At the tomb of Peter

Photos and Caption By Paul Haring | CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

Archbishop Gregory Aymond was the principal celebrant of a Mass Dec. 5 in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome as U.S. bishops from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky made their “ad limina” visits to the Vatican.

‘Ad limina’ meeting with pope inspirational
By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Each day, a bishop should know Jesus is asking him the same question he asked St. Peter – “Do you love me?” – and giving him the same charge, “Feed my sheep,” said New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond.

The archbishop was the principal celebrant and homilist at Mass Dec. 5 on the “sacred ground and holy place” that is the tomb of St. Peter in the basilica named after the prince of the apostles.

The Mass and recitation of the Creed before St. Peter’s tomb was a central part of the “ad limina” pilgrimage of the bishops of U.S. Region V – Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee. Bishops make the visits to Rome to report on the status of their dioceses.

The life of St. Peter, Archbishop Aymond told his brother bishops, “gives us encouragement and inspiration to live our episcopal ministry.”

The first reading at the Mass was from the First Letter of St. Peter, who exhorted the leaders of the community: “Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you but be examples to the flock.”

“That’s the advice he gives to us,” Archbishop Aymond told his brother bishops.

Humility is an essential trait for a bishop, he said. Just look at St. Peter: “He knew his sin. He knew his weakness. He knew what he could not do, what he did not understand, and he faced that.”

Like Peter, he said, the bishops must “be strong, be that foundation” of faith for their local communities, “but we must also be humble, like him, in knowing our weakness and asking for that change of heart.”

Encouraged honest dialogue

After meeting the pope Dec. 3, Archbishop Aymond told Catholic News Service, “Everybody left with a very positive spirit, feeling his support. He certainly was reassured of our support, and it was a true, honest dialogue.”

The archbishop, a veteran of “ad limina” visits, said the meeting with the pope and, especially, the meetings with the heads of Roman Curia offices have changed, “and I think that’s at the direction of Pope Francis. I think he has, you know, asked the Curia to truly be of service to us and to walk with us and help us in any way and that’s basically what the conversations have been.”

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