Maronite Catholic Bishop Gregory John Mansour believes that Billy Graham can teach the Catholic Church a few things about the New Evangelization.
“Billy Graham got it right. It’s all about just preaching the Gospel and letting the person look at the shame, and the sin, and the guilt of their past and saying, ‘Lord have mercy, let me be part of your kingdom,’” said Bishop Mansour, who leads the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn.
“So I want all of us as Catholics to focus on that essence of being a Catholic, being a Christian, preaching the gospel and living it, beginning with me,” he told EWTN News on May 17.
Bishop Mansour is in Rome May 15-19 for the first “ad limina” visit specifically created for U.S. bishops from Eastern Catholic churches.
“We have many similar concerns, so we try to encourage one another,” said Bishop Mansour, quoting the Old Testament Proverb “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens the faith of another.”
On May 17, the 14 Eastern rite bishops that make up the group concelebrated the Divine Liturgy at the papal basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Praying in the pews were a few fellow pilgrims from the U.S. and many more local Italians who were drawn in by the distinctive Eastern chant and ritual.
“Wonderful, the communion is wonderful,” said Bishop Mansour reviewing the past few days spent with his brother bishops. He said the idea of an “ad limina” is that “pastors would become pilgrims again – and we pastors became pilgrims again in Rome.”
By praying at the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul he feels they have each been renewed, through “the grace of God’s Holy Spirit,” with the ability to be “selfless, courageous, stop-at-nothing pastors, evangelizers. So that’s why we came.”
The bishops represent the Armenian, Byzantine, Chaldean, Maronite, Melkite, Syriac, Romanian, Ruthenian and Ukrainian Catholic churches. Although rooted in an Eastern Christian tradition, each church is in full communion with Rome. They estimate that their congregations make up between 10 and 15 percent of the U.S. Catholic population.
Bishop Mansour described an Eastern Catholic church on a Sunday is “a beautiful combination” of recent immigrants and those with more ancient roots to “the old countries,” along with “anybody else who darkens our door.” His own ancestors trace their heritage to Lebanon, Syria and Palestine.
Tomorrow the bishops will have their first “ad limina” meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.
“I want to talk to him about the New Evangelization,” said Bishop Mansour.
“To me, that is the essence of being a Christian: how we can re-preach the Gospels, beginning with ourselves, and particularly with the idea of the first Pentecost which brought about a life-giving repentance.”