Elder Ballard Visits Rome
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"An apostle in Rome."
That phrase evokes scenes from Christianity's early history and, in light of recent events, represents a new moment in LDS and Catholic relations.
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited Rome, Sept. 13 and 14. During this historic visit, he was hosted at the Vatican by Catholic officials.
With Elder Ballard were Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy; Bishop Richard C. Edgley, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric; Elder Gérald Caussé, first counselor in the Europe Area presidency; and Massimo de Feo, president of the Rome Italy Stake.
Cardinal William Joseph Levada, one of the highest-ranking cardinals, gave Elder Ballard and the other LDS leaders a courteous welcome.
"Cardinal Levada, who is Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, expressed appreciation for the good relations with the LDS and Catholic churches," Elder Ballard said.
They spoke of mutual friends and associates, The Rev. George Niederauer, formerly bishop of the Catholic Church's Salt Lake Diocese and now archbishop of San Francisco; and The Rev. John C. Wester, current bishop of the Salt Lake Diocese.
"Cardinal Levada mentioned the successful visit of Cardinal Francis George to BYU and Church headquarters in Salt Lake City," Elder Ballard added. (Please see Church News, Feb. 27, 2010, p. 10, for a report on the visit by Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I. President of the United States conference of Catholic Bishops.)
Cardinal Levada has visited Salt Lake City several times, most recently to attend ceremonies commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Cathedral of the Madeleine in 2009. President Thomas S. Monson was one of the speakers during the commemoration, and several other General Authorities also attended anniversary events. (Please see Church News, Aug. 15, 2009. p. 3).
Elder Ballard summed up the visit with Cardinal Levada, saying, "We had some very good discussions. They were mostly about values and where we could stand together on issues that affect all of us."
On Sept. 14, Elder Ballard and the other LDS leaders met with Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Interfaith Dialogue.
As with Cardinal Levada, they spoke with Cardinal Tauran of common interests and values. Bishop Edgley explained the Church's humanitarian efforts and he and Elder Ballard expressed gratitude for the work done by Catholic organizations to serve those in need.
"He was cordial and receptive," Elder Ballard said. "The conversation was friendly and respectful."
Of their visit with the two cardinals, Elder Ballard spoke of common interests the LDS Church and Catholic churches share. "We're interested in moral values. We're interested in marriage. We're interested in the family. We're interested in those basic fundamentals that are jointly of interest to, I think, all people of faith," he said.
Further, he said, "We don't know all the answers … but we know this: The way the world is unraveling, all of us need each other to take a stand for religious liberty, which we believe is going to become a real issue. It is now, and we think it will become even more critical in the future. Those who care need to stand together and have their voices heard. People of faith have just simply got to speak out. They've got to be together. And that's the purpose of our visits."
Elder Rasband, Elder Caussé, President de Feo and Francesco di Lillo of public affairs met also with Marco Scurria, an Italian member of the European Parliament and Loris Facchinetti, Delegate of the Mayor of Rome on Science, Culture and Mediterranean Issues.
The LDS leaders enjoyed meeting with Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, the Under Secretary of State for the Vatican. "He was kind enough to take us out on the patio overlooking Rome and the Basilica," said Elder Ballard. "He was very appreciative of our Church's positive support of family values. We also had a meaningful meeting with Archbishop Brian Farrell who is the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity."
While in Rome, Elder Ballard and the other Brethren met with members in the Rome Italy Stake center and with missionaries. They also visited the site selected for the Rome Italy Temple.