ROME – Every five years, every resident bishop is to make an official visit to Rome. This visit is called ad limina. This Latin term, literally meaning ‘to the threshold’ (of the Apostles) was originally used in the Middle Ages for a pilgrimage to the tombs of St Peter and St Paul in Rome.
Fourteen Bishops of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei made their visit from 1-7 June. The visit included meeting Pope Benedict XVI individually and as a Conference, visiting selected Dicasteries and celebrating a Mass at the tomb of St Peter (in St Peter’s Basilica) and also the tomb of St Paul (in St Paul’s Basilica ‘Outside the Walls’).
In his visit to the Holy Father, on 4 June, Archbishop John Ha was accompanied by Archbishop Emeritus Peter Chung.
Archbishop Ha brought greetings from the faithful of the Archdiocese of Kuching and presented the following items to the Pope: A New Dawn (History of the Archdiocese of Kuching) written by Br Albinus, Archbishop Peter Chung’s Pastoral Letter, ‘We are the Church’, Archbishop John Ha’s Pastoral Letter, ‘One Flesh – God’s Design for Man and Woman’, the 12 articles on the ‘Family of Faith’ (2007) and on the ‘Family of Hope’ (2008) written by Fr Stephen Lim and his committee.
Archbishop Ha briefed the Holy Father on the achievements, developments and concerns of the Archdiocese of Kuching, highlighting the pastoral focus on the family. The Holy Father listened to Archbishop Ha’s briefing with interest.
The Bishops as a Conference had an audience with the Holy Father on 5 June. Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei, addressed the Holy Father. On behalf of the whole Church in the Region, Tan Sri Pakiam pledged fidelity and allegiance to the Pope, and thanked him for his pastoral care and guidance. He then briefed the Pope on the pastoral and missionary endeavours undertaken by the Church in the region and pointed out a few major challenges we face.
In response, the Holy Father also addressed the Conference. Pope Benedict XVI first of all extended his warm welcome to all the Bishops and assured them of his prayers for those under their pastoral care.
The Pope referred to St Paul, the great Apostle to the Gentiles, and asked the Bishops to heed his appeal to care for the Church of God. Like St Paul, the Bishops were “called to present the Christian faith in ways that resonate with the innate spiritual insight and moral wisdom in the Asian soul, so that people will welcome and make it their own.”
The Holy Father urged the Bishops to ensure that there is no confusion of the Christian Gospel with secular principles and to resist any attempt to exclude God from public discourse and from life. Pointing out that human rights were grounded in the dignity of the human person created in God’s image, he stressed that they must be upheld.
Pope Benedict also encouraged open and honest dialogue with people of other faiths in love. He then reminded the Bishops to be “a father, brother and friend” to their priests so as to inspire them to offer their lives “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Rom 12:1). Emphasis was also given to the formation of the laity.
The Holy Father concluded his address by imparting his Apostolic Blessing to the Church in the Region of the Conference.
Archbishop John Ha