Bishop Brian and Australian bishops meet Pope Francis, pray at St Peter’s tomb
June 25, 2019
Bishop Brian Mascord
Pope Francis has given his apostolic blessing to the Australian Catholic bishops and encouraged them to explore new ways of being missionary in Australia at this time.
Almost 40 Australian bishops today met with Pope Francis for more than two hours as part of their Ad Limina Apostolorum visit, translated as “To the Threshold of the Apostles”.
It was a high point of a memorable first day of the Ad Limina, which began with the bishops celebrating Mass at the tomb of St Peter.
“To celebrate the Eucharist at the tomb of Peter and then to engage in pastoral dialogue with his successor was a unique and grace-filled way to start our week in Rome,” Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said.
The bishops raised with Pope Francis a number of topics that are of deep concern to the Catholic Church in Australia.
Among them were the Church’s work to eliminate child sexual abuse and to accompany survivors of abuse, the bishops’ desire to support and minister to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the hopes for the Plenary Council and the need to find new ways of witnessing to Jesus Christ in Australian society in a time of change.
“There was an ease and a fraternal warmth in the way Pope Francis spoke and an attentiveness in his listening to the questions the bishops asked,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“For a man of his years, the Holy Father’s energy through a long and complex conversation was amazing.”
Conference vice president Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said the meeting with Pope Francis was “moving and deeply encouraging”. He said it showed the benefit of the Petrine ministry, “of being our solid ‘rock’ and ‘confirming the brethren’”.
“The Holy Father clearly understood our situation in Australia. It was a real moment of grace,” Archbishop Fisher said.
Bishop Brian Mascord said, “The opportunity to meet with Pope Francis was an amazing experience. He truly is a servant leader as he spoke to us.”
Bishop Charles Gauci, the most recently ordained of the Australian bishops, having become Bishop of Darwin last September, said he was “deeply impressed” by Pope Francis.
“I was impressed by his humanity, his compassion, his sense of collegiality, his passion for working with all the people of God in a synodal Church and his true commitment to the Gospel,” Bishop Gauci said.
“I felt a deep sense of connection with the Holy Father as a fellow member of the College of Bishops, as bishops in service of the People of God and in partnership with the People of God.”
Melbourne Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli posted on social media that the meeting with the Holy Father was “an extraordinary conversation, brother to brothers”. He said it was “spiritually intense, deeply honest, pastorally astute, free and frank”.
The Ad Limina visit continues until Friday, June 28. The Australian bishops will meet in the coming days with the various departments of the Holy See with responsibilities for different aspects of Church life.
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Our diocesan logo is theologically rich and very succinct. As a hand, it depicts our mission as a diocese and as individuals within the diocese, of bearing (bringing, carrying) Christ’s love to one another and to the world around us. In this, we are the hand of Jesus Christ, and we are offering ourselves to him so that he might work through us.
We can be the bearers of his love only as a response to his call and in the strength of his grace. We are reminded of this in two ways—through the symbol of the dove (the Holy Spirit) also present in the logo, and by the incorporation of the cross that segments the logo. The presence of the cross is a reminder that bearing the love of Christ will inevitably cost us if we live it authentically. However, in the way that the Cross is the portent of redemption and life—an echo of the tree of life in the book of Genesis—so becoming bearers of the love of Christ will also bring us to life.
The four fingers of the hand also represent the four regions of our diocese. The first is bluerepresenting the beautiful water of the Shoalhaven. The second is a blue and green combination representing the waters and escarpment of the Illawarra. The third is greendepicting the hills and plains of the Macarthur. The fourth is dark green illustrating the forests of the Southern Highlands.