ROME — In a letter commemorating the sixth anniversary of Pope Francis’s election, the bishops of Argentina said they will ask the pope to visit his homeland.
“In our next meeting with him, we will propose once again that he does not deprive himself of the joy of visiting us,” the Argentine bishops said in statement released March 13 during their plenary assembly.
The bishops said they will meet with the pope during their “ad limina” visit in the spring.
In their letter, the Argentine bishops said the pope’s “peace and strength” encouraged them in confronting the challenges facing the church today, especially the “sorrowful tragedy” of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy.
“He looks beyond the immediate and knows how to say an illuminating word in front of walls that often stop us. He knows how to innovate with audacity without neglecting respect for people,” the bishops said.
Bishop Carlos Humberto Malfa of Chascomus, secretary general of the bishops’ conference, announced last year that the bishops will be in Rome in May for the “ad limina” visit that bishops are required to make to the Vatican.
In an interview with Radio Maria Sept. 25, Malfa said that for the bishops of Argentina, the visit will be “a unique and intense” experience.
“If the visit itself is a very deep experience, imagine for us who are going to meet the successor of Peter who is our brother and friend, with whom we have walked through sorrows, joys, pains and hopes. And we continue to do so,” Malfa said.
Although he has on several occasions expressed his love for his homeland, Francis has yet to make any plans for a visit to his native Argentina. The delay stands in contrast to his predecessors who visited their homelands within the first year of their elections.
St. John Paul II visited Poland on June 2, 1979, about eight months after his election, while just four months after his election, Pope Benedict XVI visited Germany for World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne.
Speculation had been high that Francis would visit Argentina in 2016, but he shot down expectations in a message to his compatriots, explaining that he would be unable to visit that year or the following year due to other scheduled pastoral trips.
“The world is larger than Argentina and I cannot be in two places at once,” the pope said in the message dated Sept. 30, 2016. “I will leave it in the Lord’s hands to show me the date.”