Archbishop John Bathersby met with Pope John Paul II for a private audience at the Vatican on Tuesday March 16.
The Archbishop’s visit was as a part of the Australian Catholic Bishops “ad limina” visit to Rome.
Archbishop Bathersby thanked the Pope for the meeting and indicated how surprised and delighted the Australian Bishops were that the Pontiff was meeting each of them individually, despite his ill health and the inconvenience it must have caused.
In their conversation Archbishop Bathersby recalled his first meeting with the Pope at Alice Springs in 1986 when the Holy Father made a memorable speech to the indigenous people who gathered there at the time.
“The Pope remembered the occasion well and asked if the indigenous people were still happy with what he had to say,” Archbishop Bathersby said.
“I replied they regard his speech as a landmark statement on their journey to full reconciliation with all Australians, indeed so important that some indigenous people can recite the speech by heart,” he said.
The audience also covered the Pope’s pleasure at the way young Australians had embraced the World Youth Day that he inaugurated, and his delight at an upcoming Catholic conference on marriage and the family in Sydney. He noted with sadness that many Australian marriages did not survive the pressures of modern culture.
Before departing, the Archbishop assured the Pope of the prayerful support of the Archdiocese of Brisbane as he continued to lead the Church with wisdom and courage despite the cross of ill health that he carried.
“I want to note the remarkable generosity of the Pope in granting the interviews to the Australian Bishops,” Archbishop Bathersby said.
“Despite his ill health, he was alert and interested in all that was said, asking questions and making comments during the eight minute audience.
“It was a very special privilege to meet this remarkable religious leader, especially at this time when he has just reached the milestone as the third-longest serving Pope,” he said.
The Australian Bishops visit will continue until March 28.
The pilgrimage is known as “ad limina Postularum” or “to the threshold of the Apostles”, and all Bishops charged with the leadership of a diocese are required to make the visit every 5 years.
Released by the Catholic Communications Office