Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Vatican City

In Majestic Mass Pope Reaffirms Unity With Bishops

By CAROL GLATZ, CNS | Published July 7, 2005

In a solemn ceremony welcoming new archbishops from around the world, including Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, Pope Benedict XVI stressed the importance of bishops’ unity with the Holy See and their common agreement with the Christian faith.

The doctrine and faith of the church form “virtually one single family” that expresses “the same faith with just one heart and soul, the same preaching, teaching and tradition as if it had just one mouth,” he said during a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul June 29.

Unity reflects the ability of people to overcome individual differences in order to “look toward the one God,” the pope said.

At the Mass, the pope gave Archbishop Gregory and 31 other archbishops named within the last year a pallium, a circular band of white wool marked with six black crosses. The pallium is worn over the shoulders and symbolizes the archbishop’s authority and unity with the pope.

The Mass was the highlight of a pilgrimage to Italy for over 70 lay people and many priests of the Atlanta Archdiocese who came to support and pray for their newly named archbishop. An estimated 15 to 20 priests of the archdiocese made the trip to Rome. A pilgrimage was organized by the archdiocese that brought dozens of lay people and deacons and groups came under the auspices of St. Joseph Church in Marietta, and St. Theresa Church in Douglasville.

In addition, Atlanta Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue and Bishop J. Kevin Boland of Savannah, Bishop Robert J. Baker of Charleston, S.C., and Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte, N.C., all bishops of the Atlanta Province, came to the pallium Mass.

Among the other archbishops from 22 different countries receiving the pallium were U.S. Archbishops Jose H. Gomez of San Antonio, Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., and Canadian Archbishop Daniel Bohan of Regina, Saskatchewan.

Also receiving a pallium from the pope were Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland, who served as the personal secretary to Pope John Paul II for more than 30 years, and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican’s secretary of state. Though Cardinal Sodano is not a metropolitan archbishop, he received the pallium in the June 29 ceremony for his new role as dean of the College of Cardinals.

The pope was dressed in rich, red vestments, and he wore a longer, more traditional style of the pallium, which he received just a few months ago at his April 19 installation Mass as bishop of Rome.

He said in his homily that the pallium was an expression of the bishop’s apostolic mission and communion with the Petrine ministry.

Throughout history and the world, the church “visibly comes together” in its unity to the Petrine service. It is this unity that “protects each one of us from (the risk of) slipping into false autonomies that too easily turn into internal factions within the church,” he said.

The church is able to unite people of different cultures and nations because it focuses on the one God and his truth, the pope said.

Just as there is one sun that shines over the world, “the light of true preaching beams everywhere and enlightens all people who want to come to know the truth,” he said.

“Only by turning our gaze up to God … can we become truly one,” he said.

In his homily, the pope also addressed a delegation sent by Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians.

The pope said that even though the world is “full of skepticism and doubt,” it also is “rich with a longing for God.”

He called on Catholics and Orthodox to build on their common ground and pay witness to Christ.

The pope implored God to grant the churches the gift of full Christian unity “so that the splendor of truth, which is the only thing that can create unity, may become once again visible in the world.”

The pope’s appeal was met with resounding applause by the thousands of people attending the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

At the end of the Mass, Pope Benedict and Metropolitan John of Pergamum, head of the Orthodox delegation, prayed together at St. Peter’s tomb beneath the basilica’s main altar.

Archbishop Fiorenza told Catholic News Service he was particularly touched by the presence of the Orthodox delegation.

“Please God, under this pope much more will be done to further unity, to make it a reality,” he said after the ceremony.

The archbishop was accompanied by hundreds of faithful from the newly established Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. Pope John Paul II elevated what had been the largest diocese in Texas to an archdiocese in December.

Thirty members of Houston’s co-cathedral chorus sang together with an Italian choir for the pallium Mass.

During the ceremony, each archbishop came up individually to the pope, bowed and knelt as the pope placed the woolen stole over his head.

The pope then warmly shook hands with each one as a sign of peace and, with many, he engaged in a brief conversation.

Archbishop Gregory told CNS that when he knelt before the pope, the pope said, “Thank you for all you have done for the church.”

Archbishop Gregory said that, while serving as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2001 to 2004, he met 13 times with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

“There is an affection there that comes from friendship,” Archbishop Gregory said.

Archbishop Gregory’s three-year term coincided with the U.S. church’s major efforts to deal with the clergy sex abuse crisis; Cardinal Ratzinger’s office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was the lead Vatican agency for handling policy and individual accusations.

“He always was an ally. His was the office that seemed to understand most profoundly what we were facing and that supported us most strongly. He has always been an ally to the church in the United States,” Archbishop Gregory said.

Because of an unexpectedly high number of people wanting to attend the Mass, many of the pilgrims who came from the United States and other countries could not get into the basilica, even though they had tickets.

The Atlanta pilgrims were present at the pallium Mass in full force.

Father Brian Higgins, vocations director for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, said that he was about 100 yards away from the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica, where he attended the Mass “along with 70,000 of our closest friends.”

Punctuated with Gregorian chant and with readings in Italian, English and Spanish, the Mass showcased the “universality of the church,” Father Higgins said.

It was his first experience at a pallium Mass, though he has traveled to Rome many times, and it was bittersweet and poignant to see Pope Benedict.

“It was powerful. Your heart still breaks for the loss of John Paul II, but at the same time, it was great to see Pope Benedict and see him so strong,” he said. “He was a lot more dynamic than I thought he’d be. He smiled a lot.”

Witnessing the historic event for Archbishop Gregory was a true honor, Father Higgins said.

“We were all just so proud of Archbishop Gregory and so proud to be there representing the Archdiocese of Atlanta,” he said, adding that the large group of Atlanta pilgrims who persevered in the hot Italian weather was a testament to the great faith in the archdiocese.

“Look at all the people who came to support Archbishop Gregory and how much that says about the Catholicity of Atlanta. These people weren’t there to see the sites. In that kind of heat, they were definitely there for the archbishop.”

Father Frank McNamee, pastor of St. Peter Chanel Church in Roswell and the director of priest personnel for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, called the Mass a “powerful experience.”

“To see Archbishop Gregory receive the pallium and to see all these archbishops from all over together—it was really a great honor to be a part of that,” he said. “But also witnessing Pope Benedict’s very first pallium Mass, I feel we were very much a part of history.”

The Mass also showed that the Catholic Church is resilient.

“It was amazing to see 70,000 people, to see that the church is still strong and the faith is still strong,” he said. “It was a real statement of faith.”


Contributing to this story were Cindy Wooden in Rome and Erika Anderson in Atlanta.