BY DAVID V BARRETT
BISHOP Patrick O'Donoghue of Lancaster presented Pope Benedict XVI with two of his three groundbreaking works at the Vatican last week.
The bishop gave the Pontiff copies of Fit for Mission? Schools and Fit for Mission? Church, and a letter briefly introducing Fit for Mission? Marriage: A Preparation Course, published by the Catholic Truth Society that day.
Pope Benedict departed from protocol to spend some minutes going through both documents with Bishop O'Donoghue, and expressed his delight at the wideranging scope of the work. The bishop told Benedict XVI that the objective of the documents was to propose practical ways of balancing continuity of faith with change in an increasingly secular world. They concentrated on fostering an authentic Catholic identity in schools and a correct interpretation of the Second Vatican Council in parishes, he said.
He stressed that the initiative was an attempt to encourage all to think clearly about what it is to be a Catholic today.
Bishop O'Donoghue's meeting with His Holiness took place at the end of the papal general audience at St Peter's Square last week. With them were Mgr Georg Ganswein, the Pope's private secretary, and Archbishop James Harvey, prefect of the papal household.
The Pope personally thanked Bishop O'Donoghue, just weeks before his retirement, for all his work of renewal in his diocese over the last eight years.
Bishop O'Donoghue said: "It was a wonderful experience. He looked marvellous and was in great form. He was in remarkable spirits and tremendously welcoming. He was very open and there was no limit on the time. He was very, very interested in the works." When he mentioned to the Pope that he was about to retire, Pope Benedict told him: "You're much younger than I am."
Bishop O'Donoghue is returning to his home area of West Cork, where he plans to be a supply priest.
About his eight years in the Lancaster diocese he said: "I've had a wonderful time, and a challenging time."
The first two Fit for Mission? documents, which addressed crises in the Church in England and Wales, have already received many endorsements from the Vatican. Only a few weeks ago the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Antonio Caftizares Llovera, known in Spain as "Little Ratzinger", praised the bishop's second report, Fit for Mission? Church. This followed commendations from the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith and Clergy, and the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, and the Family.
"I am so grateful for having the opportunity to personally explain to the Holy Father what we have been attempting to achieve through our Fit for Mission? initiative in the Diocese of Lancaster," said Bishop O'Donoghue.
"His interest and enthusiasm confirms my conviction that over the past two years despite the difficulties and controversies we have been on the right track," he said.