On the walls of my office hang photographs of several of my meetings with the popes, Successors of Peter, over my past 35 years as bishop. They begin with an endearing picture with Pope John Paul I — I was privileged to be in Rome for his entire pontificate of 33 days, from his day of election to the day before his funeral. There are several photos of various visits with Blessed John Paul II, culminating with a poignant last picture with a very weakened pope three months before his death. The last pictures on the wall are with Pope Benedict XVI, taken at our March 2012 “ad limina” meeting with him. These pictures now take on added significance with the pending resignation of our Holy Father. Of course, what is missing from this gallery is a photo with Pope Paul VI who named me a bishop in 1976 but with whom I never had a personal meeting. As I look back over 50 years as a priest, begun in the days of Pope John XXIII, and 35 years as bishop, I am struck by the power of the Holy Spirit in selecting and guiding the universal church through the ministries of all these varied Successors of St. Peter. So different they were from one another, yet all so much in love with Christ and the church. One who serves When I think of the ministry of Peter in the life of the church, I am drawn to the section of St. Luke’s Gospel just before the Passion narrative. At the end of the supper, The Twelve are bickering among themselves about who is most important and Jesus interrupts them:
. . . the greatest among you must bear himself like the youngest, the one who rules like one who serves. For who is greater — the one who sits at table or the servant who waits on him? Surely the one who sits at table. Yet I am among you like a servant. You have stood firmly by me in my times of trial and I now entrust to you the kingdom that my Father entrusted to me . . . Simon, Simon, take heed. Satan has been given leave to sift all of you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail; and when you are restored, give strength to your brothers” (Luke 22:26-29, 31). In various ways over these years each of these Successors of Peter have given strength to our diocese and to me. The ministry of Peter in the life of the church is strengthening for all of us. I ask you, now, to join me in thanking God for the pastoral ministry of His Holiness, Benedict XVI. Grant him strength in frailty, comfort in sorrow and serenity amid trials. Now we turn to the Holy Spirit: “Light in us a new fire as a Successor of Peter is chosen for the church”: O God, eternal shepherd, who govern your flock with unfailing care, grant in your boundless fatherly love a pastor for your Church who will please you by his holiness and to show us watchful care. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
— USCCB prayer card
+John F. Kinney
Bishop of Saint Cloud