During his ad limina visit Feb. 10-15, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila was granted an audience with Pope Francis for over two hours where they discussed several topics pertinent to the Church today.
Archbishop Aquila was among a contingent of U.S. bishops representing Region XIII in the United States, which includes the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming and Utah. He along with the bishops of those states met with the Holy Father Feb. 10. With the release of Querida Amazonia scheduled just a few days later on Feb. 12, Pope Francis discussed the document produced from last year’s Amazon Synod with the bishops.
“He brought up the question of celibacy, and he said [his] primary concern is that Gospel be proclaimed in the Amazon and that all of us need to focus on Jesus Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel first,” Archbishop Aquila said in an interview with EWTN. “If they proclaim the Gospel and are faithful to the Gospel, then vocations will come forth.”
With much discussion surrounding the Amazon Synod and possible implications it would have for the universal Church, Archbishop Aquila was reassured by the Pope’s comments on synodality and the Church’s application of it.
“Even in the understanding of synodality, which we spoke about, it always has to be ‘under Peter and with Peter’ and that synods cannot be going off and creating things that they want done,” the archbishop said. “He made it very clear: that is not synodality in the Catholic understanding. That was very reassuring.”
Among the other topics the bishops discussed with the Holy Father were some of the challenges faced by the Church in the United States and how to address them.
“The Holy Father was very clear: He said transgenderism is one of the great challenges in the United States right now, and the other is abortion,” Archbishop Aquila said. “Both of them really deal with the dignity of human life and the understanding of human life and do we truly receive from God the gender that he has given to us.
“There are only two genders, male and female, and so how do we open our hearts to receiving that as gift.”
Archbishop Aquila said that they Holy Father also “spoke of media, and how the far left goes after him and the far right goes after him, and neither one really presents who he is.”
In a time where Pope Francis’ comments can be rather polarizing and even mischaracterized, Archbishop Aquila was struck by the depth of the Holy Father’s faith in his audience with him.
“[The Pope] has a very, very deep faith. He is convinced of the Gospel, he is totally convinced of Jesus Christ, he is convinced that there are teachings in the Church that can never change and that we have to be faithful to the Church.”
Hannah Brockhaus of Catholic News Agency contributed to this report.
Featured image by Paul Haring/CNS