He Brings Us Christ

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3/31/2008

With faith-filled joy and enthusiasm, we welcome our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, on his first pastoral visit to the United States as chief shepherd of the universal Church. Our joy is rooted in the realization that Pope Benedict XVI is the successor of St. Peter in his ministry as head of the Church and vicar of Christ.

Our enthusiastic welcome grows out of the recognition that this is also a time to renew our faith and deepen our hope as we strive to bring the Gospel and light of Christ into the world. Pope Benedict confirms us in our commitment to Christ and announces the faith we hold so dear.

Echoing Christ's Gospel of Life Back to Top

The pope comes to us as a preeminent teacher of the faith. His first encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) reminds us that “the Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her threefold responsibility, of proclaiming the Word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia). These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable” (25).

As we welcome our Holy Father, we reflect with him on who we are as members of the Church and disciples of the Lord. In his post- synodal apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (Sacrament of Love), Benedict teaches us that “the Eucharist makes us discover that Christ, risen from the dead, is our contemporary in the mystery of the Church, his body” (97). These deeply spiritual reflections on the Church and the Eucharist find beautiful resonance in Benedict’s most recent encyclical, Spe Salvi (On Christian Hope).

In the course of his visit, we will look to the Holy Father for guidance and encouragement: for families that face the challenges of a culture that lends little support to faithful married love; for young people, many of whom God is calling to religious life or the priesthood; and for Catholic schools, religious education programs and Catholic institutions of higher learning. Benedict’s message will help sustain our efforts to build a good and just society grounded in genuine moral values.

The pope’s itinerary brings him to the seat of our nation’s government (including a visit with President George W. Bush) and to meetings with my brother bishops, with educators and with leaders in interfaith dialogue. In New York, the pope will share with the United Nations his message of peace and experience, and will gather prayerfully with young people, priests, religious and seminarians. In both Washington and New York, Benedict will celebrate huge open-air Masses during which he will clearly echo the words of Christ’s Gospel of life and salvation.

Faith Reaffirmed Back to Top

In greeting the pope, we are especially mindful of the positive signs of renewal in the Church in the United States, particularly in our wide-ranging catechetical efforts. The Holy Father’s visit will strengthen our commitment to the goal of Catholic faith formation in all of its forms.

In gathering around the vicar of Christ, we renew our sense of commitment to see that the threads of the encounter with Christ and his life-giving message are woven into the fabric of our human experience, our society and our culture. What the Holy Father brings us is the reaffirmation of our Catholic faith, and we salute him so joyfully.

Last January, Benedict sent a personal message of encouragement to the tens of thousands of young people gathered in Washington for the annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life. He expressed his gratitude for the commitment of so many young Americans to promoting respect for the dignity and inalienable rights of every human being, including the smallest and most defenseless members of our human family. He also told us how much he looked forward to his visit to the United States and assured us of his affection and his solidarity in prayer.

Now, as we welcome the vicar of Christ, the successor to Peter, the bishop of Rome, the chief shepherd of the universal Church, we do so knowing that he brings us Christ. We know also that our faith can be renewed and our commitment to the Lord confirmed by the caring pastoral ministry of our beloved Pope Benedict XVI.