VATICAN CITY — In St. Peter’s Basilica Thursday, Cardinal Seán O’Malley asked American bishops to pray for the grace to make a profession of faith, hope and love at the tomb of St. Peter before meeting with Pope Francis.
Cardinal O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, and the other bishops from New England are in Rome for an ad limina apostolorum visit — a pilgrimage to “the threshold of the apostles” — in which they are meeting the Pope and Curial officials to discuss the state of their dioceses.
In his homily in the crypt of the basilica, Cardinal O’Malley touched upon some of the problems currently affecting American Catholics.
“Today many people have lost hope. It is one of the reasons that people are not having children, turning to drugs and seeking thrills,” he said.
The American cardinal said that bishops need to be evangelizers: “Jesus is our hope. He is the reason we trust in his promises.”
He connected a recent Pew survey on American Catholics’ belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist to the decline in Mass attendance in the U.S.
“In today’s world, too many Catholics are quick to dismiss the hard saying about the Eucharist. And as the Pew poll indicates, they do not accept the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Hence, the diminished Mass attendance and no sense of urgency to confess our sins to receive worthily,” Cardinal O’Malley said.
He related this to the crowd’s reaction to Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse in the Gospel of John Chapter 6. After many left because “this saying is hard,” Jesus turned to Peter and asked, “Are you going to abandon me, too?”
Peter replied: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”
Cardinal O’Malley highlighted this as one of three key questions Christ asked Peter in the Gospels. He said that Christ’s three questions to Peter: “Who do you say that I am?” “Are you going to abandon me, too?” and “Do you love me?” correspond to the theological virtues of faith, hope and love, respectively.
The cardinal said: “Today before Peter’s tomb, let us bishops ask for the grace to answer those questions as Peter did, with a profession of faith, a profession of hope, a profession of love.”