02 Aug 2019

Bishop Greg conversing with Pope Francis

In June I spent two weeks in Rome for the Ad Limina Apostolorum which means Threshold of the Apostles, referring to Saints Peter and Paul, both martyred and interred in Rome.

Each diocese prepares a detailed account of the pastoral and practical activities of the previous five or seven years, which form part of the basis for conversations with Vatican departments.

The group of 35 Australian bishops started with a five day silent retreat conducted by Brother Ian Cribb SJ, formerly director of the retreat house at Sevenhill, who received the praise of all.

The Ad Limina commenced with Mass at the tomb of St Peter, followed by a two and a half hour audience with the Holy Father. He simply invited us to speak whatever was on our minds, even if it was criticism of the Curia or of himself. We ranged backwards and forwards in conversation, addressing a variety of pastoral issues confronting the Australian Church.

The Pope was very open in his replies and comments. The meeting was at times quite serious and at other times quite light hearted. We spoke about the impact of the abuse crisis in the Church, and the hopes we have for the Plenary Council.

I was struck by the way Pope Francis would constantly reach for a nearby jug of water and pour it into not his own glass but that of the Vatican official sitting alongside him. This typifies his kind and humble approach to the papacy.

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