Bishops from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida ended their week-long ad limina visit to the Vatican Friday, May 11, 2012, with the celebration of Holy Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the largest Marian church in Rome.
The Bishops from the Atlanta Province began the week on May 7 meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, at which time they provided in-depth reports on their respective Dioceses. The leaders of each of the five Dioceses in the Atlanta Province shared their stories with the Holy Father of growth and the challenges that come with it. They noted how much of the growth is due to the large number of Catholics who have migrated into their Dioceses as well as the large number of men and women who have entered the Church each year during the Easter Vigil. In the Diocese of Raleigh, approximately 1,000 accepted God’s call to become members of His Church.
The visit to the Vatican also provided the Bishops with the opportunity to meet with leaders of the major Congregations, including the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, the Congregation for Divine Worship, the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization and the Pontifical Council for the Family. Bishop Burbidge noted how important the meetings were in gaining beneficial information and suggestions on the various ministries.
Several of the discussions involved the Church’s commitment to protect the definition of marriage. The topic was highlighted by the May 8 vote in North Carolina in which voters, by a 61-39 percent margin, chose to embed the traditional definition of marriage in the state Constitution.
During their meeting with Pope Benedict, Bishop Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte described the advocacy initiative he and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh undertook three years ago in setting up Catholic Voice NC. It provides an alert to subscribers from both Dioceses to contact either their state or federal lawmakers when an important issue arises.
Bishop Burbidge explained the approach the North Carolina Dioceses took in support of the Marriage Amendment, including a number of catechetical resources. He also spoke of how Catholic Voice NC was used in advocating for the 2009 Racial Justice Act, which enables death row inmates to appeal their sentences in instances of racial bias.
Each day, the Bishops celebrated Mass at one of the major Churches in the Eternal City, including St. Peter’s, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, and the Cathedral of Mary Major.
The Holy Father presented each Bishop with a pectoral cross and rosaries.
Upon leaving Rome to return home, Bishop Burbidge tweeted, “The ad limina visit was filled with abundant spiritual blessings. Look forward to returning to the Diocese.”
Above: Pope Benedict XVI meeting with Bishops of the Atlanta Province. From left are: Bishops Gregory J. Hartmayer of Savannah, Ga.; Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte, N.C.; Auxiliary Bishop Luis R. Zarama of Atlanta; Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta; Pope Benedict; Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston, S.C.; retired Bishop David B. Thompson of Charleston, S.C.; Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, N.C.; and retired Bishop J. Kevin Boland of Savannah, Ga. CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano (Click photo to view larger.)
Below: Bishops of Region XIV representing the Atlanta Province and Miami Province at the celebration of Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major on the final day of their ad limina visit to the Vatican. (Click photo to view larger.)
Photos below courtesy of SueAnn Howell of the Catholic News Herald in Charlotte.