Bishop visits Vatican, meets Pope Francis

Photo courtesy of the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome

Bishop L. Jonathan Holston, resident bishop of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, visited the Vatican in March and had the honor of being seated in the inner court to participate in the weekly general audience with Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

Bishop Holston and nine other Pan-Methodist bishops from the United States were greeted individually by Pope Francis and had a few moments to speak with him following his weekly general audience.

The papal visit was part of a four-day ecumenical study pilgrimage in Italy, during which the bishops met with leaders from various departments of the Vatican to learn about dialogue, theologies of Christian unity and Methodist-Catholic relations. The encounter was marked by listening, mutual learning and sharing about how Methodists and Catholics seek to be listening churches.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to have shared a moment with Pope Francis, a man of grace and humility,” Holston said. “Throughout our pilgrimage, we talked with a lot of people doing the same things in ministry that we are doing—dealing with diversity and giving respect to those whom we have differences with.

“Something that I take away from our time together is this: How we can disagree, but respect each other in unity and do the work that is before us. It’s the lesson John Wesley taught us: ‘Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may.’”

The study pilgrimage was coordinated by the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome, which represents the World Methodist Council in the Eternal City. The Magee Christian Education Foundation provided generous financial support for the experience.

Other United Methodist bishops who participated in the pilgrimage were Bishop Tracy Smith Malone of the Ohio East Episcopal Area, incoming president of the Council of Bishops; Bishop Sally Dyck, ecumenical officer of the Council of Bishops; Bishop Frank Beard of the Illinois Episcopal Area; and Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi of the Harrisburg and Pittsburgh episcopal areas in Pennsylvania. Bishops from the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church also participated.

Information provided in part by the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome.

Get Periodic Updates from the Advocate We never sell or share your information. You can unsubscribe from receiving our emails at any time.