By Bishop Edward J. Burns
Publisher of The Texas Catholic
VATICAN CITY — Today is Monday, Jan. 20, the first day of our Ad Limina visit. And what a joy it was for us to begin our Ad Limina visit with the Mass at the Tomb of St. Peter. And it was powerful.
It was led by his eminence, Cardinal (Daniel) DiNardo, the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and he just gave a wonderful homily about how in the Gospel today, Jesus asked (his apostles), “And who do the people say that I am?” But then he looked at the apostles and said, “And who do you say that I am?” To which it was Peter who responded, “You are the Christ. You are the son of God.” And then how Jesus affirmed that as truly being a gift of the father, that gift of faith, and then he said to him, “Peter, you are rock. And on this rock, I will build my church. And the jaws of death shall not prevail against it.”
What a powerful moment to celebrate Mass there at the tomb of that humble fisherman who had such a love for the Lord and such ability to proclaim who Jesus Christ was and for us now to testify to Jesus, who is the Christ, the one who has come to redeem us, the one who is the son of God. So from that celebration and in that celebration, did we, as bishops, fulfill one of our responsibilities and that is to go before the threshold of the tomb of the martyrs: the tombs of St. Peter, and next we will go to the tomb of St. Paul, whereby we, as shepherds, profess our faith and to profess our faith before that tomb — it was powerful.
I have to tell you that as we were walking through the Basilica and as we approached the tomb, we had to go down these steps and, of course, wearing everything that we were wearing in preparation for the Mass we had our miters on; but there comes a moment that you cannot enter with a miter on because you have to now stoop and bend over. And I found that to be so symbolic of the fact that we have to humble ourselves coming before the tomb of St. Peter to profess our faith and to fulfill our apostolic ministry.
It was after that Mass we had a wonderful encounter with the successor of St. Peter, Pope Francis. Pope Francis greeted us and I had the privilege of presenting … two seminarians (representing all the seminarians in Rome) Alex Fry and Ismael Rodriguez to the Holy Father. But then to have an encounter with the successor of St. Peter, I was absolutely humbled and privileged by that. I had heard that the Holy Father gave a good amount of time to the bishops during their ad limina visits and I heard upwards of two hours plus and I thought to myself, “two hours-plus? That’s a significant amount of time.”
I have to tell you, we met with the Holy Father today for two and a half hours. It went like that. It was a very candid conversation. It was a very fraternal one. It was very open and very honest. It was an opportunity for us to see our connectedness with the man who upholds a Petrine ministry. And our connectedness to him is truly what makes this beautiful Roman Catholic Church—because we are connected to the one to whom Jesus said, “You are rock. And on this rock I will build my church.”
And so we had a wonderful conversation with the successor of St. Peter, and it was an absolute joy when I had the chance to meet the Holy Father and introduce myself as Bishop Edward Burns, the bishop of the Diocese of Dallas. I said to him, “Holy Father, I bring with me all the prayers, the affection, and the fidelity of the people of the church, of the Diocese of Dallas.”
I want to let you know that I approached the threshold of the tomb of St. Peter and placed before him and his intercession, all your needs and prayers.
Bishop Edward J. Burns, the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Dallas, has recorded daily recollections during the ad limina visit. They can be found at @TexasCatholic, TexasCatholic.com, @BishopBurns, @DallasCath and at cathdal.org. Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly was unable to attend the ad limina as he is recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident.