Bishop J. Peter Sartain-"Pope’s Visit Brings Faith,Unity and Hope"
Pope’s visit brings faith, unity and hope
By Bishop J. Peter Sartain
Diocese of Joliet, Illinois,USA
published Apr 15, 2008
Following his conversion, St. Paul went to Arabia to preach the gospel and after three years traveled to Jerusalem to visit St. Peter, where he stayed fifteen days (see Galatians 1:17-18). Several more meetings with Peter followed in ensuing years. Biblical accounts make clear that from those earliest days, unity in faith and mission has been prized as indispensable and binding for the Church.
In an analogous way, “visits to Peter” have continued through the centuries, as bishops from around the world have made regular pilgrimages to Rome as a sign of unity with Peter’s successor, the Pope. The earliest historical record of such visits comes from the 5th century, when Pope Leo I insisted that Sicily send three bishops yearly to Rome for a council. The practice expanded in various forms, so that by the 11th century all archbishops (and soon, all bishops) were required to visit Rome at set intervals. In 1585, Pope Sixtus V formally developed a process by which every bishop was required to visit Rome to report to the Pope on the state of his diocese.
The formal name for this tradition is the visit “Ad Limina Apostolorum” (“to the thresholds of the Apostles,” Peter and Paul). Its primary goal is to strengthen and support the bishops’ communion with the Pope and to underscore our responsibility as successors to the apostles. Although the ad limina visit entails numerous liturgies and meetings, its basic purpose is two-fold: to venerate the tombs of Peter and Paul, and to meet with the Holy Father. The practice continues today at an interval of every five years.
Ad limina visits are an expression of the communion and solidarity of the Catholic Church in faith, prayer, and mission. In other words, they express the unity of the local churches with the Holy Father, and therefore our unity with one another.
In more recent times, a new phenomenon appeared – that of the Pope traveling to other countries to make a pastoral visit. The first Pope to visit the United States was Pope Paul VI, in 1965. John Paul II traveled extensively in his role as Pope – more than any other – and his visits to the United States had a profound effect on thousands of people.
As you know, Pope Benedict XVI will visit our country April 15-20. Since assuming the papacy in 2005, he has visited Germany, Poland, Spain, Turkey, Brazil, and Austria. His upcoming visit will include stops in Washington and New York, involving meetings at the White House with President and Mrs. Bush, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception with the bishops of this country, public Masses at Nationals Park in Washington and Yankee Stadium in New York, several meetings with religious leaders and young people, and an address to the United Nations (for more information on his visit, see www.uspapalvisit.org).
“Christ Our Hope” is the theme of Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Journey to the United States, an extraordinary expression of his role as the successor to St. Peter and an extraordinary opportunity for us to appreciate even more the universal nature of the Catholic faith and our unity with Catholics everywhere.
The fact that the Holy Father comes to visit us should also awaken our awareness of the situation of the Church throughout the world, which is staggeringly varied.
In some places, persecution and martyrdom are present-day realities; in others, Church leaders are the only stable factor where countries are in political shambles.
In some places, famine and disease have decimated local populations; in others, food is bountiful and medical care is advanced, but they are not justly distributed.
In some places, vocations to the priesthood and religious life have declined; in many others, they have risen dramatically.
In some places, there is extreme poverty but strong family life; in others, there is wealth but crumbling family life and loss of a moral compass.
In some areas, people enjoy full democratic freedoms; in others, democracy is a new experience (or still a dream), and new-found freedom needs careful guidance lest it lead to moral chaos.
The Church is present in every place and every situation.
Ad limina visits and papal visits to countries around the world help foster the kind of exchange that keeps the Church true to her mission in Christ.
“If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27).
“I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call
you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:
one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all, who is over all
and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:1-6).
I will have the privilege of joining my brother bishops in Washington for the Holy Father’s visit, as will other representatives of our diocese. May his visit strengthen our faith, our unity and our resolve to be faithful to Christ, our Hope.
Do you have a petition for Bishop Sartain’s prayer list?
You may send it to him at:
Bishop Sartain’s Prayer ListDiocese of Joliet425 Summit St.Joliet, IL 60435-7193
(click on title to link to Propers for the Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit/audio )