When in Rome

Oct. 21-27, 2004
When in Rome
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
Bishop James Moynihan Travels to the Vatican for Ad Limina Visit

Eighteen bishops from New York State’s eight dioceses were in Rome for their ad limina visits from Oct. 3 to 9. This was Bishop James Moynihan’s second ad limina visit as ordinary of the Syracuse Diocese; his first took place in February of 1998. The bishop admitted much has happened within the Catholic Church in the U.S. between those visits; however, this visit was more relaxed for him. “I was with my old classmate, Cardinal Edward Egan,” the bishop chuckled, “so this time I was a little more at ease.”

Each bishop got to spend about 10 minutes alone with Pope John Paul II in his library. Bishop Moynihan said the pope was obviously more frail this visit, but even more of an inspiration. The bishops also met with representatives of the various offices of the Vatican. The cause for sainthood for Mother Marianne Cope was also a focal point for Bishop Moynihan. He told reporters for the Catholic News Service that the theological and historical commissions for the Congregation for Saints’ Causes had unanimously approved Mother Marianne for beatification. Bishop Moynihan said he hopes the proclamations clearing the way for her beatification will be issued within months.

One issue the bishop personally raised with Vatican officials was his concern about the tone and wording of documents released by the Vatican. He said he felt it “needed to be brought up,” but said his comments got “mixed reviews.” He also spoke about Catholic education including schools, RCIA programs and Formation For Ministry. “I explained how inner-city schools down state struggle with increased tuition and the elementary school challenges with the diminishing upstate populations,” Bishop Moynihan said. “Our [Syracuse Diocese] high schools are fairly stable right now and, in fact, have more students than we did six years ago. I’m very hopeful with John Cataldo [superintendent for Catholic schools] and our technology achievements.”

The bishop had to present the Vatican with a 150-page report on the state of the diocese, along with a three-page summary of that report. He explained that preparation for the ad limina visit began last spring. The entire trip was not all business, the bishop noted. Bishop Moynihan said he enjoyed tremendously the amount of time spent socializing with his brother bishops. A favorite restaurant of Bishop Moynihan’s, Alfredo’s, was one of the stops the group made. Bishop Moynihan studied in Rome as a young priest from 1954 to 1961 and his trip to Rome brought back memories. And, his favorite portion of the visit was the hours he spent praying at the altar of Ss. Simon and Jude at St. Peter’s Basilica, something he often did during his years in Rome.

The bishop said this was his last ad limina visit, but remembered also traveling with Bishop Kearney from his native Rochester Diocese when Pope John XXIII was pontiff. Back then, the bishops visited with the pope in groups, Bishop Moynihan said. It was dark when his group visit Pope John XXIII so the lights were on his library. His admirers noticed the light burning from their position at St. Peter’s Square. They cheered until the pope came out to greet them.

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