Pope Francis greets Archbishop William Goh at the Vatican on Feb 8 during his ad limina visit.

Meeting Pope Francis was a highlight of a recent trip to Rome for Archbishop William Goh. He was there from Feb 3-12 together with bishops of Malaysia and Brunei for their ad limina visit.

This is an obligatory visit that bishops make periodically to the tombs of Sts Peter and Paul and to report to the pope on the state of their dioceses. This was Archbishop Goh’s first since he took office in May 2013.

Archbishop Goh in a Facebook post shared that during the Feb 8 meeting, “we introduced ourselves individually to the Holy Father who greeted us in the library. He then discussed with us openly about the issues facing the Church and in our dioceses for almost 90 mins.

“He was a very humble man, not caring much about protocols and formality. He invited us to ask any questions, even sensitive ones, because he was keen to hear from us.”

One issue Archbishop Goh raised was Chapter 8 of the pope’s apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). He asked the pope “how should we understand and apply the pastoral guidelines given to assist the spiritual lives of married couples who are living in irregular marriages”.

In all his replies, the pope was “receptive, open and non-defensive but sought to help us to understand the context and objectives of his apostolic exhortation”, wrote Archbishop Goh. “We left the meeting feeling inspired by the Holy Father’s humility, humanness and simplicity in showing his solidarity with us bishops in our struggles and challenges as shepherds of our local dioceses.”

Other highlights of the trip were concelebrating Mass at the tomb of St Peter and at St John Lateran Basilica, the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, i.e. the Holy Father. It is also the oldest Church in Christendom, the first to be built by Emperor Constantine.

Archbishop Goh also spent time having dinner and catching up with Singapore priests and Religious working or studying in Rome.

Members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei pose for a photo with the pope together with conference executive secretary, Sr Margarete Sta Maria.

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