VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis recently met with Bishop John Folda of the Fargo Diocese and other regional Catholic bishops during a required Vatican City visit to discuss issues affecting the church today.
During the meeting, known as an "ad limina" visit, bishops from the Dakotas and Minnesota talked with the pope about various topics, including the sexual abuse scandal, migration, pastoral care in Native communities and developing unity among diverse groups in the church, the Catholic News Service reported.
“It’s tempting at times to lose hope when all you hear is bad news and with some of the challenges we face in our dioceses at home, it’s extremely important to maintain a spirit of hope,” Folda told Catholic News Service Jan. 13 after meeting with Pope Francis.
The Fargo Diocese stressed that its list of 31 clergy and religious members with "substantiated allegations" of sexually abusing children, released Jan. 2, was not the reason for the trip. "It is a routine visit that bishops make every five years or so, and was scheduled at least a year ago," said Fargo Diocese spokesman Paul Braun.
For Bishop Folda, it was his first ad limina visit to meet with Pope Francis. Folda was the first priest in the U.S. to be appointed a bishop by Pope Francis, shortly after Francis became pope in 2013, Braun said.
The two-hour meeting with Pope Francis "was a really easy give-and-take, very conversational, which was delightful. And he was very interested in hearing about our experiences," Folda told Catholic News Service.
Pope Francis urged the bishops to pray, especially for themselves, when making decisions, Bismarck Bishop David Kagan told Catholic News Service.
“‘The best thing and the first thing you simply have to do for the church — I mean your people — is pray for them,’” Kagan recalled Pope Francis saying. “‘But you’re not going to be much of a help if in your prayer, you don’t pray for yourself. Pray for yourselves and then pray for your people and the Lord will answer and do the rest. Just don't get in his way.’”
Kagan said Pope Francis reminded the bishops that they should not get involved in "political quarrels."
“He reminded us — and we all kind of laughed as he did — he said, ‘Don’t forget: We already have a savior. We don’t have to try and do that again,’” Kagan said.