VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Praying together at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul and meeting Pope Benedict XVI should be a moment for bishops to reconfirm and strengthen their faith, said Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston.

The cardinal was the principal celebrant and homilist at a Mass Nov. 4 in the grotto of St. Peter’s Basilica in a chapel before the saint’s tomb.

Concelebrating were the bishops of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut — the first group of U.S. bishops making their “ad limina” visits to the Vatican to report on the status of their dioceses.

The Ad Limina visit of Archbishop Charles Chaput and the bishops of Pennsylvania takes place from Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011 to  Saturday, Dec. 10

In his homily, the cardinal told his fellow bishops that after Jesus’ arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, “Peter flees. He’s trying to follow the Lord at a safe distance, something we all try to do at one time or another. But Peter discovers it’s impossible; you can only follow the Lord up close.”

After the Resurrection, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him, because love is the measure of faith, the cardinal said.

“Jesus doesn’t ask Peter if he’s excelled in his intellectual prowess or his organization skills or his fundraising capacity or his Myers-Briggs score. Jesus only asks, ‘Do you love me?'” he said.

Cardinal O’Malley said love of the Lord was a prerequisite for Peter’s ministry and is a prerequisite for the ministry of bishops today.

Peter’s love for the Lord brought him to Rome, the cardinal said, but — according to legend — as persecution grew Peter decided to flee again. Leaving the city, he saw the risen Lord and asked him, “Quo vadis?” (“Where are you going?”), and Jesus replied he was going to Rome to be crucified again. Peter renewed his faith and returned to the city where he met a martyr’s death.

“Each of us has gone through a ‘quo vadis’ moment or two in our vocation as bishops,” the cardinal said. “Hopefully, our being together at the tomb of Peter and close to Benedict will renew us in our generosity, courage and faith in following Jesus up close so that we can say with all our hearts what Peter said, ‘Lord you know all things. You know that I love you.'”