Denver, Colo., Feb 24, 2020 / 12:06 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of Denver offered his impressions of a Feb. 10 meeting between some U.S. bishops and Pope Francis, at which the bishops’ discussion with the pope included some questions about the ministry of Fr. James Martin, and about a 2019 meeting between the pontiff and the priest.
Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver told CNA it was a “privilege” to meet with the pope and his fellow bishops of the U.S. bishops’ conference Region XIII, adding that “the meeting was a grace.”
“The Holy Father spoke very openly and freely with us regarding many topics,” Aquila said, acknowledging that the meeting “has now become a source of some controversy.”
Last week CNA reported that during the Feb. 10 meeting, Pope Francis discussed his Sept. 30 Vatican encounter with Fr. James Martin, an American Jesuit who is well-known for speaking and writing about the Church’s ministry to people who identify themselves as LGBT.
Bishops who met with the pope this month told CNA that Pope Francis expressed frustration with the way his meeting with Martin was interpreted and framed by some journalists.
Since it was reported by CNA, those facts have been confirmed by additional bishops who were in the meeting: Archbishop John Wester and Bishop Steven Biegler.
In a Feb. 21 column published by the National Catholic Reporter, Archbishop John Wester added that the bishops’ discussion with the pope also addressed other concerns or questions regarding aspects of Martin’s ministry, including questions about a recent speech Martin delivered to presidents of Catholic universities, “and his work in general with the LGBT community.”
Regarding the Sept. 30 meeting, some bishops told CNA that the pope’s frustration about the media’s framing of the event was evident in “both his words and his face,” while Wester wrote that, from his view, he did not think the pope had been “angry, upset or annoyed.”
For his part, Aquila told CNA that Pope Francis expressed frustration with the way his meeting with Martin was interpreted and framed by some journalists in a way that was especially clear, Aquila said, for “those who understand Italian.”
Pope Francis spoke in Italian during the meeting with U.S. bishops, and a translator offered English translations for bishops who required it.
Among accounts of the meeting from bishops who attended it, a difference of understanding has emerged regarding another point in the discussion of Martin’s ministry. Some bishops told CNA last week that the pope had said to their group that Martin had received some correction about the way the Sept. 30 visit was framed. But according to Wester, the pope did not say that Martin was given a correction.
“I vaguely remember some mention of people in leadership trying to clarify any misunderstandings about his ministry,” the archbishop wrote, while adding that he thought that reference had to do with another issue.
Reflecting on the meeting, which spanned more than two hours and, for some bishops, relied on a translator, Aquila told CNA that “I think it is reasonable that some remarks from the Holy Father would have been interpreted in different ways by different bishops.”
Wester, one of seven U.S. bishops to have endorsed “Building a Bridge,” Martin’s 2017 book on the Church and homosexuality, commented last week on the length of the meeting, and said it would be “difficult for anyone to remember with precision anything that was said” during the conversation.
From his perspective, Aquilla added that “all of us present at the meeting were making an effort to receive the pope in good faith,” even while bishops understood the pope on some points in differing ways.
Aquila emphasized to CNA the fruitful and open discussions with Pope Francis and the bishops.
“The most important part of the meeting was, of course, our unity with Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ on Earth,” the archbishop said.
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!