all seven of the Bishops 1

2 of Florida had the opportunity to meet with Pope Benedict XVI and to individually greet and speak with him in regard to our particular dioceses. This was a most memorable and inspiring occasion. After arriving on Sunday in Rome and meeting at the North American College regarding all the details of our five day visit, we celebrated Mass with the students and faculty of the North American College where we would be staying. Early on Monday morning, our pilgrimage began exactly where it should as all of the bishops celebrated Mass at the very place where the remains of St. Peter are laid to rest. At this tomb, upon which St. Peter's Basilica is built, we were reminded in a most vivid manner of our direct relationship to Peter and the other Apostles and of the apostolic ministry that we carry out as bishops. Most importantly, we were reminded of the center of our unity in Peter which is in the celebration of the Eucharist. Here the entire Church is present as the Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ break through time and space and occur again. Here we are united through the very presence of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Eucharist. It was for this Person of Christ that St. Peter shed his blood as a martyr. The rest of Monday included a visit with the Apostolic Signatura as well as a visit with the Vatican Ambassador for the United States. The Bishops of the Atlanta Province also had their meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. Tuesday began with an early Mass at the tomb of Blessed Pope John Paul II. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the altar, another group had already begun Mass without realizing the altar had been reserved and so we had to move to the altar of Blessed John XXIII. After Mass we then made a visit to the tomb of Blessed Pope John Paul II. This was a special visit for me as it was the first time I was at his tomb since his passing in Since most of 2

3 the bishops present were appointed by Pope John Paul II, the visit had particular meaning for all of us. On that day we also met with the Congregation for Divine Worship as well as with the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. We also visited with the American priests who are doing graduate studies in Rome. Wednesday began with a meeting with the new Pontifical Council for Evangelization. The meeting was a most enthusiastic one with this new council which is especially significant for the upcoming Year of Faith. We also met with the Congregation for the Clergy as well as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In the afternoon we celebrated Mass at the Basilica of St. Paul outside the walls where the remains of St. Paul are buried. This Mass and visit were a significant part of our ad limina pilgrimage uniting us more closely with the apostolic mission of St. Paul. Tied in with our meeting with the Pontifical Council for Evangelization and in anticipation of the Year of Faith, our Mass was one that united us in recognizing the need to spread our faith within our culture today. Thursday began very early with a Mass at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. This is a significant church in Rome since it is the cathedral church and therefore the church of the Holy Father, himself, as the Bishop of Rome. This celebration further intensified our sense of unity with the Pope in his role as Successor of St. Peter as well as Bishop of a particular Church. From there, we had meetings with the Congregation for Consecrated Life, the Pontifical Council of the Family and the Secretariat of State. Friday brought us to the conclusion of our pilgrimage. We met with the Congregation for Catholic Education as well as with the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Most important, for 3

4 the Bishops of Florida, was our meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. He spoke to us with great warmth and affection. His support for our ministry in Florida was most evident. I had met the Holy Father on his previous visit to the United States. I also had met him on my other ad limina visits to Rome when he was prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. However, this was my first meeting with him on an ad limina visit. I was most impressed by his solicitude as well as his acuity of mind. It is hard to fathom how he keeps the intense schedule that he does. His love for the Church is so obvious and his personal spirituality and holiness exude from his person. Our final Mass took place at the Basilica of St. Mary Major on Friday afternoon. It was so fitting to conclude our pilgrimage at a church in honor of our Blessed Mother. We began the week with St. Peter's and concluded with Mary. This was a vivid reminder of the importance of the role of Mary in the life of the Church. Mary goes before us in the holiness that is the center of the Church. She was the first to experience all of the effects of the Resurrection of Christ and stands as the perfect model of the disciple of her Son. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, using the words of Blessed Pope John Paul II, states that the Marian dimension of the Church precedes the "Petrine.' " As important as Peter s role is, it is subject to that of Mary s. After the Resurrection of Christ, it was Mary who held a central place among the Apostles and, in the words of Pope Leo XIII, handed on to them all she treasured in her heart. Just celebrating the great Feast of Pentecost, we see Mary in this role among the Apostles in the upper room. Concluding our pilgrimage in this way was a vivid reminder that our ministry as bishops is to grow in holiness and to lead others to holiness. It was as if Peter led us to Mary who leads us to her Son. 4

5 It is good to be back in the Diocese of Palm Beach after this wonderful visit to the Holy Father. It was an inspiration to be in the presence of the Successor of St. Peter who takes his role as that successor in a most serious manner but more importantly represents very well the holiness of Mary to which we are called. It is a great privilege for me to be able to extend to all of you the personal greetings and blessing of the Pope. It was also a great privilege to present the vibrant and faith filled Diocese of Palm Beach to him. Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito June 8,

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