Pictured: Bishop Bill Wright [Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle] and Bishop Brian Mascord [Catholic Diocese of Wollongong] about to meet Pope Francis.
Almost 40 Australian bishops today met with Pope Francis for more than two hours as part of their Ad Limina Apostolorum visit.
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.
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.
The Ad Limina visit continues until this 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.