US bishops reflect on their role in the new evangelization

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix and Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup, N.M., arrive in procession with other bishops from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming to concelebrate Mass at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome May 3. The bishops were making their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican to report on the status of their dioceses. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

ROME (CNS) — Celebrating Mass in Pope Benedict XVI’s cathedral, Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran, a group of U.S. bishops prayed for the pope and reflected on what they need to do to respond to his call for a new evangelization.

Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs was the homilist and principal celebrant of an evening Mass May 3 during the “ad limina” visit of bishops from Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming.

On the eve of the bishops’ meeting with Pope Benedict, Bishop Sheridan led his fellow bishops in a reflection on the pope’s insistence that strengthening the faith of Catholics, reviving the faith of those who have fallen away and sharing the Gospel with others means they must preach that Jesus is the son of God and continues to live in the church and the Eucharist.

The bishop said Pope Benedict has noted how “Jesus is often reduced to the status of a wise man and his divinity is diminished, if not denied outright.” That type of attitude sets aside the radical novelty of Christianity and its message that God entered human history to save humanity, he said.

The pope “warned us of preaching a Jesus who was not alive in our midst, entering into some sort of nostalgia in which we lift up Jesus the wise man who lived long ago, but doesn’t seem to have any reality now — it’s his memory that we exalt,” the bishop said.

“Our proclamation must be the proclamation of the living Jesus; the one who died — yes — for our sins, but who was raised, who lives now never to die again, who is in our midst,” he said.

“Let’s pray today that the Lord will fire us up with his Holy Spirit so that we may join in this new evangelization in the most effective way,” Bishop Sheridan said.

The bishops’ visits are formally called “ad limina apostolorum,” which means “to the thresholds of the apostles” Peter and Paul, who were martyred in Rome. As well as concelebrating Masses at Rome’s four major basilicas, the bishops meet with Pope Benedict to report on the state of their dioceses, and with Vatican officials to discuss issues of common concern.

— By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service