WINDSOR TERRACE — Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto described the ad limina visit to Rome Nov. 11-15 as a pilgrimage.
The bishops of New York state’s eight dioceses traveled to the Vatican for an official visit to report on the state of their dioceses, and during their time in Rome, the bishops celebrated Mass at the city’s four major basilicas.
“We were together at this important meeting and important place in our church,” Bishop Chappetto said. “We bonded even more over there than we normally do.”
The meetings between bishops and officials from the Roman Curia usually occur every five years. But because of the change in popes, it had been almost eight years since the Brooklyn bishops had been to Rome for an ad limina visit.
The meeting with Pope Francis on the last day of the trip was the highlight for the bishops from the Diocese of Brooklyn. The bishops said that in the past, the pope would give a presentation, but this time, Pope Francis wanted them to share what it is like to be a bishop in Brooklyn and Queens.
“The time with the Holy Father was really good,” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said on his Currents News segment “Into The Deep” after his return from Rome. “He spent two hours with all of the bishops of the province. He said, ‘The floor is yours. Ask any question.’”
The state’s bishops also met with officials from all of the Vatican offices. Auxiliary Bishop James Massa, diocesan vicar for education, mentioned one issue raised by the Congregation for Catholic Education — the challenge facing the church in making Catholic education available to Hispanic families. The diocese has done well, but there is still work to be done, Bishop Massa said.
Another subject the Vatican’s education office raised: competing in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education. “The traditional Catholic school that excelled in teaching the basics is not enough for the market we are trying to tap today,” Bishop Massa said.
For Bishop Chappetto, a discussion with Archbishop Jorge Carlos Patron Wong, Secretary for Seminaries of the Congregation for the Clergy, was particularly helpful to his ministry as vicar of clergy. He said Archbishop Wong is aware of priestly formation programs and other documents from the Vatican that still need to be implemented on the local level. The word the archbishop stressed was “accompaniment.”
“He encouraged us to work closely with our newly ordained to continue to assist them in their ongoing formation, especially in the first five years of their priesthood,” Bishop Chappetto said.
Bishop DiMarzio presented his findings from his apostolic visitation to Buffalo, whose diocese is facing allegations of a cover-up of clergy sex abuse, prior to his trip to Rome.
Overall, Bishop DiMarzio said his week in Rome was “positive,” except when he discovered that an allegation of sexual abuse was made against him.
The bishop immediately and categorically denied the accusation. He said the pope already knew about the accusation and hoped the matter would be cleared up quickly for the good of the diocese.
“I have no idea who this person is. I have no recollection of the person,” Bishop DiMarzio told Currents News.
Mitchell Garabedian, who is representing the alleged victim, said he will file a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Newark when New Jersey’s two-year look-back window opens in December.
The bishops were coming back from Mass at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls when they heard about the allegation. They joined together in prayer.
“We could see the wound it inflicted on him and we shared in the pain of that wound,” Bishop Massa said. “In the days that followed, we continued to share with him the support he was receiving through emails and text messages sent to us.”
Even amid the busy schedules and the challenges of the trip to Rome, the bishops returned to Brooklyn and Queens rejuvenated as if they had just gone on a retreat, according to Bishop Chappetto.
“When you come back from a retreat, you are renewed spiritually,” Bishop Chappetto said. “I think I have come back renewed spiritually and better prepared for my ministry.”