VATICAN CITY — Bishop William Lori has done a lot since leaving the Washington archdiocese, where he was an auxiliary bishop.
Since early 2001, he has served as shepherd of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., overseeing renovations to the cathedral and beginning spiritual initiatives in the diocese.
Bishop Lori spoke with Register correspondent Edward Pentin on Sept. 3, at the end of his first “ad limina” visit to Rome to report on the state of the diocese.
What do you feel was the most significant aspect of the “ad limina” visit for you?
Bishop Lori: Obviously, visiting the Holy Father is the most important aspect, simply to be in his presence and to receive from him encouraging words. To see his own courage at this stage in his life is a grace for every shepherd, and it was for me.
Also, visiting the tombs of Peter and Paul was a high point for me. I will particularly remember celebrating Mass near the tomb of Peter, in the Hungarian chapel, and as we passed by the actual tomb of Peter, we paused and recited the Nicene Creed — that's what this is all about.
To what extent was the sexual-abuse crisis raised in your discussions?
It was an opportunity for U.S. bishops and heads and officials of dicasteries to exchange views, to reflect on our experience, to renew our commitment to young people and to families for the common good of the Church and to ensure that, in honoring that commitment, we do so fairly and with great love and respect for our priests.
We also reflected on the broader context of the problem, in society and in terms of continuing need to strengthen authentic lines of renewal in our dioceses.
Is there a lot of convergence now between the U.S. bishops and the Vatican on this issue, compared with a few years ago and after Dallas?
That's probably a detailed discussion for another time. But I do believe that the ongoing contacts with many bishops and the Holy See have been beneficial in promoting greater understanding. And one of the good things to come from them has been that the Holy See has encouraged us to share experiences and concerns, and we feel that discussions are in a very healthy state.
Do you feel you are receiving enough support from the Vatican?
I feel supported as an individual bishop from the Holy See, in the processes that the Holy See has set up. They are refined, done with discernment — that is a very difficult form of service for bishops of the U.S. and for their priests.
Was the issue of Communion and pro-abortion politicians raised at all?
It was raised briefly, but it wasn't the centerpiece of discussions. But satisfaction was expressed with the statement issued in Denver, and therefore, that was significant.
Was the sexual-abuse crisis the centerpiece of discussions?
It wasn't the centerpiece. I believe we covered a wide range of topics. Obviously, the sexual-abuse crisis was one of them. But we also concentrated hard on strengthening Catholic education, vocations, catechetical renewal and evangelization.
There is a sense one takes away from this visit that, while one must look serious problems in the eye and address them with gifts of grace and nature, one must also look ahead with hope and look at how to strengthen the ordinary ecclesial life in our dioceses. That's the real sense one takes.
That's why we go to tombs of the apostles — that really is the centerpiece.
Was the issue of the mandatum and Catholic universities discussed?
We spoke of it and those who have universities and colleges were able to talk about it. We also talked about review of the statuta which is also part of this, part of Ex Corde Ecclesiae (On Catholic Universities). Given the time frame, no concrete steps were agreed to be taken, but there is something on horizon.
What else will you take away from the visit?
The biggest thing about this visit is to see it as a pilgrimage to the first apostles and a realization that Church is built on the foundation of the apostles. Also that this is no time for bishops to shrink from their God-given duties on behalf of the Church. To me, that is always the grace of an “ad limina” visit and particularly for me as it's the first one I have attended as a diocesan bishop.