News from around the Archdiocese of Liverpool
On Friday 28 September at the conclusion of their Ad Limina Apostolorum visit, the Bishops of England and Wales met with Pope Francis for over two hours in what was described as ‘a most remarkable and intimate experience’.
The Bishops asked the Holy Father for a message to take back to their dioceses, it was simple: ‘we are to live the gift of our faith with joy’. Joy was his great emphasis. He explained that this joy is rooted firmly in our relationship with Jesus. It is a joy of knowing that he is with us; of knowing the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives, drawing and guiding us towards the will of God; a joy of knowing our Heavenly Father is waiting for us, longing to hold us in his embrace of loving mercy. This is the joy of the faith by which we are to live. He added that this joy is the source of lasting peace in our hearts and lives, no matter what our circumstances.
Even in this time of turmoil, the Holy Father is so clearly rooted in God and blessed by God. His peace is secure. His life is serene. He showed the Bishops his heart, it is the heart of a loving father.
The Bishops affirmed their deep communion with him and promised him their love, support and prayers, expressing confidently these sentiments on behalf of all the faithful Catholics of England and Wales.
The Bishops spoke with the Holy Father about the difficulties of fulfilling their role as bishops. In turn he reflected on the importance of prayer and preaching in our lives, and of paternal closeness to our priests and people, with care and with firm justice. He spoke of the encouragement he wishes to give to priests today, who can sometimes feel vulnerable in the face of difficult circumstances, in a critical environment. He spoke, movingly, of the wounds inflicted by abuse and neglect, wounds that wreak such harm in the lives of its victims and in the life of the Church. Wherever they are found, these are wounds in the Body of Christ and are painful to touch. He encouraged the Bishops, in their pastoral work, never to neglect even the tiny flames of faith that exist in so many communities and people.
During their visit the Bishops were given a warm welcome from all the departments of the Roman Curia. They were asked to speak freely about their endeavours and problems, and in the officials of the Holy See found a spirit of true cooperation. Everywhere they were encouraged and given helpful advice, ‘We have seen clear evidence that the life of the Catholic communities of England and Wales is generally well respected and even admired in Rome’. Their reports of the Eucharistic Congress ‘Adoremus' were well received, as was the strength of the compassionate outreach to those in need.
In encouraging this work of outreach, Pope Francis urged the Bishops always to walk with those engaged in its projects so as to draw them nearer to the Lord who is the source of compassion and mercy.
The Bishops celebrated Mass together in the four great Roman basilicas, at the tomb of St Peter and the tomb of St Paul and in a statement said, ‘Our pilgrimage has been richly blessed and we are glad to share this sense of the deep encouragement and powerful grace we have received.
‘Pope Francis commended us to our Blessed Lady, Mary our Mother, reflecting beautifully on her role as the “untier of knots”, a deep devotion in his own life. May she always be at our side.
‘We pray that God will bless and strengthen our Holy Father, Pope Francis. May God guide us in all our ways that we may share the joy of our faith and the ways of peace.’