Bishops on 'ad limina' pray for courage to defend religious liberty
By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
ROME (CNS) -- Bishops from California, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah began their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican with prayers for courage in defending religious freedom and in sharing faith in the risen Lord.
Celebrating Mass April 16 at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the bishops listened to an account from the Acts of the Apostles about Sts. Peter and John being taken before the Sanhedrin, a religious court, and explaining how they performed miracles in the name of the risen Jesus.
In his homily, Bishop Tod D. Brown of Orange, Calif., said, "As we look at what faces us in our own civil courts, not religious courts, we may be called upon in the not-too-distant future to be bold in our speech in defense of our religious rights."
The bishop made his comment as questions continued over the religious freedom issues involved in a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' mandate that most health plans must include contraception, sterilization and some abortion-inducing drugs free of charge, even if the employer is morally opposed to such services.
The Mass began with the bishops gathering around the basilica's main altar, built over what is believed to be the tomb of St. Paul, and singing the creed in Latin. Visits to the apostle's tomb and to the tomb of St. Peter in the basilica at the Vatican are the key moments of prayer in every visit "ad limina apostolorum" (to the threshold of the apostles).
The visits also include meetings with Pope Benedict XVI to report on what is going on in their dioceses and meetings at Vatican congregations, pontifical councils and major church tribunals for discussions about issues of concern to local bishops and the Vatican.
During the Mass at St. Paul's, the bishops offered a prayer for San Francisco Archbishop George H. Niederauer, who, they said, remained home to undergo medical tests.
During the homily, Bishop Brown suggested that he and his fellow bishops "focus on the readings from the Acts of the Apostles" that are read at Mass during the Easter season to draw encouragement from the life of the early Christian community and, like them, to "boldly proclaim the message of Jesus."
Bishop Brown also noted that it was in the Basilica of St. Paul that Blessed John XXIII announced his plans to convoke the Second Vatican Council.
"Our lives and ministry have been affected by the work of that great council. We look forward to the 50th anniversary of its beginning this October," he said.
Bishop Cordileone: religious liberty as right to serve
Vatican Radio April 20, 2012
The US bishops from Region XI are here this week for their ad limina visits. Region XI is comprised of the states of Utah, Nevada, California and Hawaii. One of the bishops from Region XI, Most Rev. Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, California, spoke with Vatican Radio about several issues facing the bishops and the Church in the United States. The broad-ranging conversation covered the Year of Faith, the New Evangelization, the right interpretation of the II Vatican Council, and the reform of the Church’s liturgical life. A major area of focus was the broader conversation about the public role of religion underway at present in the US national discourse.
Asked about the bishops’ response to what they have perceived is a serious, multi-pronged threat to religious liberty, Bishop Cordileone said, “I think this is a pivotal moment in the United States, and in the life of the Church in the United States,” adding, “it has very much galvanized the bishops and the people along with them, in recognizing what is happening.” Bishop Cordileone also described a change in the way the bishops seek to engage the public. “I think that, for very many years, the bishops and leaders in the Church were disposed toward recognizing good will. He went on to say that, even when there were policy disagreements, “We presupposed good will and were willing to work as best we could.” The present attempt to use Federal power to force Catholic institutions to pay for contraceptive and abortifacient coverage as part of mandatory employee health plans, however, “has gone way over a boundary that is unacceptable – with the government intruding into the internal life of the Church and dictating to us what our moral conscience should be.” Listen to our extended interview with Bishop Cordileone: