Pennsylvania and New Jersey bishops ask St. Peter for courage
By David Kerr
The bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey pray in front of St. Peter's tomb in the crypt of St. Peter's Basilica on Dec. 1, 2011
The bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey pray in front of St. Peter's tomb in the crypt of St. Peter's Basilica on Dec. 1, 2011

.- The bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey are praying to St. Peter as they begin their “ad limina” visit in Rome, asking for fidelity and courage.

The group began the first full day of their trip with early morning Mass at the tomb of St. Peter.

“The Lord has given us these 10 days here in Rome in the season of Advent, to be reflective, to raise in our hearts the spirit of Advent with is embodied in Mary who pondered the things of the Lord in her heart,” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia in his homily.

As well as the usual round of meetings with Vatican officials, Archbishop Chaput said that he and his fellow bishops are looking at their time in Rome as “an Advent retreat.”

In total, 29 bishops gathered in crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica, next to the apostle’s mortal remains to celebrate Mass on the morning on Dec. 1. Wearing red vestments to denote the martyrdom suffered by Sts. Peter and Paul in Rome, they listened as Archbishop Chaput drew parallels between the life of the first Bishop of Rome and the life of a bishop today.

“Peter embodies the mistakes of bishops, for he was a foolish man in so many ways, but he was also a man who chose to be faithful and was courageous,” he said.

And because of St. Peter’s well-known story, Archbishop Chaput urged his fellow bishops to pray to St. Peter, asking him to help them“embody his virtue, especially his courage and his faith when he proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah.”

The bishops will be in Rome until Dec. 10. In that time they will meet in three separate groupings with Pope Benedict XVI. This morning a delegation of Pennsylvanian bishops had their audience with the Pope.

Meanwhile, the remaining bishops had meetings with officials from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and then the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

The dioceses represented in this ad limina group are: Newark, Philadelphia, Allentown, Altoona-Johnstown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Metuchen, Paterson, Pittsburgh, Scranton and Trenton. This group of bishops is the third of 15 groups from the U.S. that will make their way to Rome in the coming months for ad limina meetings.

Their visit will coincide with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Patroness of the United States, on Dec. 8. They will also offer Mass together at the tomb of St. Paul at the basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls.

The term “ad limina” derives from the Latin phrase “ad limina apostolorum,” which is translated as “to the threshold of the apostle.” This phrase reflects the fact that one of the main purposes for the visits is to pray at the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul.

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