Today the Bishops of Ireland began their ten-day Ad Limina visit to meet with Pope Francis and senior officials of the Holy See. Ahead of their meetings, the bishops concelebrated morning Mass at the tomb of Saint Peter in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome. The Principal Celebrant for this Mass was Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.
In his homily, Archbishop Eamon said, “We gather as bishops, conscious that with all the bishops of the Church, and with the Pope at our head, we form a single “college” which succeeds in every generation the “college” of the Twelve Apostles, with Peter at their head, which Christ instituted as the foundation for the Church. We pray therefore in a special way at this moment for Pope Francis, thanking God for the powerful witness and challenge the Holy Father continues to present us.
“We gather as priests to celebrate Eucharist – the ultimate expression and source of our communion with Christ and with one another. We gather as shepherds, bringing to this place the needs and intentions of our people, religious and priests.”
Archbishop Eamon said that the bishops “are conscious of the pressures and struggles which beset our people, the internal struggles that can disrupt harmony, the wolves which sometimes attack the flock, and the weighty responsibility for their care that has been laid on our shoulders. If it were left to us, of course, we know in our hearts that we would inevitably fail as shepherds – the flock would be scattered, communion shattered. But it is not left to us. Here at the tomb of Saint Peter there is consolation in the knowledge that the Lord chose Peter – one who could profess his love and faith so powerfully – yet, when the pressure was on, thrice deny the Lord so miserably.”
Archbishop Eamon said that one of the most moving lines in the Gospels for him is in the Gospel of Luke when the Lord predicts Peter’s denial, but assures him: Peter, I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned back, strengthen my brothers. He said, “Every year at the Chrism Mass, when we gather with our priests to renew our priestly commitment, there comes a point when we turn to our people and ask them to pray for us, their priests and bishops, that the Lord may pour out his gifts abundantly upon us and keep us faithful as ministers of Christ, the High Priest.”
Acknowledging the prayers of priests, religious and laity in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon said, “As we gather here this morning we know that many of our people, priests and religious back at home are praying for us during this ad limina visit. Their prayer today, and every day, strengthens us, and in turn God pours out on us the graces that we need to strengthen them, our brothers and sisters.”
The bishops in turn are praying for their brother priests in Ireland. Archbishop Eamon said, “Here at the tomb of Saint Peter, let us pray in a special way to strengthen our brother priests in Ireland. Their ministry and well-being is dear to all of us. We are aware that their smaller numbers, increased workload and ever more challenging pastoral situations has taken its toll on them. We thank God today for their resilience, dedication and generosity, and for the kindness and support offered to them, and us, by our people and religious.”
Concluding his homily, Archbishop Eamon said, “This place and moment is therefore truly a place and moment of communion – with Peter and the other successors of the apostles right up to Pope Francis; with each other and with our fellow bishops around the world; with the prayers and needs of our people, religious and priests; but, above all, this is a place and moment of communion with Christ – the “priest for ever”, the “priest like Melchizedek of old”, the “Son who learnt to obey through suffering”, but who is “the source of our salvation”. Amen.”
- Read the full text of Archbishop Eamon’s homily on catholicbishops.ie.
- Click here for more on the Ad Limina visit.