Tuesday, February 05, 2008

On Papal Advance

Plans for the mid-April PopeTrip continued in earnest last week as Roberto Gasparri, the Vatican Radio exec who moonlights as B16's advance man for papal travel, returned to New York and Washington to fine-tune the final arrangements of things logistical.

Later this month, the journey's liturgical aspects take center stage -- or center sanctuary -- as the newly-appointed MC Monsignor Guido Marini comes Stateside to coordinate plans on the Masses and other worship-geared events.

* * *

Since the first reports surfaced in September, and especially its formal announcement at the November Meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, much has been made of the trek's nuts-and-bolts, with schedule-and-ticket stories garnering the bulk of ink.

In the process, the visit's "million-dollar question" has been overshadowed: Why is B16 coming, and what's he setting out to accomplish?

The answer was given when the plans were officially revealed to the bishops.... Suffice it to say, it's worth revisiting.

Emphases original:

The main purpose of the Pastoral Journey of the Pope to the United States of America is the celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the establishment of the Dioceses of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Bardstown (later Louisville), and the 200th Anniversary of the creation of Baltimore as the Metropolitan Archdiocese.

Although the Pope will only be in Washington, DC and New York, I am sure that he will address himself to all the American people and to the whole Church in the United States.

Around the Lake of Galilee, there aren't any big stones. When Jesus wanted to say something solid and very important, he walked with his disciples to Caesarea Philippi and there, in front of those imposing rocks which are still there today, he said to Peter: "You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church" [Matt. 16:18]. The rock is something strong, visible, resistant. Like in the past, even today, the boat of the Church is attacked by the waves of evil, but it will never fail in accomplishing the mission entrusted to it by the Lord Jesus Christ, who is its Head.

The visit of the Successor of Peter to the United States will be a moment of certainty also for those who have left the Church and it will be a warm and convincing invitation to come home: the Church is the Church of Jesus Christ, based on His Gospel, continuing the mission entrusted by the Lord to Peter and to the Apostles and to their Successors.

I would like to recall some expressions of Vatican Council II, well known to you:

- In order that the episcopate itself might be one and undivided he (the Lord) put Peter at the head of the other Apostles and in him, he set up a lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and communion. [Lumen Gentium, 18]

- The Roman Pontiff, as the Successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful. [Lumen Gentium, 23]

- The individual bishops are the visible source and foundation of unity in their own particular Churches all the bishops have the obligation of fostering and safeguarding the unity of the faith and of upholding the discipline which is common to the whole Church. [Lumen Gentium, ibid.]

It is impressive how the Second Vatican Council insists on unity: on visible unity; on unity of faith, communion, discipline; on unity between the Successor of Peter and the Successors of the other Apostles; on unity of the bishops and the whole company of the faithful. Unity is the visible sign that the Spirit of the Lord is within his Church and guiding it.

With the solidity of the rock of Peter and the visible unity of the Bishops, the Church in the United States can make all things new in Christ, our hope! The presence of Peter among us will surely revive our awareness of constituting the unique apostolic college and of our impelling mission in the Church and in the world.

Together with the Pope, we will remember events which took place 200 years ago: we almost go back to the beginning of the Church in the United States. Let us contribute to make this exceptional occasion the beginning of a new youthfulness, a new springtime, a new Pentecost for our beloved Church. I still remember the emotion, the enthusiasm and the generosity created by Pope John XXIII when he pronounced these words on the eve of the Second Vatican Council.

This is possible here: a new youthfulness, a new springtime, a new Pentecost in the Church in the United States of America.

Let us think less about the sufferings of the past; let us work to build a better future.

According to my information, the Holy Spirit is ready; the answer depends on us!

Given all the enthusiasm and hope surrounding one presidential candidacy these days, maybe it should just be rebranded the "Yes We Can" Tour.

Because we can... right?

PHOTO: AFP/Getty Images