ROME — Accompanied by priests and seminarians from their dioceses, the bishops of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas knelt before the tomb of St. Peter after chanting the Creed in Latin.
The profession of faith Jan. 20 was a formal, obligatory part of their visit ad limina apostolorum — to the threshold of the apostles — but also a response to the Gospel reading they had just heard in which Jesus asks Peter, “Who do you say that I am?”
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston was the principal celebrant and homilist at the early morning Mass in the grotto of St. Peter’s Basilica on the first day of their ad limina visit. Later in the morning, they were scheduled to meet with Pope Francis and then begin making the rounds of the offices of the Roman Curia to discuss the status of their dioceses.
At the Mass, the cardinal noted how the current St. Peter’s Basilica and the church built by Constantine that preceded it were “grand buildings built over the simplest of tombs” in honor of “a martyr, a witness of Jesus Christ.”
The New Testament is filled with stories of St. Peter — he appears in all four Gospels, in the writings of St. Paul and has two epistles himself, the cardinal said. His call by the Lord is recounted in all the Gospels, as is the fact that Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter.
“In his devotion to Jesus,” he said, “we see from the beginning he is the leader and the one principally who speaks for the others,” as the disciples and apostles follow Jesus from Galilee to his death and resurrection in Jerusalem.
Jesus asks every disciple, especially the bishops, for the same profession of faith, DiNardo said.
Peter “frequently opens his mouth to put his foot in it,” he said. “But, in this case, he did not.”
Peter often wobbles in his faith, but in the end, when Jesus asks, “Do you love me?” he responds wholeheartedly, he said, and Peter receives the commission, “Feed my sheep.”
“What is true for Peter is true for all of us, first of all as disciples and then as shepherds of our local churches,” the cardinal said.
“We come here with the longings and the prayers of all our people in Texas and Oklahoma and Arkansas, and they are praying for us,” he said. “But we come here also not with the burden, but the joy of knowing Christ, son of the living God, and we come here knowing that the most important way that is given to us day by day is in our adhesion to the See of Peter.”
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