Archbishop William E. Lori presented two gifts, gave a description of the Baltimore Archdiocese, and accepted blessings for the opening of a new city school during a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Tuesday, the Baltimore archdiocese announced in a multimedia message to its half-million members Wednesday.
Visiting Rome with fellow bishops from Baltimore, and others from across the mid-Atlantic region, Lori presented Francis with a “spiritual bouquet” ― a booklet that contained messages and written prayers from members of his archdiocese ― along with a less overtly religious offering: a Ravens jersey inscribed with the number 8, in honor of quarterbacking sensation Lamar Jackson, and the name “Francis.”
The booklet was assembled as a celebration of the upcoming 50th anniversary of Francis’ ordination to the priesthood, which takes place Dec. 13.
Lori said the jersey, which was signed by Jackson and Ravens coach John Harbaugh, was meant as a “more concrete” goodwill gesture.
“I’m happy to report that the pope gave it the thumbs-up,” Lori said in the video, which was recorded in Rome. “It doesn’t mean he’s necessarily going to be rooting for us when we inevitably get to the Super Bowl, but it certainly doesn’t hurt having the pope have our jersey.”
More significantly, Lori said he spoke with Francis about the Baltimore archdiocese, first describing the diversity of its neighborhoods and its missions, as well as some of its needs, then telling him about Mother Mary Lange Catholic School, the new elementary school the archdiocese is building in West Baltimore.
“The Holy Father, who served in a large urban diocese and knows a lot about people in cities with needs, was very, very enthusiastic [about] the project, and he gave his blessing,” Lori said.
The pope, he added, has the people of Baltimore in his prayers.
"He asked me to convey to you his love and support,” the archbishop said. “I can say to you that we have a shepherd in Pope Francis who wants to know us and who certainly loves us and certainly cares about us.”
Lori, Auxiliary Bishop Adam J. Parker and Bishop Denis J. Madden of the Baltimore Archdiocese are also in Rome this week, along with bishops from the surrounding region (Washington, D.C., Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, West Virginia and the Military Archdiocese), the Catholic Review, the newspaper for the archdiocese, reported Wednesday.
Diocesan bishops meet the pope in Rome to report on the state of their dioceses every five years as part of what is called an “Ad Limina” visit.