Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Back in January, I had the opportunity to meet Pope Francis as part of the “ad limina” trip to Rome made by the bishops of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. We bishops are required to make these visits periodically so we can pray at the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul, meet with Vatican officials to discuss issues facing the Church and our dioceses, and talk with the pope himself.
For me, the visit with Pope Francis was the highlight. He was such a down-to-earth host. After welcoming our group of bishops, he began the meeting by telling us where we could get water and where the restrooms were located — something you wouldn’t really expect the vicar of Christ to be thinking about.
Everything I would have wanted in a conversation with the pope happened. He didn’t have a prepared talk and told us we could bring up anything for discussion. He listened attentively and answered our questions. He was clearly informed about the topics that surfaced. He even poured a glass of water at one point for his translator. The Holy Father looked rested and sounded good. He noted the importance for us bishops to listen to others, encounter those on the margins and care for the poor.
Pope Francis also took time for photos with the bishops and others who stopped by, including our region’s seminarians studying in Rome and those who were on January-term visits there. Afterward, he spent time talking to them. His hospitality was Christ-like and something I hope every bishop and priest would emulate.
During my time in Rome, I prayed often for the people of our diocese. As you know, I turned 75 last November and, as required by Church law, submitted my letter of resignation to the pope. He received my letter and asked me to continue to shepherd the diocese until he appoints a new bishop. No one knows exactly when that will happen. In the meantime, please continue to pray for me and for Pope Francis as he searches for a new shepherd to lead our local Church.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Donald J. Kettler