reflections, updates and homilies from Deacon Mike Talbot inspired by the following words from my ordination: Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach...
Pope urges Italian Bishops' assembly to address challenges of Church and world
Pope Francis opens the 77th General Assembly of the Italian Bishops' Conference, and holds an open dialogue on the issues of peace, finances, the environment, the ministry of bishops and priests, and charity towards the poor and refugees.
By Salvatore Cernuzio
The dialogue between Pope Francis and the Italian Bishops on Monday afternoon was frank and serene. On 22 May, the Holy Father met with over 200 bishops of the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI), gathered for the 77th General Assembly at the Vatican.
They spoke of young people and vocations, finances and ideologies, the ministry of priests and seminaries, peace, the environment and concern for charity, the latter of which the Pope expressed great appreciation for the Italian Church. The Pope opened the work of the bishops' spring meeting, which runs from Monday until 25 May in the Aula Nuova of the Synod, on the theme "Listening to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches: Steps towards discernment".
Questions and answers
The Pope's conversation with the bishops of all the regions of Northern, Southern and Central Italy lasted about three hours. It began in advance with a moment of common prayer and the Pope's greeting to the bishops of the areas hit by the storm in Emilia-Romagna.
The entire meeting, held behind closed doors, was then interspersed - as is customary on these occasions - with questions (about fifteen) and answers. Among the main topics, as reported by some bishops on the sidelines of the meeting, was the decline in vocations, seminaries and their possible mergers. Their conversation also focused on the ministry of priests, to whom, as always, the Pope asked the bishops to show closeness.
Encouragement to charity
There was no lack of reference to peace, in Ukraine and in the world, an urgency that concerns everyone, then to the ideologies of our time, then to the various cultural problems and the issue of finances, which often represent a difficulty for the Church.
Also at the centre were environmental issues for which a change of mentality is needed. A 'new style' is also what is called for by the synodal path involving the Church of the five continents. Along with this came the invitation to pay attention to poverty, old and new, and above all to never let charity be lacking.
Particularly on the charitable aspect, the Pope expressed his esteem for the Italian Bishops' Conference, which has been committed to welcoming migrants and refugees for years.
On the subject of migrants, Pope Francis presented each of the Italian bishops with the book 'Fratellino', a volume that lucidly and at times crudely recounts the life of migrant Ibrahima Balde, transcribed by the poet Amets Arzallus Antia. It is the story of a young man from Guinea who left his country to search for his little brother, who in turn left to reach Europe, a destination which he never reached. The author reports the dramas he experienced first-hand: the desert crossing, human trafficking, imprisonment, torture, the sea journey, death.
Pope Francis has quoted the book on several occasions, both in some press conferences on the plane on his return from apostolic trips, and in some audiences. The most recent was the one with the refugees who came to Europe through the joint initiative of Sant'Egidio, the Evangelical Churches, the Waldensian Table and the Italian Church, received in the Vatican on 18 March. A 'booklet', the Pope defined it, which outlines in all its dramatic nature 'the Via Crucis' of so many brothers and sisters in the world.
Greetings to the bishops of Emilia-Romagna affected by the floods
On the sidelines of the Assembly, the Pope greeted the bishops of the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, hit in recent days by incessant and devastating floods. After listening to the account of the drama that people are experiencing and learning of the many gestures of solidarity that have been put in place, Pope Francis asked them to bring his closeness to the communities by assuring them of his personal prayer.
At the beginning of the meeting, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, president of the Italian Bishops' Conference and Archbishop of Bologna, recounted what had happened with the storm, the various situations of difficulty experienced by the people and the many gestures of solidarity and help.
Then at the end, Cardinal Zuppi, together with Bishops from the northern regions had the opportunity to personally greet the Pope and express their gratitude "for his message of solidarity in recent days".
In a note, the bishops stressed that they had "welcomed" the Pope's stimulus "for further reflection on respect for Creation and the custody of the common home".
"We have reminded him," they said, "that the people of Romagna are tenacious but the trials are being repeated too often and that we need his prayers and closeness."
Baturi: papal invitation to a new momentum of evangelisation
As for the Pope's closed-door dialogue with the bishops, the secretary general of the Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Giuseppe Baturi, also offered a few details.
He spoke to Italian Catholic TV channel TV2000 of "an important meeting because he was in contact with the problems of the country and the Church".
"The Pope," the bishop explained, "stressed the urgency of a new momentum of evangelisation that passes through a credible witness... Bishops are called to have compassion for man, to care for him especially in situations of difficulty and need. It was a meeting that encouraged us to continue along this path, which finds in the synodal path a privileged place for discussion and work."