Reflections from Bishop Jaime Soto on his
'ad limina' visit to Rome and the Vatican
Bishop Jaime Soto from the Vatican, April 20
During the course of the week, the bishops of Region XI have crisscrossed Vatican City and surrounding neighborhoods as we visited various Tribunals, Congregations and Pontifical Councils. This included visits with the Apostolic Signatura, the Congregations of Divine Worship, the Doctrine of the Faith, bishops and clergy, and Institutes for Consecrated Life. In each case, we spoke with the prefect of the office or their designated representative.
We visited the Pontifical Councils of Migrants, the Family, the New Evangelization, Catholic Education, and the Laity. As with the congregations, we visited with the President of the Council or their representative in the event they were not presently in Rome.
Generally there was a brief presentation by one of the bishops from Region XI of the common concerns related to the work of the particular Congregation or Council. The Prefect or President would address the group either with his own concerns as they related to our region or he would address directly the matters we had raised. In most cases, an opportunity for informal dialogue followed. In those cases when ample time was given, these dialogues proved most informative and affirming.
A range of practical, pastoral, as well as theological themes emerged. To name a few:
-- How can we better assist immigrants whose marriage annulment cases must be heard in countries where the Church’s Tribunals are not functioning properly?
-- How can Canonical Tribunals better cooperate in a time of limited resources?
-- While the debates in the United States over changing definitions of marriage are ongoing, Europe has acquiesced with little public discourse to a growing relativistic notion of marriage. How the Church in the United States responds will be important to rest of the Church.
-- The necessity of ensuring the trust of the faithful in the Church’s ministry when the conduct of priests is in question.
-- The Church is most persuasive in society when it actively participates in society. The recent federal re-definition of religious organizations threatens not only the good work being done but our ability for effective evangelical persuasion. Will this re-definition affect the Church’s work with immigrants?
-- The Congregation of the Clergy expressed an interest not only in priests but deacons as well. Noting the growing number of deacons in the United States, there was gratitude for the leadership the bishops in America have provided to the rest of the Church in this area.
-- The United States wishes to develop its own missal in Spanish. We encouraged the Congregation of Divine Worship to assist us in this regard. The Congregation, in turn, recognized that the United States was now the second largest Spanish-speaking nation and assured us of their support.
-- The New Evangelization is for believers who lack fervor of faith as well as the desire to belong to a community of faith. Catholic women and men may be faithful but do not see themselves as faithful witnesses.
These are just some of the topics that I could succinctly summarize. The range of conversation was much broader and there is no room for much of it here.
In many cases, the conversation was facilitated by the fact that the Prefect or the President was American or someone from an English-speaking country. When meeting with Cardinal William Levada, who once served as the Archbishop of San Francisco, he made us feel very much at home.
The Prefect of Divine Worship is presently Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, a Spaniard. The conversation with him took an entertaining twist. The session began with him speaking to us in Italian. One of his staff would attempt to translate in English. We would answer in English. There was then a translation back into Italian. Finally, Cardinal Roger Mahony politely suggested we conduct the meeting in Spanish since most of the bishops in the region could speak it.
Well, after that wise suggestion, the meeting became much more engaging and personal. Humor is conditioned by language. For example, it is easier to tell a joke in a language you know well. That so many of the bishops from the region spoke Spanish brought some cheerful humor to the serious subject of worship -- not a bad thing.
Though engaging, the series of meetings were tedious and fatiguing. This is where the Mass each day would help refresh us with the sober yet salutary reminder that we are part of a history much larger than the current fiscal year, political campaign, or 24-hour news cycle.
On Wednesday, we celebrated Mass at the Tomb of St. Peter. Providentially, our visit coincided with the Easter Season, when the readings of the day are drawn from the Acts of the Apostles, filled with the evangelical adventures of Peter and Paul. The activities of the “ad limina” visit would have been unimaginable for Peter and his companions. Yet, here we were stumbling along in the footsteps of Jesus, just as they did.
As was done when we visited the Basilica of St. Paul, the bishops of the region gathered around the main altar of the Basilica of St. Peter. The massive swirling columns of Bernini’s Baldacchino soared above us. After a brief silent prelude, one of the bishops began to chant the creed to which we all joined in.
I hope all of the various efforts to serve the Church and promote the Gospel that have been discussed through the course of these days may find harmony with the creed we profess and lead us all to know, love and serve our heavenly Father through Jesus Christ, our Lord.