Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 22, 1999
An experience of communion
Collins says visit to Rome revealed nature of Church
By GLEN ARGAN
The Western bishops' ad limina visit to Rome was a profound experience of the communion of the Church, said Archbishop Thomas Collins.
In their meetings with Pope John Paul and the heads of 10 Vatican congregations, the bishops found a spirit of encouragement for their ministry and they tried to offer the same in return, Collins told the WCR Nov. 15.
In late October, the bishops had their ad limina visit - which all the bishops of the world make every five years - and Collins personally met privately with the pope for 10 minutes on Oct. 26.
The bishops also had lunch with the pope in two groups of 10, celebrated Mass with him and had a group meeting where the pope delivered a talk (WCR, Nov. 8).
The visit had three purposes, including the meetings with the pope. The bishops also met with the heads of the Vatican congregations. And they celebrated Mass for the people of their dioceses at the four major basilicas - St. Peter's, St. Paul's, St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major.
The Western bishops also celebrated Mass together every day and came together for Morning and Evening Prayer.
The largest part of the visit was spent meeting the heads of Vatican congregations for ecumenism, doctrine of the faith, evangelization, laity, bishops, clergy, Catholic education, liturgy, the family, and the Secretariat of State.
The Western bishops raised their concerns in those meetings and Vatican officials expressed theirs, Collins said.
While local bishops tend to see their concerns as predominant, meeting with the Vatican officials puts them in context, both geographically and historically, he said.
"I was very happy to meet with these people whose work in the Curia is to help meet the needs of the Church around the world," the archbishop said.
Collins described his meeting with the pope as "wonderful."
"He remembered very fondly his visits to Edmonton. He recalled the hospitality of Edmonton and of Archbishop (Joseph) MacNeil."
Meeting with the pope was a reminder of the universal character of the Church and gives a sense of our relationship with the whole Church. "Fundamental to being Catholic is to have that sense of universality over space and time."
"It keeps us away from a kind of narrowness that would be destructive to our life in Christ."
The pope's mission "is above all one of unity," Collins said. "The pope's concern for the whole Church is not a heavy thing, but one of support."
That's because the Church's structure is not that of a pyramid, but rather one of communion, he said. "It's not a structure that exists anywhere else. It's a model that is evangelical and is based on the Gospel."
"We are all in communion with one another and we are all in communion with the pope," he said.
"It's a relationship of love and mutual support."
Collins also spoke of meeting bishops from all over the world while in residence.
And he recalled "a fabulous experience in St. Peter's (Basilica)." There, he encountered 119 seminarians from the Paris Archdiocese who were there celebrating Mass with their archbishop, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, and priests and deacons of that archdiocese.
"It was an extremely encouraging sign of the vitality of the Church in Paris."
A few days later, he met another large group of seminarians studying for the Rome Diocese.
"I was most intrigued and encouraged," he said.
In St. Peter's, the archbishop was also impressed by the chapel for Eucharistic Adoration - "an oasis for contemplative prayer" in the midst of the hectic activity of tourists.
It was a reminder, he said, of the importance of having similar oases in parish churches across our archdiocese where people can take time during a busy day to spend a few moments with Our Lord.
The Western bishops went to Rome immediately after the annual meeting of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in Cornwall, Ont.
At that meeting, Collins was elected to serve a term on the conference's influential permanent council and was also elected chair of its theology commission. He will also serve on the CCCB's program and priorities committee.