By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
All of the talks Pope Francis gave during his historic U.S. visit contained much information, stated so eloquently, Bishop Martin Amos said. “It will take time to sit down and digest what things affect me personally, what things affect us as a diocese and what things affect our world.”
Bishop Amos and about 300 of his fellow bishops participated in Midday prayer and a meeting with Pope Francis Sept. 23 at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C. During the Holy Father’s meeting with the bishops, “he didn’t say anything I didn’t expect him to say,” Bishop Amos said. “But when you’re with him, it’s his presence that backs up everything he says.”
Pope Francis told the bishops to remember that “when you say my name, I am with you at Mass.” That comment made a lasting impression on Bishop Amos. Pronouncing Pope Francis’ name at Mass the following morning reminded the bishop “that we’re part of a much bigger church.”
He also appreciated the pope’s reminder that “bishops are supposed to be sources of unity – so together we’re supposed to heal divisions. We need to be people who are proclaiming Christ. He is the chief shepherd, the center, the capstone. …It’s not about us, but about Christ, and us as instruments of Christ and how we go about doing that.”
All of the bishops received a bronze medallion that featured on its front an image of Pope Francis, the U.S. Capitol, the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty — symbols of the cities the Holy Father visited. The back featured saints of the U.S., symbolizing workers in the church, a field hospital for wounded souls — one of Pope Francis’ favorite analogies.
In the afternoon Bishop Amos, along with cardinals, other bishops and priests concelebrated the canonization Mass for St. Junipero Serra outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Bishop Amos described the canonization ceremony as very moving.
The next day, he and the other bishops watched Pope Francis’ historic speech to Congress from a large TV screen in their hotel. It was a fun way to view the speech, having an opportunity to kibitz with the other bishops about the points being made, Bishop Amos said.
Pope Francis “wasn’t lecturing Congress. He modeled what he means by dialogue. He knew there would be people in the audience who didn’t agree with him at all. He was willing to say what his stance was and what it meant to him. He was able to stand up for things he believes in and what we as a church believe in — dignity for all life, social justice, care for our common home, religious freedom and dialogue — and to do so in such a gentle way.” Bishop Amos hopes that the divided Congress will take to heart Pope Francis’ message about true dialogue, which requires respectful listening.
The bishop also noted Pope Francis’ demeanor. During Masses and speeches, he’s focused and serious. “But when he sees people and gets in a crowd, he just lights up.”
While the substance of the Holy Father’s talks didn’t surprise Bishop Amos, “it’s almost like reading Scripture. You keep coming up with something deeper with each reading; the implications can be different and deeper. This is something I have to take back with me to prayer and reflection in the weeks ahead.”