ORLANDO, Fla. — Seeing the words “remarks by the apostolic nuncio” on the agenda of the U.S. bishops’ spring meeting in Orlando today reminded me of the last time Archbishop Pietro Sambi addressed a general assembly of the bishops. Last November the nuncio made the first official announcement that Pope Benedict XVI would visit the United States for the first time as pope in April.
Would the Vatican diplomat’s talk make big news this time?
When the time came for Archbishop Sambi to speak, Cardinal Francis E. George, president of the bishops’ conference, skipped over it without a word. After a coffee break the cardinal announced that Archbishop Sambi had indicated he did not wish to speak but changed his mind after encouragement from some of the bishops.
Saying that he was making “an effort to speak less,” the archbishop said Pope Benedict had told him he had gone to the United States “to confirm my brothers in the faith, but they confirmed me in hope.” He urged the bishops to “trust more our faith, be more near to our priests and more creative in our pastoral programs.”
Archbishop Sambi ended his brief talk with a reminder of the need for humility. “I’m sure that we are all very important people,” he said, “but the church was existing before us and will exist after us.” But in the end each will have to answer God’s question: What did you do to make the world a better place?