By BISHOP EDWARD J. BURNS
The bishops of Alaska have been in Rome for the past week meeting with officials of the Vatican. This visit is referred to as the “ad limina apostolorum”, meaning, “at the threshold of the apostles”. Every five years bishops are called to the Vatican to give an account of their work within their diocese. First and foremost, this is a pilgrimage to pray at the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul. We celebrated Masses at the sites where both of these men were martyred for their profession of the faith. While the details of St. Paul’s martyrdom are a bit sketchy, it is understood that St. Peter was crucified upside down.
The bishops of Alaska are part of Region XII of the U.S. Bishops which make up the northwest section of the country including the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. We met with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, at the beginning of the week. During this meeting, each bishop gave the Pope a description of our life and ministry.
The bishops agreed to present different topics to the Holy Father, and I accepted to share with him the work that has taken place in creating a safe environment within our dioceses and parish communities. This June we will mark 10 years since the U.S .bishops have promulgated the ‘Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People’. Since this Charter was put into place, the Catholic Church in the US has trained more than 2.1 million clergy, employees and volunteers in how to create a safe environment. This work has also prepared more than 5.2 million children to recognize abuse and protect themselves. Background checks have been conducted on more than 1.8 million volunteers and employees, 166,000 educators, 52,000 clerics and 6,000 men preparing for ordination. We were pleased to be informed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that the Church in the U.S. has taken the lead in addressing the issue of sexual abuse which has permeated all of society. Nevertheless, I mentioned to our Holy Father that much more needs to be done. First and foremost in being pastorally present to those who have been abused, to increase our collaboration and communication with others about this issue and to continue to restore trust among the members of the Church.
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