MAY 24, 2004




In His Light

by Bishop Allen H. Vigneron

The prayers of Pope John Paul – a great grace

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I am writing this column as I make my way home from my week-long ad limina visit in Rome. It was a rich experience, filled with many graces and blessings. Among these was the opportunity to offer Mass both at the tomb of St. Peter and at the tomb of St. Paul, as well as to pray at the shrines of many other saints, and to assist at a solemn canonization ceremony in St. Peter’s Square.

One of the principal purposes of this pilgrimage every five years is for the bishop of a diocese to renew and deepen the communion of his local church with the Holy Father. Among the high points of this visit for me were the two occasions I had to meet with the Pope — one as part of a group of all the bishops of California and Nevada and the other, my private audience with His Holiness.

At the group audience, the Holy Father addressed us bishops with a powerful call for us to renew our commitment to conversion and to lead our priests and people in the way of penance and reconciliation. I will make my review of the Pope’s discourse the topic of a later column. Here, I want to share with you my experience of my private audience with the Holy Father.

I began by noting that the day of our meeting, May 13, was the anniversary of the attempt to assassinate him and I expressed the profound gratitude we all feel that his life was spared by God’s Providence through the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima. The Holy Father said that, indeed, he gives thanks to God for delivering him from the assassin’s bullet.

Next, I described the character of our diocese, cited some basic statistics and made a particular point of underscoring the ethnic diversity with which we are blessed. These formed the substance of our conversation.

Toward the end, the Holy Father asked particularly about religious life, about marriage and the health of family life in our diocese. I outlined for him the strengths God has blessed us with and the challenges we face. After acknowledging the difficulties of these challenges, the Holy Father pledged the support of his prayers. In taking my leave, I assured the Pope of the affection and loyalty of all of us in Oakland and I promised that he would remain in our prayers.

I left my audience deeply consoled that we, the faithful of the Oakland Diocese, are assured of remembrance in the prayers of the Holy Father. In this way there was confirmed our union with Peter, the prince of the apostles whose successor Pope John Paul II is. For us Catholic Christians, the support of the Pope’s prayers is one of the most profound ways we are one.

My experiencing the Holy Father’s solicitude for all of you and for my ministry to you is a great source of strength for me and, I hope, for you. In God’s plan, Pope John Paul II makes present in our time, Peter’s service of being a Rock upon which we can securely stand as Christ’s followers as we seek to fulfill our mission of witnessing to Christ and the power of His resurrection. The Pope’s care for us, confirmed by my visit, is one of the great graces of my pilgrimage.



Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Oakland, California encompassing all of
Alameda &
Contra Costa counties.