By Tim Harfmann
A contingent of U.S. bishops spent their Thanksgiving Day with Pope Francis.
A group picture showed the bishops from New Jersey and Pennsylvania with the Holy Father. The meeting was the highlight of their ad limina visit to the Vatican, when they shared detailed reports on the life of the Church in their dioceses.
The term “ad limina” means the bishops are making a pilgrimage as the successors of the Apostles.
“When you take a look at the story of the acts of the Apostles, it wasn’t always easy. But there was always a direction of where the Holy Spirit was guiding them. And I think that we’re at a similar moment in the history of the Church, too,” said Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The bishops’ meeting with the Holy Father lasted more than two hours. In that time a major topic — the clerical sexual abuse crisis — was discussed.
American bishops asked for the release of the report on the Vatican’s investigation into ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick
He had served in New Jersey and in Washington as archbishop, and was laicized last year for alleged abuse in the 1980s.
Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey said the McCarrick case was one of several incidents that hurt the Church’s reputation, including the Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical abuse and the allegation by the former Vatican ambassador to the U.S. that McCarrick’s wrongdoing wasn’t being investigated.
“Those three things just unleashed a reaction that at times was very angry, at times was very desperate, at times was almost hopeless,” Cardinal Tobin explained.
The bishops believe publishing the Vatican’s investigation on McCarrick could restore trust.
“That’s all we’ve been accused. If you read the Pennsylvania grand jury report: coverup, coverup, coverup. And this would be one way in which we can express transparency, too, that okay, we went up the chain to see where the mistakes were made,” said Bishop Lawrence Persico of Erie, Pennsylvania.
“My hope is that it’s going to be true and it’s going to be complete,” added Cardinal Tobin.
Cardinal Tobin said Pope Francis told him the report will be released, but didn’t give a time frame.