A pilgrimage to the tomb of St Peter

Bishop William Crean of Cloyne took part in the recent gathering of new bishops in Rome

As a seminarian in Rome in the 1970s I was privileged to have many opportunities to visit and pray at the Tomb of St Peter at the Basilica of St Peter’s, Rome. This time it was different and special.

This time I was on pilgrimage with 115 bishops, all recently appointed and ordained, from all over the world.  From my student days I had been given a great sense of the diversity of the Universal Church of which Rome and the Pope is a centre of unity.  Now this sense of the diversity of the Church was different as we sat together in conversation and listened to the reality of the communities that we have been called to serve as bishops. 

New dimension

The frailty and courage of Peter began to take on a new dimension in our reflection and prayer.

As a group we made our actual visit to the tomb of St Peter having concelebrated Mass with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, SPS, President of the Congregation of Bishops. In Ireland we remember him as the celebrant of the final liturgy of the Eucharistic Congress 2012 in CrokePark.  Our time in Rome (September 10 – 19) gave us, new bishops, a great sense of personal support as he made himself available to any bishop who wished to consult with him.  He gave a strong sense of the desire of the Congregation of Bishops to be supportive and advisory to the challenges we face in our new ministry.

This meeting for newly appointed bishops is a relatively new phenomenon – probably no more than 10 or 15 year in progress.          

The meeting is meant as an induction course for newly appointed bishops. Over the course of nine days we were addressed by most of the senior people in the most important dicasteries – these are the ‘departments’ responsible under the Holy Father for the various dimensions of Church administrations.

The meeting included: 

‘The bishop as teacher of the faith’ with Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller.

‘The parish, the participation of the laity in the life and mission of the Church’ with His Eminence André Vingt-Trois.

‘The bishop as father, brother and friend of his priests’ (The relationship between the bishop and his priests) with Bishop Renato Corti.

‘The pastoral care of the family’ with His Eminence Kurt Koch.

‘Interreligious dialogue today’ with His Eminence Jean-Louis Tauran.

Papa Francesco

Naturally, the last official day took on a special quality with the opportunity of the audience with Papa Francesco.  The message was clear:

Receive/accept and welcome those in your care

Walk with them – listening and sharing

Stay with them – the headline was – don’t become ‘airport’ bishops.

Papa Francesco is a warm, caring yet strong and demanding man.  After his address he greeted all of the newly ordained bishops individually.  When my turn came I informed him in Italian that I was Guglielmo, Vescovo di Cloyne (William, Bishop of Cloyne). I thanked him for his inspiration and encouragement to the Church in Ireland at this time – to which he responded ‘Grazie, Grazie Thank you, Thank you’.

So these days were truly a time of personal memory obviously but also a time of refreshment and renewal.  The Holy Spirit blows anew in our midst.  Deo Gratias.