(The following piece was sent to your Catholic Herald on Monday, Feb. 13 from Rome by Bishop Donald J. Hying, as an update on the bishops’ ad limina trip to the Holy See.)
Every five years, a bishop is required to go to Rome, pray at the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul, meet with the Holy Father and submit a report on the status of his diocese. Region VII comprises the states of Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois, so all the bishops from those dioceses are here together. It has been a very moving experience!
As a group, we have had Masses at the tomb of St. Peter, the tomb of St. Paul, the tomb of Blessed John Paul II, now on the main floor of St. Peter’s Basilica. As successors to the apostles, we profess the Apostles Creed at these holy places as well to express our communion with the universal church through space and time.
Know that Archbishop Listecki, Bishop Sklba and I have brought your intentions and prayers with us on this pilgrimage and lift the Archdiocese of Milwaukee up in prayer.
On Friday, Feb. 10, the Wisconsin bishops had a private audience with the Holy Father in his library in the apostolic palace. Archbishop James Harvey, the Prefect of the Papal Household and a fellow Milwaukeean, accompanied us to the door.
The pope greeted us warmly, as we kissed his ring and shook his hand, and was very engaged and keenly interested in what the bishops had to say. Each leader of the five Wisconsin dioceses spoke about the local life of the church, from the vitality of our youth to the commitment to Catholic education to the challenges of secularism and the need for a committed approach to the new evangelization.
Then, Pope Benedict blessed us, gave each of us a beautiful pectoral cross and some rosaries and then we left through the beautiful reception rooms of the papal apartments. I was floating on air!
We have also been visiting the various congregations or offices of the Vatican, including the Congregations for Clergy, the New Evangelization, the Causes of Saints, Bishops, the Doctrine of the Faith and Laity, among others. These meetings give the bishops a chance to dialogue with Vatican leaders, bringing up pastoral questions and challenges.
It allows Vatican officials to learn the reality of the local churches and us bishops to gain a broader perspective on the function and life of the universal church. I have found these meetings to be very enlightening!
We bishops have also had the joy of being with the pilgrims from Milwaukee who have joined us. Sunday, we participated in a beautiful Mass at St. Peter’s, received the pope’s Angelus blessing from his window and then had a tour of ancient Rome, including the forum, the coliseum, and the Appian Way. We finished the day with the rosary in the beautiful church of Santa Maria de Trastevere and a great Italian meal.