First group of English and Welsh bishops meet Pope

 Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and six other English bishops had audiences with Pope John Paul II yesterday. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, and two of his auxiliaries, Bishop Bernard Longley and Bishop James O'Brien, met the Holy Father together. The Pope also gave ten minute personal audiences to Bishop Malcolm McMahon (Bishop of Nottingham), Bishop Thomas McMahon (Brentwood), Bishop Kevin McDonald (Northampton) and Bishop Michael Evans (East Anglia). After his audience, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said: "The Holy Father is frail but he continues to do his job as Pope. He is determined and is persevering. He listened to all we said. I would not be too alarmist about his health." Bishop Longley said: "It was extremely moving to be in the presence of the Holy Father. It was wonderful and I was surprised how animated he was. "As Bishops of England and Wales we had celebrated Mass at the Tomb of St Peter in the morning. To then go in to see the Holy Father was extraordinary. The strength of his presence is incredible." Bishop Malcolm McMahon described seeing the Pope as "special". He said: "He asked me about vocations and conversions in the Diocese of Nottingham. The Holy Father was also interested in Interfaith Relations because of the large Hindu and Muslim populations in my Diocese." Bishop McDonald said: "I thanked him for his strong stance against war in Iraq. I said I was very grateful for that." The seven were the first batch of Bishops from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales to meet the Pope on their Ad Limina visit. Source: CCS

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