A visitor this past week came from Italy. Don Angelo Romano, the priest who is responsible for the church of St. Bartholomew on the Tiber Island, was passing through Chicago after giving a talk at a conference at the University of Notre Dame. The conference was entitled “Seed of the Church: telling the story of today’s Christian martyrs.”
The church on the Tiber Island served by Father Romano is my titular church as a cardinal priest of the Holy Roman Church. Priests and bishops always have titles, for Holy Orders is not a personal privilege but a relationship. Christ’s people are part of a priest’s life as a wife is integral to her husband’s life. A man cannot marry without a particular woman as his wife. A diocesan priest cannot be ordained without a particular church, a diocese, as the object of his love and service. As a bishop, my life is related to the Archdiocese of Chicago; that is my title. As a cardinal, I am a member of the presbyterate of Rome, responsible for a church in Rome and therefore able to serve as an advisor to the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. In fact, Don Angelo Romano takes pastoral responsibility for St. Bartholomew’s, where he serves many young people who belong to the Community of San Egidio, a group that cares for poor people and works for international peace.
He spoke at the conference at Notre Dame University because my church in Rome has become a shrine to the Christian martyrs of the last century and today. Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant martyrs are commemorated at the side altars of my church of St. Bartholomew. The St. Egidio community’s work for world peace has brought them face to face with the brutal fact of persecution of the church around the world.