.- Bishops must strengthen their bonds of unity in order to evangelize the world, San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said in a March 15 homily at the tomb of Saint Peter.
“In this work towards New Evangelization, our unity is an imperative,” the archbishop told over 20 of his fellow bishops from Texas and surrounding regions.
On March 15, they began their “ad limina” visit to discuss the state of their local churches with Pope Benedict XVI and Vatican officials.
“In the supercharged environment in which we minister today, my brothers, let us not allow others to divide us – to set us against one another,” the Archbishop of San Antonio told his fellow participants in the pilgrimage to Rome.
“Here in the 'Eternal City,' let us renew our commitment to the bond of charity with one another, and with the entire college of bishops, under the headship of the successor of Peter, Pope Benedict.”
Archbishop Garcia-Siller said the task of evangelization – especially the “New Evangelization” of Western countries where Christian faith has been lost or weakened – would require “unity with the Lord himself, in the person of Peter. And also unity among us.”
This, he said, was Christ's own will and prayer for the Church: “'That they may be one, as you, Father, and I, are one, so that people will come to believe.'”
The celebration of Mass at St. Peter's tomb is a traditional part of the bishops' pilgrimage “to the threshold of the apostles,”and is done every five years. The bishops of Texas, as well as parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas, are the tenth U.S. group to make the trip in recent months.
In addition to their meetings with various Vatican departments from March 15-20, the bishops will celebrate Mass at historic locations – including the altar of Blessed John Paul II in St. Peter's Basilica.
In his homily at St. Peter's tomb – located underneath the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica – Archbishop Garcia-Siller noted Jesus' words in the day's Gospel reading: “Every kingdom divided against itself, will be laid waste.”
But Christ himself “has been victorious over the forces of evil. That, we fully believe.”
On March 14, Pope Benedict's Wednesday audience focused on the Virgin Mary's role in the Church, during her earthly life and beyond. Archbishop Garcia-Siller stressed the same theme in Thursday's homily, invoking the help of the “Mother of Apostles” to keep their successors united in brotherhood.
With Mary's help, the archbishop said, “many more will come to believe that Jesus is Lord” – and that “the truth he lived and proclaimed” is taught by his Church today.