Pope Francis addresses the Italian bishops’ conference in Rome, Nov. 22, 2021. / Vatican Media.
Rome, Italy, Nov 23, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).
Pope Francis spoke with the Italian bishops’ conference on Monday afternoon in what was a “strictly private” meeting, according to the Vatican.
The two-hour encounter took place at the Ergife Palace Hotel and Conference Center, around three miles from the Vatican, for the opening session of the bishops’ 75th Extraordinary General Assembly.
According to a brief Vatican statement, at the beginning of the meeting, Pope Francis gave the 210 bishops a card with an image of the Good Shepherd and a meditation called “The Beatitudes of the Bishop.”
The eight “beatitudes,” which loosely correspond with the eight beatitudes spoken by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, appear to have originated with Archbishop Domenico Battaglia of Naples.
The 58-year-old Battaglia became archbishop of Naples in December 2020. Prior to the appointment, he was a parish priest in another southern Italian archdiocese, Catanzaro-Squillace, where he was called “Don Mimmo” and known as a “street priest” who cared for the marginalized.
Battaglia outlined the eight qualities of a bishop in a homily at the ordination of three auxiliary bishops for Naples archdiocese on Oct. 31.
The closed-door meeting took place six months after Pope Francis addressed the Italian bishops’ spring assembly on May 24.
The May meeting was live streamed until the video feed was abruptly cut off by Vatican Media roughly five minutes in.
Before giving unscripted remarks about Italy’s synodal journey, Pope Francis could be heard over the microphone asking those on stage if journalists were present in the room. After he was assured that the media were not present, the pope replied: “Good, so we can speak freely.”
Earlier that day, he had visited the offices of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and spoken live on Vatican Radio about the importance of Vatican media reaching the people.
During the broadcast, he questioned the number of listeners the radio has, as well as how many people read the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, which was established in 1861.
The national conference’s fall assembly is taking place on Nov. 22-25 on the theme “Synodal Way of the Churches in Italy.”
At the beginning of the second day, conference president Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti addressed the other bishops, saying that, in Pope Francis, “we recognize the Bishop of Rome and the successor of Peter, the one who received from Christ the task of ‘confirming his brothers.’”
“Our love and thanks go to him,” the archbishop of Perugia-Città della Pieve said. “As always, Pope Francis has addressed important words to us, which spur us to seize the opportunities of grace that this time offers us.”