Western Canadian Bishops visit Pope Francis at the Vatican.
The Western and Northern Canadian Bishops participated in their Ad Limina visit in late March to early April 2017. I take this opportunity to update you regarding highlights from our meeting with the Holy Father, Pope Francis.
Our visit to the Vatican included the celebration of Mass at several significant churches: i) the tomb of the Apostle and first Peter; ii) St Basil’s church at St. Peter’s Basilica at the chapel of the relics of St. Josephat; iii) St John Lateran Basilica; iv) St. Mary Major Basilica; v) the Basilica of St. Paul outside the walls. In addition to the audience with the Holy Father, we have a number of dicasteries (Vatican departments) whose officials form the Roman Curia.
The meeting with the Holy Father was on Monday morning, March 27, and lasted about 2.5 hours. Pope Francis was welcoming and fraternal, and after sharing his opening words, invited the bishops to share experiences and to raise any number of topics that we wished. We were all quite overwhelmed with the Holy Father’s openness and candour.
Highlights of topics included: the reality of migration and the encouragement to be generous to immigrants; the lived situation of our Indigenous peoples and our life and work with them; the challenges and response to secularization; exploring models for ministry for our church communities. The Holy Father listened intently to our comments and questions, and responded thoughtfully, and with a pastor’s heart!
The Holy Father encouraged us to stay close to our people, to accompany them with the truth and beauty of the Gospel, to enter into dialogue, including with people who are far from the Church, and to be men of prayer, attentive and open to the life the Holy Spirit, who moves us from any fear to a hope and enthusiasm for the mission of Christ. He emphasized the importance of listening to our people. Finally, he encouraged us to be see the great things that God is doing, to reflect joy, and to always have a good sense of humour!
I left my time with the Holy Father is the Pope – the one who is the present successor of St. Peter – with not only a strong sense of awe and respect, but also with a sense that he is a brother bishop among bishops who shares with us a common life and mission.
A visit and experience that will be with me for a long time!!
Meeting with the Congregation for Bishops – Cardinal Marc Ouellet in the foreground, left. Topics included: expression of gratitude for support of northern dioceses who have now moved out of the Congregation for Evangelization of Nations; “Synodality” as an opportunity to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to the churches, and the need for the capacity of LISTENING; strengthening of the belief in the grace of the Bishop; ‘Reconciliation’ is an important emphasis for Canada, and for the Church world-wide; religious life as founded by Jesus Christ existing as a gift to the Church; integrating consecrated life into the local church; the apostolate and charisms of religious life; ‘Vision’ vs. only practical ministry and administration; on ‘maturing’ and ‘suffering’; the call to go to the poor.
Pontifical Council for Culture. Topics included: understanding culture in a globalized world: the new phenomenon of “transhumanist movement”- ‘enhancing human beings’ – what is enhancement vs. perversion; ‘Glocalization’ – affirming local identity in global context vs. new forms of radicalization; the multi-form face of the Church; fostering healthy conversations and ‘growing in empathy’; the current emphasis on ‘heart’ and ‘experience’ and the Church’s mystical tradition.
Meeting with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Topics included: Towards a good theology of human anthropology; finding the central place between the extremes of papalism and congregationalism; dealing with new forms of ‘kenosis’: mind vs. body issues; moving from documents to stories; “Religious Life exists in its own way as exclusively founded by Jesus Christ…and integrated as testimony and apostolate.
Meeting with Secretariat for Communications. Topics included: Communication and proclamation of the Gospel: is not only technology; the importance of ‘proximity’ to people and message; re-thinking our systems of communication.
Meeting with the Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. Topics included: review of the Jubilee Year of Mercy; “Evangelization” as first a personal encounter; intensifying the grace of the moments of the beginning and end of life; focusing on pilgrimage for themes of the New Evangelization; new movements in the Church.
Dicastry for Life, Family, and Laity. Topics included: our post-Christian culture of today; the need to always focus on conveying the Gospel of Jesus Christ to God`s people; Teaching the Faith and pre-Evangelization; World Youth Days, including Panama 2019.
Meeting with the Vatican Secretary of State. Topics included: Supporting “Freedom of Conscience and Religion;” concern in the world for persecuted Christians, & Human Trafficking; building relationships with our Aboriginal peoples; relations with the Holy Sea and Canada.
Session with the Congregation for Divine Worship. Topics included: “inculturation”as helping people, cultures grasp what is the Gospel and the Catholic faith; culture and catechesis; the need for “humility” as we approach issues re: catechesis, evangelization, relationship with culture and faith.
Meeting with Congregation for Clergy. Topics included: relationship of clergy with their dioceses and religious congregations; seminary formation that addresses current social and cultural context of seminarians; seminary candidates and the family of origin; ongoing formation of clergy; training and helping “formators;” the need for “community” in the clerical life.
Topics for Meeting with the Congregation for Evangelization of Nations Topics included: the meaning of ‘missionary presence’ and evangelization; inviting all the People responsible for Faith; ‘dialogue’ and announcing the Gospel; ways of ‘listening’; foreign clergy and ‘the missions’; the ‘2 Lungs’: Mission & Communion; ‘transparency’ as capacity to administer well & accountability.
Msgr. Brian Ferril speaks to bishops at Meeting with Congregation for Christian Unity. Topics included: building the relationship between the Latin and Oriental churches; Sacraments and mixed marriages; issues with Evangelicals: documents on ‘proslytism’ and ‘the new charismatic mega-churches’.
Bishop Tony Krotki raises an issue at the Dicastry for Integral Human Development. Topics included: issues related to Migration: sponsorship; concern re: racists and xenophobic reactions; developing an enlightened response to challenges re: human anthropology.
Visit to the Congregation for Oriental Churches. Archbishop Lawrence Huculak, Eparchy of Winnipeg, raises several questions Topics discussed included: visit of Western Bishops Conference as occasion to communion; joint Eucharistic celebration at St. Basil’s altar at relics of St. Josophat at St. Peter’s Basilica by Western Bishops; upcoming 100th anniversary of Oriental Congregation in Canada.
Preparing for the meeting with the Congregation for Catholic Education. Topics included: Catholic schools in Western Canada: similarities and differences re: fully and partially public funded schools; Catholic colleges and universities: features and current priorities.
Congregation for Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Topics included: responding to religious communities whose charisms are either being born or seem to be dying; God has plans for the charisms of communities: they are not only the community’s charisms; “Christian Witness’ is move important than even vocations or dogma; ‘Diminishment’ versus ‘Promotion’; the call to ‘community’ for religious and consecrated life; the need for evangelical HOPE: even when something seems to be dying; towards a better structure for the lay sharing of the religious charism; structuring civilly and canonically new juridic persons to carry on the religious charism.