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Bishop Hebda meets Pope Francis


While in Rome recently for a meeting, Bishop Bernard A. Hebda had the opportunity to assure Pope Francis of the prayers of the priests, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Gaylord and to ask the Holy Father for a blessing for the work of the Church in northern Lower Michigan.

As a member of the Executive Board of Caritas Internationalis, Bishop Hebda was invited to a special gathering with the Holy Father on the morning of May 16th in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta, the residence where Pope Francis has been staying in Vatican City since the time of the conclave that elected him as the most recent Successor of St. Peter. The Holy Father listened intently as representatives from each of the continents described the work undertaken by the member organizations of the Caritas confederation in their part of the world.

Bishop Hebda indicated that Pope Francis showed a great familiarity with Caritas, a Vatican-based confederation of national charitable, relief and humanitarian organizations (the two U.S. members are Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services). The Pope emphasized that Caritas, as an entity “in the heart of the Church” has to embrace the call to social action without ever losing sight of the spiritual dimension of its activities. The Holy Father thanked Caritas for being the “tender caress” of the Church for those most in need and challenged those working for its member organizations to serve as a reminder to the world that people are always more important than things.

At the conclusion of the Holy Father’s remarks, Bishop Hebda had the opportunity to meet Pope Francis for the first time and to speak with him about the Church in Gaylord. “I was overwhelmed by the Holy Father’s humility, kindness and genuine interest in the Diocese of Gaylord,” Bishop Hebda said.

While in Rome, the Bishop also had the opportunity to visit Msgr. Daniel Gallagher, a priest from Traverse City working for Pope Francis in the Latin Section of the Secretariat of State, as well as the four seminarians from the Diocese of Gaylord studying in Rome: Deacon Matthew Furgiuele, Matthew Cowan, Tyler Bischoff, and Christopher Jarvis.

“I very much enjoyed hearing their impressions of the pontificate of Pope Francis.” Bishop Hebda added, “and I am hopeful that their exposure to the Holy Father and his teaching will serve to strengthen the bond between Gaylord and the See of Peter.”

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