The bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) interacted with Pope Francis—a man full of humour, an “astonishing simplicity”, and open heart—on subjects as diverse as vocations, the formation of priests, why he never reads what the newspapers say about him, inculturation, the youth, and challenges posed by the evangelical groups.
Bishop Emmanuel Lafont of Cayenne, French Guiana shared this perspective in a report on their audience with the pope, April 16, during the bishop’s traditional ad limina pilgrimage to Rome.
The bishop introduced the pope to a seminarian from French Guiana, currently studying theology in Rome. Then, “we stayed for two hours with him, in an exchange in which everyone could talk to him freely, thank him, present our diocese, or ask him questions,” the report said.
Bishop Lafont recalled a “remarkable exchange” where the AEC bishops unanimously thanked the Pope for the way he guides the Church on the path of the Gospel, “despite some contrary winds”.
He explained, “There is the image that he used: ‘The Church is like a river. There is room for everyone. Some will swim to the right, some to the center, some to the left. It does not matter as long as one stays in the river; the problem arises when one wants to get out of the river to observe it—even criticise it—from the shore!’”
On the subject of the adaptation of certain practices or rites, Pope Francis offered this advice: “It is up to you to decide. You are in the field; you know your people. Do it simply, in the presence of God, and in consultation with each other! Rome cannot decide or control everything.”