|Sr Hermenegild Makoro CPS (Secretary General) greeting Pope Francis|
Our "Ad Limina Visit" finished on Thursday with the celebration of the Mass at Santa Maria Maggiore. Friends of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) joined us for the celebration. Then, the bishops left Rome for other appointments or to go back to their dioceses.
I believe we all enjoyed the ten days we allocated for the visit. Certainly, meeting Pope Francis was the most important moment for all of us. We felt confirmed in our faith and service to the people entrusted to us. I saw it already on Thursday in the faces of the bishops that met him in the morning. The rest of us experienced it the following day.
The photograph above reflects another special moment. All the bishops gathered on Friday for a group photo with Pope Francis. Our Secretary General could not stay behind. We would not have allowed it! She was introduced to Pope Francis by Cardinal Napier OFM. The joy in their faces says it all (you might be able to see it also in the faces of the rest of us behind).
The same spirit was present all through the visit. We had organised more than twenty meetings to be held during those ten days. Practically in every place we were able to present our joys and struggles. As someone (more or less) told us at the beginning of a meeting: the ad limina visit is not about centralising things in Rome but about the good news and the challenges you experience in your areas and having a good dialogue among us so that we can help one another.
Archbishop Stephen Brislin always presented the particular situation of our group: "the SACBC consists of three countries, Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland. What is quite unusual is that this is the first 'ad limina visit' for at least two thirds of the bishops - if not more than two thirds - as we have had a number of recent appointments. Even myself, being the president of the Conference, was ordained bishop seven years' ago. We are quite a young conference."
This joyful spirit and the attitude of listening to one another is certainly two of the things we take back home.