Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles says the forthcoming Year of Faith is the best present Pope Benedict could give the Church as he marks his seventh anniversary as pontiff, which was April 19.
“It will be a great opportunity for us Catholics to reflect upon our faith, to try to understand better our faith, because in the end the most important issue we have in our times in the Church is education in the faith,” Archbishop Gomez said.
The Los Angeles archbishop is in Rome this week on his ad limina visit, along with his fellow Californian bishops and the hierarchies of Hawaii, Utah and Nevada. Archbishop Gomez said it a “great blessing to physically participate in the celebrations this week,” beginning with the Pope’s 85th birthday on April 16.
To mark the election of Pope Benedict XVI on April 19, 2005, the Vatican took the day off. Today the Pope resumed his public duties with a meeting with Archbishop Gomez and a delegation of his fellow bishops.
“We want to share with him the reality of the Church in Los Angeles and California, how active the people of the archdiocese are in practicing their faith,” said Archbishop Gomez.
He particularly wants to discuss the promotion of vocations and the priesthood. The Province of Los Angeles currently has about 200 seminarians which, said Archbishop Gomez, is “a great blessing for our province, the Church in California and the universal Church.”
The bishops are also looking to hear if the Pope has “some specific advice or recommendations” for the bishops.
“I think as Catholics we all need to know our faith better,” Archbishop Gomez said. “The more that we know God, the more that we know the life and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, the more that we know about the action of the Holy Spirit, the more we that can love God. And at the end of the day our Christian faith is about loving God.”
Bishop Patrick McGrath of San Jose, Calif., said that St. Peter’s example of following Jesus even to death should inspire present-day bishops to do the same.
“The question we need to ask, it seems to me, is this: Domini, quo Vadis? Lord, where do you go? And Jesus answers, and he always does, that even in spite of ourselves, we need to follow where he is leading,” said Bishop McGrath at morning Mass at St. Peter’s tomb in Rome.
He was joined by his fellow bishops in Rome for their ad limina visit.
He recalled the traditional story of St. Peter fleeing the persecution of the early Church in Rome only to meet a vision of Christ traveling in the opposite direction.
“He asked Jesus, ‘Domini, quo Vadis?’ or ‘Lord, where do you go?’ Jesus answered, ‘I go to be crucified again,’” explained Bishop McGrath. “After the vision, Peter understood the message, and he stayed here in this city and continued Christ’s ministry.”
Bishop McGrath said that St. Peter found his courage to follow Christ because he was “truly overcome by the joy of the Resurrection.” This was the “the joy that fueled him on his journey to follow Christ,” and “it must also fuel you and I today,” he told the bishops.
This is why St. Peter, who was “a simple fisherman,” was empowered to live “a life of faith and, yes, doubt” and “in the end followed Christ’s call, even to his death.”
Following Mass this morning the episcopal delegation held a series of meetings with the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. This evening they will attend a reception at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.