KUALA LUMPUR – Archbishop John Wong of Kota Kinabalu said that he was awestruck by the significance of such a visit (ad limina) to the Pope, who is the Head of the Catholic Church.
He spoke of the Pope receiving the Bishops with “brotherly affection” and was touched that the Holy Father made it a point to greet them.
“I had in my mind, in my imagination if you please, a picture of the early Apostles going out to preach and after some time coming back to visit Peter,” said Abp Wong.
“I was very much looking forward to it (ad limina), and I have not been disappointed. In fact, I am much encouraged by our making it,” said the prelate.
He added, “I have this sense of unity and peace that comes from a distinctive union with Pope Francis as the Head of the Church.”
The Holy Father’s gentleness, humility and simplicity struck the bishops at their meeting with him, Abp Wong said.
He said of the pope, “He’s very down to earth. He puts aside protocol and formality, telling us ‘We are brothers’ and so there was no need to remove our skull caps nor to kiss his ring, putting us completely at ease.”
As part of the ad limina, several meetings were arranged for the bishops to meet with the heads of the dicasteries of the curia.
Besides discussions with the Dicastery for Promoting Human Development, the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, the bishops also met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, the Legislative, and Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. Archbishop John Wong described these meetings as “a new and more concrete way of reaching out to help the faithful.” He picked up from these meetings with the dicastery heads that the dicasteries are very committed to
Abp Wong described these meetings as “a new and more concrete way of reaching out to help the faithful.” He picked up from these meetings with the dicastery heads that the dicasteries are very committed to help the bishops in meeting their challenges in their dioceses.
The archbishop opined that these meetings were beneficial and effective to the bishops.
He remarked on the functionality of the new procedure of the ad limina in which the bishops met with the Holy Father as a group. All were encouraged to speak and share spontaneously, whether generally or specifically. It was a revealing moment to see how much the Holy Father’s heart is for the people. He listened attentively to the various issues pertinent to the dioceses, and his response was unscripted and came straight from his heart.
On a personal note, Abp Wong wished him “good health” and pledged “our faithfulness and loyalty to him,” assuring him of “our constant prayers for him.” At the conclusion of the meeting, Pope Francis told the bishops, “Your first duty, as Bishops, is to pray for the diocese, and for the priests.”
The Pope urged them to “continue to move on” and ended with his customary request for prayer for himself “Pray for me, not against me.” – Catholic Sabah