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Sandakan bishop gives his take on ad limina visit

The Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei made their ad limina visit to the Holy See on 4-9 Feb 2018. Below is the reflection of Bishop Julius Gitom of Sandakan on the visit.

I am very grateful to God for the Ad Limina visit by the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei recently. The Ad Limina visit is the opportunity for bishops to personally inform the Holy Father about the development of the local Church and vice versa, also the opportunity for the Holy Father to give encouragement and advice to the Bishops.

Ten years ago, in my first Ad Limina visit in 2008, I met the Holy Father Benedict XVI. That was more “formal” compared with the recent visit. At that time, we were given ten to fifteen minutes to meet the Holy Father personally. It is very good that the bishops can personally speak to the Holy Father but, at the same time, there is not much that can be said as the time given is limited.

This time it was quite different because it was not too ‘formal.’ We met the Holy Father as a group for an hour and a half. What touched me during the meeting was when he said, ‘You are all co-workers in God’s vineyard, so you can say anything; you can ask anything; you can criticise the Dicasteries you have visited and may make suggestions to improve them.’

The meeting with the Holy Father was open, friendly, calm, relaxed, not tense. Every bishop in the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei had the opportunity to say something calmly though there were issues that were rather sensitive. The issues raised not only concerned global issues but also those that have a negative impact on the Church in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

“The Holy Father was very happy to know that every diocese in the Catholic Bishops Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei have their own migrant ministry. He said, ‘Migrants must be seen as human beings. Therefore, they must be accepted by any and all as persons.’

For me personally, the Holy Father is ‘the Shepherd by the example of Christ;’ he really loves and cares for the sheep he has been entrusted with. He is the true Church leader of Christ. When we were in front of him, we could feel him radiating Christ’s love without saying anything. He is the role model and inspiration in the Church of Christ.

I also had the privilege of presenting our Diocesan Vision and Mission Statement to the Holy Father.

Pope Francis was pleased to acknowledge the Statement and advised that the Statement has to be put into practice.

He also gave us, the prelates pastoral tips on prayer by saying, ‘when we pray and act upon it, we are actually revealing the face of Jesus. – Herald Malaysia, 1 Mar 2018

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