by Tim Puet
COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNS) – Pope Benedict XVI wants the Catholic Church in America to be in the forefront of reviving Catholicism worldwide, the apostolic nuncio to the United States said in Columbus.
“The church in the United States should lead the entire church in the world” in a revitalization effort, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano said. “This is a great task, but you have the determination and the grace to do it. This I know is the vision of the Holy Father regarding the church in the United States.”
The archbishop was speaking to an audience of seminarians and benefactors of the Pontifical College Josephinum at its annual rector’s dinner April 23. He called on the American church to go beyond its mission of evangelizing the United States and “to be missionaries not only to the Third World, but especially to the countries of Europe.
“Christianity (in Europe) in some way has lost its strength and needs an example,” he said, noting “very positive signs of growth” in vocations to the priesthood and the religious life in the United States.
Archbishop Vigano said he especially wanted to direct his message to young people, particularly those studying for the priesthood at the Josephinum.
The institution has experienced substantial growth in recent years and currently has an enrollment of more than 180 men, its highest in 25 years. They represent 29 dioceses from all over the United States, including six that sent seminarians to the institution for the first time this year, and their ethnic and cultural backgrounds echo the diversity of the American church as a whole.
The nuncio, who serves as the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States and is based in Washington, also serves as chancellor of the Josephinum.
“I’ve been taken by surprise since I arrived here … because everywhere that I’ve been, everything has been much beyond all of the imaginations and the expectations I had,” he said.
The archbishop spoke in general terms about the state of American Catholicism, but did not specifically mention in his 10-minute remarks the current tension between bishops and the federal government in connection with a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that most health plans cover the cost of contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can induce abortion.