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ADLIMINA-CHALLENGES May-9-2012 (580 words) xxxi

Bishops know challenges, but also joy of sharing faith, archbishop says

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Being a bishop means being no stranger to debates and challenges, but also knowing the joy of sharing the faith, said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami.

"We know a little bit about controversy and dissension, but like (St.) Paul we know also the joy not only of having encountered the Lord, we also know the joy of sharing him with others," he said.

The archbishop was the homilist May 9 at a Mass at Rome's Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. He and other bishops of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina were joined by dozens of pilgrims from the region, including a violinist, trumpet player, organist and cantor from the Archdiocese of Miami.

The Mass was part of the bishops' "ad limina" visits to Rome and the Vatican.

In his homily, which he read from his iPad since he said he did not have a printer available, Archbishop Wenski said the "ad limina" visits are an occasion to consult with Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican officials, but even more they are an opportunity for the bishops to reaffirm their faith and strengthen their unity.

The first reading at the Mass recounted how Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to discuss with Peter and the other leaders of the first Christian communities whether to require new Christians who were not Jews to be circumcised.

"What was at stake was the very identity of what came to be called Christianity," because it determined whether Christianity was to be a "sect within Judaism" or have a broader reach and membership, the archbishop said.

While the controversies and challenges facing the church have changed enormously, the "ad limina" visits are "in continuity with what is described in that first reading, and our meetings do have much of the same purpose: to strengthen our communion with Christ and with one another," Archbishop Wenski said.

Unlike Paul and Barnabas' trip to Jerusalem, he said, "there is no one single issue that brings us to Rome, but a whole range of issues that challenge us as pastors as we attempt to faithfully hand on the Gospel in its integrity to our world today."

Archbishop Wenski said issues that challenge the bishops include respect for the life and dignity of every human being; religious freedom and the freedom to witness to the faith and serve others; "trying to communicate ... an understanding of marriage as the permanent union of one man and one woman that is necessary for human flourishing in society"; welcoming immigrants and feeding the hungry; handing on the faith; responding to the reality of "human frailty, the reality of sin in the world and in the church."

The meetings during the "ad limina" visit have touched many of those issues, he said, but even more, the visits have confirmed and strengthened the bishops' faith.

"We do not pray for worldly success or approval, rather we ask God for boldness, freedom, for courage," the archbishop said.

The Gospel reading was the same used the previous Sunday and included Jesus telling his disciples, "Remain in me."

"Our fruitfulness as bishops depends on our remaining in him. Our 'ad limina' visit is certainly one way -- and by no means an insignificant way -- for us bishops to do just that," he said.

END


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