Text: Papal Nuncio at Bishops' Conference

 The Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Pablo Puente gave to following address to the Bishops' Conference in Leeds yesterday. Dear Cardinal, dear Archbishops, dear Bishops, During this year your Episcopal Conference has been enriched with the presence of five episcopal appointments: Bishop Longley and Bishop Hopes in Westminster, Bishop Evans in East Anglia, Bishop Williams in Liverpool and now Archbishop Kevin McDonald in Southwark. To all of them my congratulations and best wishes for their pastoral service. On the other hand I feel it is just today to congratulate Archbishop Michael Bowen who is retiring from Southwark after a long and fruitful episcopate. Now I hope you will forgive me if I make a little digression on the subject of episcopal nominations. Since my arrival in London as Apostolic Nuncio in 1997, the Holy Father has appointed or transferred 24 Bishops in Great Britain: 19 in England and Wales, three in Scotland, one in Gibraltar and one as Bishop of the Forces. I must confess to you all that this has been hard work, very hard work. I have written countless letters to each one of you regarding the candidates. I must admit, too, that I am not sorry about this and that I will continue to do so. Shortly after my arrival I said to you that all of us must collaborate very closely in the preparation of episcopal nominations and in all matters that concern my work as Apostolic Nuncio. It is the spirit of the Church that is reflected in the norms of Canon Law. And just as I consulted you I also consulted many priests, religious, lay men and women. Thanks to all of you and forgive me my sin! Perhaps you remember that at the start of my mission I said, if things go wrong here, it will not be only I who make a mistake, but all of us together. Today we can say that we have not made mistakes. I am sincerely convinced that the Episcopate in Great Britain is one of the best in Europe: pastoral, united, intelligent and giving to the action of the Church a seriousness and actuality that His Holiness the Pope and the Church is continuously asking from us. And now a brief reflection. While you were in Rome on the Visita Ad Limina Apostolorum I accompanied you in spirit as I accompany you and your Churches in the life of every day. I believe that the mission of an Apostolic Nuncio is precisely that of serving and accompanying you in the name of the Holy Father. Today I will share with you the spiritual reflection that I had here while you were in Rome. Perhaps some might think that the precarious health of the Pope and his witness took some interest away from the visit. I believe the opposite because your visit is a fact of extraordinary ecclesial depth, a bright sign of collegiality and it has a great sense of analysis for the future independently of the health of the Pope. That solemn moment when you, with the Pope and with the whole Church, place yourselves, as Church in England and Wales, in front of the new situation of the world. It is a Church always called to conversion in the face of a humanity that is always changing and today this humanity changes significantly every day. This very special meeting with the Pope is not transcendental because the Supreme Pontiff is in top form or because he is weak. What is important is his person and his Mission as Bishop of Rome at the service of the whole Church. On the other hand important are your persons and your mission as Bishops united collegially with him. On the contrary, the Holy Father's physical weakness, his illness and his limitations give him a very special value, and you who have seen him so close at hand will understand this idea better than others. At your meeting with him there were certainly none of the sometimes deplorable superficial aspects that can present a false picture of the Pope. Being in London as Apostolic Nuncio I thought with emotion that you saw very near to you and very directly this poor Pope who is sick and extremely weak. It is precisely because of this weakness that you will have recognised him as being more like Christ, more like Christ who was fundamentally weak from his birth in Bethlehem to his death on the Cross. Like Christ who wanted and chose poverty, suffering and the weakness that from all eternity God had dreamed for his Son made man. Dear brothers in the Episcopate, during the days of your Ad Limina visit I thought that perhaps you have never had the Pope as close to you as he was in those moments. And I am sure that this will have helped you to feel closer to Jesus who was weak and suffering, weak and suffering to the point of believing the Father had abandoned him. These were my thoughts while you were away in Rome. I believe that I was not far from reality. Now you have returned to your Dioceses and the deep sentiments of the Ad Limina visit will be of great service to you in your pastoral work. These are my greetings and I offer you, as always, my brotherly and cordial collaboration. Source: CCS

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