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ADLIMINA-MARY Mar-5-2012 (560 words) With photos. xxxi
Bishops from 3 states begin 'ad limina' remembering Mary's solidarity
By Cindy Wooden
Bishop John M. LeVoir of New Ulm, Minn., center, and other U.S. bishops from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota concelebrate Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome March 5. (CNS/Paul Haring)
Catholic News Service
ROME (CNS) -- Just as she stood by at the foot of the cross by her son, Mary continues to stand alongside bishops and all the faithful in times of suffering, Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis told his fellow bishops at the beginning of their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican.
Bishops from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota began their visits March 5; in the evening they gathered in front of the main altar at Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major to recite the creed before celebrating Mass in the church's Borghese Chapel. Bishops from Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas were set to begin their visits the next morning.
Archbishop Nienstedt began and ended his homily singing several verses of "Stabat Mater," a hymn about the sorrowful Mary standing at the foot of the cross.
Mary is the mother of the church, the mother of all the faithful "and, in a special way, the mother of us poor bishops," he said. Unlike Eve, the mother of humanity, Mary did not run away from God and will not run away from her children when they are hurting, he said.
Bishops, like all Christians, must be willing to accept the cross, he said. In the life of a modern bishop, that may mean accepting "the cross of personnel issues or the cross of allegations of abuse or the cross of a schedule no longer our own or the cross of our own sense of inadequacy and frailty."
"It was not only the crosier that was handed to us at our ordination, it was also the cross," he said.
However, he said, the bishops also were given Mary as their mother and she "continues to stand by the cross in solidarity" with the bishops, in solidarity "with our people in their unique trials" and with the pope "as he experiences the great burdens of his office."
Archbishop Nienstedt explained that the bishops were making their "ad limina" visits, which include prayers at the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul, but also meeting with the pope to report what is taking place in their dioceses. Before arriving at the Vatican, they must send a detailed report, which includes everything from the number of Catholics and the average Sunday Mass attendance to information about special pastoral and charitable projects.
While at the Vatican, the bishops meet with the pope and hold separate meetings at Vatican congregations and councils to discuss issues of common concern.
The U.S. bishops' "ad limina" visits, which began in November, have included discussions about the new evangelization and preparations for the Year of Faith, which Pope Benedict XVI has said will begin in October.
Archbishop Nienstedt said the visits will be "a grace-filled opportunity to refocus on the person of Jesus Christ, who is always and everywhere a light to the nations and the surest source of hope in a darkened world."
By believing in Christ and following him, the archbishop said, people come to know the heights of God's love and God's call to become his sons and daughters.
"So many in our world do not know this great gift, this invitation to radical communion with God, but it is our privileged mission as bishops to proclaim this message of goodness and salvation to all," he told his fellow bishops.
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