Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 6, 2006
Collins praises pope's willingness to listen
Edmonton, Calgary bishops find pope eager to learn, help
-Photo by Servizio Fotografico
Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Thomas Collins meet at the Vatican Oct. 6.
By GLEN ARGAN
Archbishop Thomas Collins spent a leisurely 15 to 20 minutes discussing the state of the Edmonton Archdiocese with Pope Benedict on Oct. 6.
"He was very, very attentive. He's a wonderful listener," the archbishop said after returning to work in Edmonton Oct. 27.
"The pope throws in a comment or two. He mostly just wants to understand what the other person is saying," Collins said in an interview.
"He was most encouraging and prayerful. At the end he said he would pray for God to bless us all and the work in the diocese."
The Edmonton archbishop was one of five bishops to meet with Pope Benedict that day as the Western Canadian bishops made their ad limina visits to Rome.
During the visits, the bishops met with the heads of about 25 Vatican departments (dicasteries), celebrated Mass at the four Roman basilicas, heard a special address from the pope and met individually with the holy father.
Collins said he took to heart the advice from the first cardinal the group met who advised them to use their time in Rome as a retreat and ask themselves, "How can I serve more faithfully when I come back to my diocese?" The cardinal encouraged the bishops to reflect on what aspects of Church life are strong in their dioceses and what needs more encouragement.
Collins' private interview with the pope took place immediately after that of Calgary Bishop Fred Henry.
In a written reflection on the visit, Henry said, "The pope was in fine form, very hospitable and quickly put me at ease. Utilizing the enormous atlas on his desk, he asked me to trace the boundaries of the Diocese of Calgary. As I did so, he quipped: 'You have to do a lot of driving, I hope that you have a good car!'"
Near the end of his audience, Henry asked the pope about a dispensation that had been repeatedly turned down by one of the Vatican congregations. "He listened attentively to my presentation and said that the local bishop's opinion should prevail in these situations and he gave me the dispensation on the spot.
"Although laden down with a large envelope of rosaries, as I left, I felt like I was walking on air."
For Henry, who served as auxiliary bishop of London, Ont., and bishop of Thunder Bay before coming to Calgary in 1998, it was his fourth ad limina visit.
"So I was inclined to approach it with the attitude of 'been there, done that' but this fraternal exchange with the successor of Peter is one that I will never forget," he said.
Collins said that for all the Western bishops, it "was a tremendous experience meeting with the pope."
"He has a profound humility for a man of such extraordinary intelligence and authority and learning."
Collins also said the bishops had fruitful meetings with the various dicasteries. At each meeting, one of the bishops would lead the discussion.
Months before the ad limina visit, each bishop filed an extensive report on the life of the Church in their dioceses. "I got the sense that (the Vatican officials) had read the report."
The meetings were convivial and included free-for-all discussions. Sometimes the officials made sure they got across a few points, but the Western bishops were never chastised, he said.
After the ad limina visits, the bishops went to Cornwall, Ont., for the annual assembly of the Canadian bishops.
Collins then preached a retreat for seminarians at St. Augustine Seminary in Toronto and gave a talk on Catholic education in his hometown of Guelph before returning to Edmonton.