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Our bishops tell Pope Francis: We are encouraged by your leadership

Pope walks to his seat at the meeting with the Malaysian, Singapore and Brunei prelates on 8 Feb 2018 at the Vatican.

KUALA LUMPUR – The archbishops and bishops from Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei made their Ad Limina Visit on 4-9 Feb 2018.

They met with the Holy Father as Successor of St Peter and the Vicar of Christ on Feb 8 and it was the most anticipated event.

The arch/bishops introduced themselves individually to the pope who greeted them in the library. He then discussed with the bishops openly about the issues facing them in their arch/dioceses for almost 90 mins.

“He is a very humble man, not caring much about protocols and formality. He invited us to ask any questions, even sensitive ones, because he was keen to hear from us,” said Archbishop William Goh from Singapore.

At the meeting, the arch/bishops expressed their support for Pope Francis and said that they were happy with the direction he was taking for the Universal Church.

“We are in solidarity with Pope Francis. Our churches are feeling encouraged because we have taken the same direction as he has taken,” said Bishop Sebastian Francis, the President of the Bishops Conference.

“It’s a genuine conviction that this is what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church today!” he added.

Abp Goh said that on his part he asked the pope about the effectiveness of the different dicasteries of the Curia in responding to the challenges facing the Universal and Particular Churches, because of the bureaucracy of the institutions and the enormous areas of concerns they have to attend to.

Secondly, Abp Goh shared with the Holy Father about the confusion among prelates, priests and laity on chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia.

He asked, ‘How should we understand and apply the pastoral guidelines given to assist the spiritual lives of married couples who are living in irregular marriages?’

“The Holy Father was receptive, open and non-defensive in all his replies, and sought to help the bishops understand the context and objectives of his apostolic exhortation. He advised the arcbishops/ bishops not to retaliate or fight with their opponents but to be firm and be patient in winning them over through dialogue and perseverance. He ended the meeting by asking the bishops to pray FOR him, not AGAINST him,” said Abp Goh.

“We left the meeting feeling inspired by the Holy Father’s humility, humanness and simplicity in showing his solidarity with us bishops in our struggles and challenges as shepherds of our local dioceses,” added Abp Goh.

“It was like Paul and Barnabas, presenting themselves to Peter at the Council of Jerusalem. For us, it was the Local Church of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei presenting herself, her people and her progress and her questions to the Holy Father and the Prefects of the discasteries,” shared Bishop Bernard Paul of Melaka-Johore Diocese.

The arch/bishops celebrated the Eucharist at the Tomb of St Peter and the Basilica of St John Lateran.

This is, indeed, one of the most important Basilicas in Rome besides St Peter’s Basilica and St Mary Major. This is the Mother Church and the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, the Holy Father. It is also the oldest Church in Christendom because it was the first to be built by Emperor Constantine.

This Church is the symbol of unity among all Catholics in the world, sharing one faith, one hope and charity.

“Indeed, it is a great privilege and an awesome feeling to celebrate Mass at the Basilica. To know that we are connected with our Mother Church – ancient and yet ever new. One in thinking, praying, feeling and loving,” shared Abp Goh.

The arch/bishops also had the opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist at the Church Sant’Alberto Magno, where Cardinal Soter Fernandez is the parish priest. Over the days of the Ad Limina, the bishops visited a number of dicasteries of the curia, which is like the different ministries of a government. Each of these dicasteries oversee many portfolios.

For example, the Dicastery for Promoting Human Development covers charitable organisations, health, social doctrines, faith and development, ecology and creation, refugees and migrants. The Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life takes care of the promotion and formation of the laity, family and life, youth, associations and ecclesial movements and women.

They also had a meeting with the Ambassador of Malaysia to the Holy See Tan Sri Bernard Giluk Dompok and discussed matters related to promoting religious harmony and education.

Altogether, the three countries have some 1.45 million Catholics: 1,060,000 in Malaysia; 373,000 in Singapore and 18,000 in Brunei. – Herald Malaysia, 14 Feb 2018

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