(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met this week with the members of the Assembly of Western Catholic Bishops (AWCB) of Canada, who are in Rome for their regular ad limina visits.
Ukrainian Catholic Bishops David Motiuk, of the Eparchy of Edmonton, and Ken Nowakowski, of New Westminster, came to Vatican Radio where they spoke with Christopher Wells about their meeting with the Pope.
“I felt very much that it was a meeting between brothers,” said Bishop Nowakowski. “Instantly we felt at ease and instantly there was no strangeness.”
Bishop Motiuk agreed, describing the Pope’s “beautiful welcome” as “fraternal.” “We played a game of soccer,” the Bishop said, with a smile. The Pope said, “Here’s the soccer ball, we’ll put it down in the midst, and whoever wants to kick it first, we can begin our dialogue, our discussion. A beautiful image!”
“I think it was very much a time of listening to each other,” Bishop Nowakowski added. Pope Francis, he said, told the group “Being a bishop is hard,” and said he appreciates the work the Bishops are doing. Nowakowski said the Holy Father emphasized the need for Bishops to be close to their people, and the importance of solidarity: “being in a close relationship with our faithful, with our parish priests, with the Bishops, and with the Holy Father.” It’s a concept, the Bishop said, that the Eastern Catholic Churches understand well.
As an example of the importance of listening, Bishop Motiuk pointed to the next Synod of Bishops, set for October 2018, which will focus on youth. “It’s a huge challenge for the Ukrainian Catholic Church to engage our young people in the ministry of the Church,” he said. “They’re so preoccupied with so many other things. But it’s encouraging us to find ways to have conversations with our young people… What are their considerations, aspirations, their hopes for the future?” It can be difficult for a Bishop to listen, he said – “We like to do all the talking!” – but “it’s so important to listen.”
Both Bishops spoke of celebrating the Divine Liturgy, in the Rite of the Ukrainian Church, at the altar of St Josaphat in St Peter’s Basilica, as highlight of their ad limina visit. St Josaphat, Bishop Nowakowski said, “really was a remarkable man in many ways… He died for Christian unity, for wanting the Eastern Church in the territory of Ukraine and what is now Belarus to be fully united, in Eucharistic Communion, with the Holy See. And that’s an incredible thing.” He said opportunity to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, in the rites of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, “with our Latin brothers” was “a great sign” of unity. He pointed to the excellent relations between Eastern and Latin Bishops in Canada, as a model “that could be followed anywhere in the world.”
“That was one of my proudest moments during this ad limina,” Bishop Motiuk said, “where the 22 [Greek and Latin] bishops [of western Canada] were able to gather in the celebration of the divine liturgy, according to the Ukrainian church, and to pray for Christian unity.” Pope Francis, he said, reminded the bishops that “the ad limina visit is a very visible sign of communion with the bishops throughout the world, with Pope Francis, but [also] with others.” Often times, he said, “in a parish or in an eparchy or in a diocese, we get caught up in the day to day life of our local church. But here was a concrete symbol and action of the unity of the Catholic Church in action, and especially in prayer. It was just a beautiful moment for me.”
Listen to the full interview with Bishop David Motiuk of Edmonton, and Bishop Ken Nowakowski of New Westminster: