Pope Francis speaks to Italy’s Catholic bishops in ‘strictly private’ meeting

Pope Francis addresses the Italian bishops’ conference in Rome, Nov. 22, 2021 Pope Francis addresses the Italian bishops’ conference in Rome, Nov. 22, 2021. | Vatican Media.

Pope Francis spoke with the Italian bishops’ conference on Monday afternoon in what was a “strictly private” meeting, according to the Vatican.

The two-hour encounter took place at the Ergife Palace Hotel and Conference Center, around three miles from the Vatican, for the opening session of the bishops’ 75th Extraordinary General Assembly.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

According to a brief Vatican statement, at the beginning of the meeting, Pope Francis gave the 210 bishops a card with an image of the Good Shepherd and a meditation called “The Bishop’s Beatitudes.”

The eight “beatitudes,” which loosely correspond with the eight beatitudes spoken by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, appear to have originated with Archbishop Domenico Battaglia of Naples.

The 58-year-old Battaglia became archbishop of Naples in December 2020. Prior to the appointment, he was a parish priest in another southern Italian archdiocese, Catanzaro-Squillace, where he was called “Don Mimmo” and known as a “street priest” who cared for the marginalized.

Battaglia outlined the eight qualities of a bishop (listed below) in a homily at the ordination of three auxiliary bishops for Naples archdiocese on Oct. 31.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The closed-door meeting took place six months after Pope Francis addressed the Italian bishops’ spring assembly on May 24.

The May meeting was live streamed until the video feed was abruptly cut off by Vatican Media roughly five minutes in.

Before giving unscripted remarks about Italy’s synodal journey, Pope Francis could be heard over the microphone asking those on stage if journalists were present in the room. After he was assured that the media were not present, the pope replied: “Good, so we can speak freely.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Earlier that day, he had visited the offices of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and spoken live on Vatican Radio about the importance of Vatican media reaching the people.

During the broadcast, he questioned the number of listeners the radio has, as well as how many people read the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, which was established in 1861.

The national conference’s fall assembly is taking place on Nov. 22-25 on the theme “Synodal Way of the Churches in Italy.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

At the beginning of the second day, conference president Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti addressed the other bishops, saying that, in Pope Francis, “we recognize the Bishop of Rome and the successor of Peter, the one who received from Christ the task of ‘confirming his brothers.’”

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“Our love and thanks go to him,” the archbishop of Perugia-Città della Pieve said. “As always, Pope Francis has addressed important words to us, which spur us to seize the opportunities of grace that this time offers us.”

The Bishop’s Beatitudes

Blessed is the Bishop who participates in poverty and the sharing of his lifestyle, because by his testimony he is constructing the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed is the Bishop who is not afraid to mark his face with tears until they reflect the sorrows of his people and the difficulties of his priests, finding in embrace with those who suffer the consolation of God.

Blessed is the Bishop who considers his ministry a service and not a power, making meekness his strength, and giving everyone the right of citizenship in his heart to inhabit the land promised to the meek.

Blessed is the Bishop who does not close himself in government buildings, who does not become a bureaucrat more attentive to statistics than to faces, to procedure than to stories, who tries to fight at the side of men for the dream of the justice of God, so that the Lord, met in the silence of daily prayer, will be his nourishment.

Blessed is the Bishop who has a heart for the misery of the world, who is not afraid to get his hands dirty in the mud of the human soul to find the gold of God, who is not scandalized by others’ sin and fragility, because he is aware of his own misery, so that the gaze of the Risen Lord will be for him the seal of infinite pardon.

Blessed is the Bishop who drives away duplicity of the heart, who avoids any ambiguous dynamic, who dreams of good even in the midst of evil, so that he will be able to rejoice in the face of God, finding its reflection in every puddle of the city of men.

Blessed is the Bishop who works for peace, who accompanies the paths of reconciliation, who sows the seed of communion in the heart of the presbytery, who accompanies a divided society on the path of reconciliation, who takes every man and every woman of goodwill by the hand to build fraternity: God will recognize him as his son.

Blessed is the Bishop who is not afraid to go against the tide for the Gospel, making his face “resolute” like that of Christ on his way to Jerusalem, without letting himself be held back by misunderstandings and obstacles because he knows that the Kingdom of God advances in the contradiction of the world.

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