Having a personal encounter with the Vicar for Christ has a special meaning for everyone privileged to have that unique opportunity.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane has met Pope Francis on several occasions, mostly during brief meetings at the Vatican, during World Youth Day events, and at other Conferences.
“It is always an exciting and moving experience,” Bishop Dewane said. “The Successor of Peter is a profoundly holy man and you see that in him. An audience is a special occasion.”
During the early mid-February Ad Limina visit, in which the Bishops of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina journeyed to Rome and presented their report on the status of their respective Dioceses, the audience on Feb. 13 with the Holy Father was an extraordinary meeting for Bishop Dewane. At the conclusion of the meeting Pope Francis presented Bishop Dewane a medal and rosary.
“We met the Holy Father as a group and were able to ask questions and hear his responses to our issues and concerns,” Bishop Dewane said. “He provided us within an insight that showed his pastoral understanding of the Faith and of the Catholic Church in Florida and in the United States. I was struck by his interest in what we are doing in evangelization and in particular the youth.”
This “Ad Limina Apostolorum” (to the threshold of the Apostles), a reference to the pilgrimage to the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul that the Bishops are required to make every five to seven years.
During his time in Rome from Feb. 8-16, Bishop Dewane and the others made a visit to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to ask questions as well as to share the faith experiences, issues and challenges faced in the local Church. Other stops included visits to other dicasteries or offices, such as the Pontifical Commission on Protection of Minors; the Congregation for Bishops; Congregation for Consecrated Life; Education; Congregation for Laity, Family and Life, and more.
The pilgrimage also included the celebration of the Holy Mass at the four Major Basilicas in Rome: St. Peter’s, St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran and St. Paul Outside the Walls. Bishop Dewane was the principal celebrant for the last Mass with for the regional Bishops at St. Paul Outside the Walls. The day of the meeting with the Holy Father began with an early concelebrated Mass at the Tomb of St. Peter.
In addition to his responsibilities as part of this pilgrimage, Bishop Dewane took time to meet with the three Diocese of Venice Seminarians who are discerning the priesthood at Pontifical North American College. Christin Chami, Alexander Pince and Daniel Scanlan met with Bishop Dewane at St. Peter’s and were present for a special gathering prior to the start of the Bishops’ meeting with Pope Francis. Also present was Msgr. Patrick Dubois, a priest of the Diocese who currently works with the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life.