Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C. called to mind the Pope’s “living continuity” with St. Peter at the start of his “ad limina” visit in Rome.
“All of us in this chapel have a special bond to Rome because Peter continues to live and exercise his ministry here,” the cardinal said in his Jan. 16 homily for a Mass he presided over in the Crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Jan. 16 marked the beginning of the visit for the bishops of Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, the Virgin Islands and the U.S. Archdiocese for Military Services. The group traveled to Rome as part of an ongoing series of visits for U.S. bishops that will last into 2013.
The trips take place every five years and involve a meeting in which the bishops brief the Pope on the Church in their individual dioceses, visit with various Vatican departments, and make a pilgrimage to the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul.
As he delivered his homily, surrounded by the tombs of numerous Popes and St. Peter himself, Cardinal Wuerl reflected on the important role of the successor of Peter, “the rock on which Christ founded his Church” and the “touchstone” of the bishops’ ministry and proclamation of faith.
Bishops across the world can turn to that rock for assurance and encouragement as they continue to announce the Gospel and “tend the flock of Christ” that has been entrusted to them, he said.
Cardinal Wuerl expressed gratitude for “the visible head of the Church,” Pope Benedict XVI, and for the ability to travel to Rome to meet with him.
He also thanked God for “the gift of faith” and the grace to respond to God’s call.
The cardinal recalled the Pope Benedict’s trip to the United States in 2008 and said that the bishops now have an opportunity to return that visit.
“We come to profess our faith, our loyalty and our love for the successor to Peter,” he said.
“Today, our celebration is a visible sign of the communion of faith spread throughout the entire world and how it is anchored here in Rome, where Peter lives, now bearing the name Benedict XVI.”
The phrase “ad limina apostolorum” is a Latin term meaning, “to the threshold of the apostles.” It refers to the pilgrimage to the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul that every bishop is required to make.
The papal audiences for the U.S. bishops are being conducted according to the new format introduced by Pope Benedict XVI at the end of 2011. Instead of having brief one-on-one meetings with each individual bishop, the Pope is now holding longer discussions with groups of bishops.