Pope’s illness reminds us why it’s important to pray for our Holy Father, says Archbishop

Vatican » Pope » Pope Francis » » Pope’s illness reminds us why...

The Archbishop of Southwark, the Most Reverend John Wilson, has expressed his relief that Pope Francis’ condition is improving after the pontiff received antibiotics to treat viral bronchitis.

On Friday, 31 March, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, said that the Pope was scheduled to leave Rome’s Gemelli Hospital on Saturday. Earlier in the day, the Holy Father had visited the hospital’s paediatric oncology ward to spend time with the children there – he even baptised a baby boy.

Two days earlier, on Wednesday, Pope Francis was admitted to the hospital after a scheduled appointment lead to the diagnosis of a respiratory infection and the need for further treatment, something Archbishop Wilson said was “a shock to us all”.

Listen

Catholic News
Archbishop of Southwark on why we pray for the Pope
Loading
/

Pray for the Pope

“It raises a question, perhaps, as to why we pray for the Holy Father,” said Archbishop Wilson. “The Pope is important to us because he is the successor of St Peter. In an unbroken succession, we can trace back his apostolic authority, back to the Apostle Peter and to Christ, who commissioned Peter, just as he commissions each pope.

“Our Holy Father is an important link for us in faith. He represents the Lord for us, and he is a source of our unity. He is, as it were, a global father to the Church – not just a Holy Father, but a global father. He’s the Father of all peoples. In a particular way, he’s the father of every Catholic.

A ‘Baby’ from England

Archbishop Wilson has met Pope Francis a number of times. One that sticks in his mind is the ocassion he attended a special Mass on the Feast of St Peter and Paul to receive his pallium, the white woolen band with pendants in front and back worn by Metropolitan Archbishops.

“It’s a sign of the special bond between the Metropolitan Archbishops and the Holy Father. When I went up to receive it from him at the end of Mass, and I was 51 at the time, so I was the youngest person there. I said, this was all in Italian, ‘Holy Father, I’m a baby from England,’ and he burst out laughing. He said, ‘how old are you?’ So I said, ‘I’m 51.’ ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘I’m almost finished!’ And he laughed with a real roar from his stomach. And it was a really affirming, lovely moment of encounter with him.

Humanity of Pope Francis

Another time, when the Bishops of England and Wales were visiting the Holy Father for their Ad Limina meetings, Archbishop Wilson remembers telling Pope Francis that his mother prayed for the Pope every day. Hours later, as their group meeting was ending, Archbishop Wilson approached the Pope to say goodbye.

“As we were leaving, I went up to shake his hand and he said, ‘Just a moment.’ And he spoke to someone, and the person came back, and he said, ‘This is for your mother.’ He gave me a rosary to give to my mum – he’d remembered. The little details like that speak of the humanity of our Holy Father and his love for people, which comes from his great love for the Lord and for the Church.”

You can listen to our short interview with Archbishop John Wilson and read the full transcript below the player.

TRANSCRIPT

Hearing the news of Pope Francis being taken into hospital was a shock for all of us, and those of us who have got any family that are in their older years, mid-80s, going to hospital is always a cause of concern. So it’s been reassuring to learn that perhaps it’s not as serious as we thought, and that his respiratory infection is being treated. We hope and pray that he will soon be released from hospital.

So it raises a question, perhaps, as to why we pray for the Holy Father. Why is the Holy Father important to us?

The Pope is important to us because he is the successor of St Peter. In an unbroken succession, we can trace back his apostolic authority, back to the Apostle Peter and to Christ, who commissioned Peter, just as he commissions each pope.

Our Holy Father is an important link for us in faith. He represents the Lord for us, and he is a source of our unity. He is, as it were, a global father to the Church – not just a Holy Father, but a global father. He’s the Father of all peoples. In a particular way, he’s the father of every Catholic.

Sometimes people say, how should I pray for the Holy Father? We remember him every day in the Mass. We always pray in the Mass for the Pope and for the local bishop and the communion, the bond of faith between them, is very important for our Catholicity.

Apart from the prayer in the Mass, and we can say the ‘Our Father’ and we can say the ‘Hail Mary’ or the ‘Glory Be’ for our Holy Father each day, the simple prayer that I often use to pray for our Holy Father is the prayer that comes from the commission given to St. Peter to strengthen his brothers and sisters in faith.

So my simple prayer is, “Lord, please strengthen the Holy Father. Please strengthen Pope Francis in faith, so that he can strengthen us.”

For me, Pope Francis is a remarkable figure. Like many people, he probably never expected to be called to the mission that he’s been given in the service of the Universal Church. And he did that at a later stage in life.

I’ve met him a number of times and [will reflect on] a couple of incidences, maybe, just to express something of the relationship that the Holy Father has with individuals.

So I went to receive the pallium, which a Metropolitan Archbishop wears, it’s made from lamb’s wool and is given to the new Archbishops by the Holy Father on the 29 June, the Feast of St Peter and Paul. It’s a sign of the special bond between the Metropolitan Archbishops and the Holy Father. When I went up to receive it from him at the end of Mass, and I was 51 at the time, so I was the youngest person there. I said, this was all in Italian, but I said to him, “Holy Father, I’m a baby from England,” and he burst out laughing. He said, “how old are you?” So I said, “I’m 51.” “Oh,” he said. “I’m almost finished!” And he laughed with a real roar from his stomach. And it was a really affirming, lovely moment of encounter with him.

But the thing that I will always remember about Pope Francis is that when we went on the Ad Limina visit, we had a meeting, a plenary meeting, all the bishops together with the Holy Father at the end of our meeting. He spoke very beautifully at the beginning and he said, “you can ask any questions you want and please begin and we’ll let our conversation flow.” We were there for over two hours just with him asking questions.

Towards the end, I wanted to ask him a question about his experience of catechists in the Church in South America. But I was told that my question would be the last question, so I changed it very quickly in my mind and I said to him, “Holy Father,” which was true. “My mum said to me, ‘if you speak to Pope Francis, please tell him that I pray for him every day’.” So I said this to Pope Francis and he said, “please tell your mum to keep praying for me every day!” Maybe that’s a message to every Catholic.

I said to him, “Holy Father, you have a great devotion to Our Blessed Lady as she who unties knots. Can you tell us what this devotion means for you, and for us as bishops?” He spoke so beautifully and he said, “I have a very simple faith and when I have problems in my life or in the Church, I simply come before Our Lady and I offer them to her and I say, “Please, Blessed Mother, please untie these knots. Simply, I just offer them to her.” It’s so beautiful and so full of faith.

What really struck me was afterwards, as we greeted the Holy Father, as we were leaving, I went up to shake his hand and he said, “Just a moment.” And he spoke to someone, and the person came back, and he said, “This is for your mother.” He gave me a rosary to give to my mum – he’d remembered. The little details like that speak of the humanity of our Holy Father and his love for people, which comes from his great love for the Lord and for the Church.