During these months, Italian bishops are continuing with their extensive ad limina visits which began during the last weeks of the pontificate of Benedict XVI: there are, in fact, 226 dioceses in Italy. Pope Francis, in meeting today with all of the Italian Episcopal Conference in St. Peter’s Basilica, on the occasion of the Year of Faith, besides delivering a programmatic discourse to the pastors of the Church in Italy, spontaneously, also referred to the need of reducing the number of dioceses, for which end a working commission is already in progress, and also [pointed to] the fact that dialogue with the political, social, and cultural institutions is the duty of the Italian bishops (thus, in this way, clearly illustrating what will be the line followed by his pontificate in this regard).
Now, however, we will allow ourselves to reveal a few short paragraphs taken from the letter that an Italian bishop, Monsignor Luigi Martella, wrote to the faithful of his diocese after his ad limina meeting with the Holy Father which divulges an important statement mentioned by the Pope at that time to the bishops regarding an upcoming encyclical on faith, as well as the next encyclical that the Pope already has in mind to write.
[Bishop Martella writing] I’ve seen this man of God, very brave and kind but conscious of his fragility, and that is why he entrusts himself to our prayers. Twice he has told me, “Pray for me!” He has felt very gratified when we mention that we love him very much, and that our people are admired because of him, that he is surrounded by great affection. He has avoided it, saying it was not his doing but a gift of God. He has not stopped showing his lively humor in the face of the question: “Holiness, how are you? How are you doing here?” He, with a smile on his lips, said, “As I saw the votes in the conclave rising, I have not lost peace. So, I sleep well here.” Immediately after, he added, “But there is much to do.” We have encouraged him to continue on this line because we are with him.
Then he spoke very tenderly of Benedict XVI, “When I met him for the first time at Castel Gandolfo, I noticed that he had a most lucid memory” – he said – “even if he was very tired physically. “Now, he is definitely better.” Finally, he wanted to reveal a confidence, almost a revelation. Benedict is finishing writing the encyclical on faith to be signed by Pope Francisco. Then he himself will try to prepare his first encyclical on the poor: Beati pauperes! Poverty – he has determined – understood not in an ideological and political sense, but in the sense of the Gospel.”
Our comment here at Kankakee TLM, by Fiat: “I refuse to believe that I have two Fathers. If Benedict abdicated, why is he still writing encyclicals? Didn’t he say he was going to retire to a life of prayer and seclusion?”