Pope Francis met on Friday with Irish bishops who are in Rome this week on their ad limina visits – the first such visit since 2006.
Following the encounter, which lasted for over two hours, some of the
bishops came to Vatican Radio to share their impressions and to talk
about the most significant challenges facing their Church today.
Less than half of the bishops meeting with Pope Francis on Friday had
been on an ad limina visit before.
Yet all of them were clearly
impressed by the level of openness and dialogue they discovered in all
the offices of the Roman Curia and particularly in their closed door,
informal and unscripted conversation with the Pope.
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh is president of the Irish bishops conference:
“He said at the beginning, ‘I’ll throw in the ball and let’s see what
happens’, so it turned out to be a conversation about the Church in
Ireland, about the struggles and challenges we’re having, but also about
the importance of a ministry of presence, a ministry of the ear, where
we’re listening to the hopes, struggles and fears of our people….”
Featuring high on the agenda were discussions about the family and
about the need to reach out to young people, especially those whose
faith has been shattered by the numerous sex abuse scandals.
bishops were meeting with the Pope in Rome, a new report was being
published in Belfast about abuse cases and the bishops pledged their
full cooperation in order to support victims and ensure the highest
standards of child protection throughout the Church.
During their meetings the bishops said they spoke frankly of problems
such as poverty and homelessness, the current political crisis in
Northern Ireland, but also concerns about the place of women in the
Catholic Church today, as Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin
“No subject was off the agenda….Pope Francis again said to talk about
our experiences, our challenges, our criticisms….One theme that came up
on numerous occasions was the position of women in the Church, we
brought it up in almost every congregation we went to and there was a
willingness to listen and a recognition that we were asking a valid
question, because the Irish episcopal conference is quite concerned
about that theme.”
The bishops said they also talked about preparations for the World
Meeting of Families which will take place in Dublin next year, adding
that they discussed with Pope Francis the possibility of his visit to
Ireland for the occasion, a first papal trip there since Pope John Paul
travelled to the country, back in 1979.