February 17, 2012

‘To the threshold’

During ad limina visit, Bishop Coyne tells pope about strengths of local Church

Pope Benedict XVI greets Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator, during a Feb. 9 meeting with bishops from Indiana on their ad limina visits to the Vatican. Bishops from Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin were making their ad limina visits to the Vatican to report on the status of their dioceses. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Benedict XVI greets Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator, during a Feb. 9 meeting with bishops from Indiana on their ad limina visits to the Vatican. Bishops from Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin were making their ad limina visits to the Vatican to report on the status of their dioceses. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

By Sean Gallagher

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator, landed in Rome on Feb. 8 for the ad limina visit of the bishops of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin with Pope Benedict XVI and the leaders of various offices at the Vatican.

Each diocesan bishop around the world makes an ad limina visit every five to eight years. In advance of the trip, surveys about the life of the diocese are filled out by the bishop and his pastoral staff for review by the pope and various cardinals and bishops who assist him. Parts of these surveys for the archdiocese can be viewed online at www.archindy.org/adlimina.

Ad limina is Latin for “to the threshold” and refers to the bishops journeying to the threshold of the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul, who were both martyred in Rome.

In Rome, Bishop Coyne hit the ground running. He and his brother bishops began their first full day there by celebrating an early morning Mass at the tomb of St. Peter in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago was the principal celebrant.

Although that is a special place for a Mass, Bishop Coyne put it in perspective in an e-mail interview with The Criterion.

“It is always a joy to be able to celebrate Mass wherever I can,” he said. “Certainly, some places would be a more profound place to celebrate than others. Each brings its own resonance of faith and history. The tomb of St. Peter is one.”

Other groups were celebrating Mass at the same time in nearby chapels.

“You could hear them singing their songs,” said Bishop Coyne in a video posted on the Internet later that day. “There were different languages echoing through the space. … We had the opportunity to reflect upon what it means to be a bishop in this modern day and age, drawing upon the Church’s tradition. It was really a special Mass for us.”

Bishop Coyne’s videos relating his experience of the ad limina visit can be viewed online at www.archindy.org/adlimina.

He and his brother bishops later met with the staff of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization led by Archbishop Rino Fisichella.

The council’s ministry is focused on re-evangelizing people in countries and cultures that were once primarily Christian, but where that is no longer the case. A meeting of the Synod of Bishops in the fall will discuss this topic.

“[Archbishop Fisichella] said that one of the most important things is to evangelize ourselves,” Bishop Coyne said. “If [we] are going to be committed to the work of the new evangelization, we need to be so committed to the person of Jesus Christ and to the Church and to the Church’s teachings so that there is an authenticity to what we do.”

Later that same day, the bishops of Indiana had a 20-minute audience with Pope Benedict XVI in the apostolic palace at the Vatican.

In his first video posted to the Internet later that evening, Bishop Coyne reflected on the visit with the pope in which each bishop had the chance to talk about the life and ministry of the local Church that he represented.

“I talked about the great opportunity that we have in the state of Indiana and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis for positive growth, for real growth in people coming to our Church because we are such a healthy Catholic community in central and southern Indiana,” Bishop Coyne said. “Whoever the next archbishop will be will have such an opportunity to continue to do the good work that Archbishop [Daniel M.] Buechlein did, and to foster people coming to our faith and to foster charitable works and to do new evangelization.”

Bishop Coyne said he appreciated the chance to spend time with the Holy Father.

“It was a very special moment to be able to sit down for 20 minutes with him,” he said. “We sat down and had a conversation. He asked questions as he listened to what we had to say. He was very enthusiastic about the work that’s going on in Indiana and in the Church.”

In a later e-mail interview with The Criterion, Bishop Coyne said that the audience with Pope Benedict also gave him a new appreciation of the spiritual communion binding together the Archdiocese of Indianapolis with the Holy Father and the universal Church, and how that affects the faithful in current events.

“To be present with the Holy Father, to be able to meet with him and share with him some of our life as the Catholic Church in Indiana, was an incredible experience of that unity of faith,” Bishop Coyne said. “I have also come to see how important it is for all of us who bear the name of Catholic to be united as a people of faith in our country, especially in light of the recent HHS [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] mandate [regarding contraceptive and sterilization coverage]. The deposit of faith found in the Church’s dogmas, doctrines and creed should always serve as the basis of our lives.”

Bishop Coyne also noted in his e-mail interview how happy he was to share this ad limina visit with the bishops of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

“[They] include Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee,” Bishop Coyne said. “Among all of these men, there is this incredible wealth of knowledge and years. I just want to sit back and listen to them.”

Some meetings with Vatican officials have been cancelled due to a series of snowstorms that hit Rome and much of Italy prior to and during the start of the ad limina visit.

“It’s very, very rare for this much snow to fall in Rome and the huge amounts that are falling all over the country,” Bishop Coyne said in his second Internet video. “It’s pretty phenomenal for them.”

The ad limina visit of the bishops of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin was scheduled to conclude on Feb. 17. As this newspaper went to press, the bishops of the three states were awaiting a concluding meeting with Pope Benedict, at which time the pontiff was to deliver an address about his views on the state of the Church in the U.S. †

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