London, England, Oct 2, 2018 / 03:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of England and Wales held their five-yearly ad limina visit to the Holy Father last week, at which Pope Francis encouraged them to live the faith joyfully.
“His message was simple: we are to live the gift of our faith with joy. Joy was his great emphasis. He explained that this joy is rooted firmly in our relationship with Jesus,” read an Oct. 1 statement from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
“It is a joy of knowing that he is with us; of knowing the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives, drawing and guiding us towards the will of God; a joy of knowing our Heavenly Father is waiting for us, longing to hold us in his embrace of loving mercy. This is the joy of the faith by which we are to live. He added that this joy is the source of lasting peace in our hearts and lives, no matter our circumstances.”
The English and Welsh ad limina was held Sept. 24-29.
Pope Francis, they said, “radiates this joy and peace.”
They said that “even in this time of turmoil, the Holy Father is so clearly rooted in God and blessed by God. His peace is secure. His life is serene. We know, because he showed us his heart. It is the heart of a loving father.”
“We spoke with the Holy Father about the difficulties of fulfilling our role as bishops. In turn he reflected on the importance of prayer and preaching in our lives, and of paternal closeness to our priests and people, with care and with firm justice.”
They reported that the pope “spoke of the encouragement he wishes to give to priests today, who can sometimes feel vulnerable in the face of difficult circumstances, in a critical environment. He spoke, movingly, of the wounds inflicted by abuse and neglect, wounds that wreak such harm in the lives of its victims and in the life of the Church. Wherever they are found, these are wounds in the Body of Christ and are painful to touch. He encouraged us, in our pastoral work, never to neglect even the tiny flames of faith that exist in so many communities and people.”
The bishops noted that they were joined on a number of their visits in Rome by two bishops of the Church of England, and on one by a representative of the Conference of Religious in England and Wales.
Ahead of their ad limina, the English and Welsh bishops had issued a statement addressing the recent sexual abuse scandals in the Church, both in the UK and abroad. They also announced an independent review of current policies and procedures for child protection and for handling complaints of sexual abuse.
A recent report by an independent government inquiry into sexual abuse highlighted cases of “appalling sexual abuse,” dating back decades, at two of the most prominent Catholic schools in the country, Ampleforth and Downside. Both of those schools are administered by a religious order.
The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales includes the 22 dioceses across the two countries. Its membership also includes the Military Ordinariate covering the armed forces of the UK, the Apostolic Eparchs of the Ukrainian and Syro-Malabar Churches in Britain, the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, and the Apostolic Prefect of the Falkland Islands.