U.S. bishops pray in front of the “confessio,” the front of the main altar in St. Peter's Basilica, before concelebrating Mass at the Altar of the Tomb in the crypt April 18. From left: Coadjutor Bishop Cirilo B. Flores of Orange; bishops Robert F. Vasa of Santa Rosa and Larry Silva of Honolulu; Auxiliary Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Francisco; bishops Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland and Gerald R. Barnes of San Bernardino; auxiliary bishops William J. Justice of San Francisco and Gerald E. Wilkerson of Los Angeles. Bishops from California, Nevada, Hawaii and Utah were making their ad limina visits to The Vatican to report on the status of their dioceses.
CNS photo/Paul Haring
Truly universal Church
Father George Mockel
Tuesday — April 17 — first thing in the morning the bishops met with the Congregation for Bishops and then the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Both congregations are among the more important in the administration of the church.
Among the responsibilities of the Congregation for Bishops is facilitating the process for submitting names of possible candidates for the episcopacy to the pope. There is a rather thorough vetting process that begins on the local level and eventually comes here to Rome. I believe that the only exception in the Latin Rite is that candidates for the episcopacy for missionary countries are nominated through the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. (But that is probably more information than you want or need.)
At midday we were invited to Villa Stritch for lunch. The villa is located a little distance from the center of Rome and is the residence for American priests working at the Holy See.
And what a difference a few miles can make. As we approached, the first thing I noticed was GREEN! There were trees (lots of them) and even some grass.
The priests who live here have been released by their bishops for service to the various congregations (departments) of the Holy See. They bring a unique “American” perspective to the work of the Vatican. They also often help facilitate better communication between the local church in the United States and the Holy See.
Their work here represents generosity on their part in making a commitment, usually for at least five years, to work away from home and family, to assist the various departments of the Holy See.
There is also generosity on the part of the local church in releasing priests who may well be also needed locally, to nevertheless serve the wider church.
We see this kind of generosity in other areas as well. Dioceses sometimes release priests to serve as military chaplains or for seminary work, or even foreign missions. The Diocese of Oakland has several priests currently “on loan” for many of these activities.
The ad limina visit reminds me that the church is really “Catholic,” i.e. universal. We sometimes tend to think of “church” as only “my local parish.” The church is a much larger, deeper, more profound (and sometimes more complicated) reality than what we experience on the local level. The next time I recite the Profession of Faith the words “one, holy and Catholic” will take on an added dimension and texture.