Ad Limina Visit: "the ball is at the centre..."

As usual we started the day at 6.15 with Mass presided today by archbishop Jabulani Nxumalo OMI (archbishop of Bloemfontein). 

Like yesterday, we then divided ourselves in two groups. One left for the meeting with the "Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments"; the rest of us, to meet Pope Francis at 9.30. 

Having heard the details of yesterday's meeting, we were there early and also invited some of our priests studying in Rome to join us. They would not stay at the meeting but each one of the bishops could take one priest and introduce him to Pope Francis.

In my case, I invited Fr Dumisani Vilakati, a diocesan priest from the Diocese of Manzini who has been in Rome for a few years and should be finishing his studies next June.

It was a great gift for me as a bishop to be able to introduce to Pope Francis one of our diocesan priests. It was a sign of the presence of the local church and, being a diocesan priest, the fruit of the work of so many missionaries.

Introducing Fr Dumisani Vilakati (from the Diocese of Manzini) to Pope Francis
Our group of 14 bishops spent around one hour and a half with him. Once the priests have left he told us to feel free and to ask him whatever we had in our hearts. He then said: "Like it is said in soccer: the ball is at the centre..." inviting anyone to start (giving the initial kick). 

Practically all of us had a chance to present to him whatever we carried in his hearts; basically our concerns regarding particular pastoral situations: those who hunger for the Eucharist and cannot receive it because of the lack of ministers available or other reasons, human trafficking, the need to be close to our priests, the need for pastoral role models and the process of beatification of bishop Oscar Romero, the process of beatification of the first South African saint: Benedict Daswa, the inculturation of the faith, the need to make sure his apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" is not forgotten... 

Bishop Frank Nubuasah SVD, Vicar Apostolic of Francistown (Botswana) told Pope Francis that as far as he knows, there is no other "Francistown" in the world and people wanted to know when he would be visiting his hometown. 

It was a very deep and fraternal experience where these fifteen bishops (the fourteen of us and Pope Francis), could share and support each other in our service to the people of God. 

We used until the very last minute. In fact, in the room next to ours, the rest of the bishops were waiting to go in. They had been asked to be back at 11 for a group photo. 

There was great joy in us when we saw that, together with the bishops, was Sr Hermenegild Makoro CPS who is our secretary general. It was her opportunity to shake hands with Pope Francis and share a few words with him. This probably did not happen as, overjoyed by seeing him, she remained speechless. 

We then left but it was clear that Pope Francis had to be available for another appointment starting immediately after ours. One wonders when he is giving a chance to take a break and rest.

Most of the bishops left and a group of us remained for a meeting with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Like in the other meetings we had these days, we enjoyed a friendly spirit and good opportunity to share with him on our situation in Southern Africa. 

A very intense morning for all of us. The afternoon had two other events... 

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Bishop of the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland)

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