International Bishops Forum organized by Acton Institute

I was happy to be among the over 100 Bishops from 38 countries who arrived Lisbon, Portugal, on the 16th of May 2023, for the International Bishops Forum organized by Acton Institute.

The following day, 17th, we made a one-day pilgrimage to Fatima, where we first visited Adjustrel, the birth place and home of the shepherd visionaries, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, and then we drove to the place of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1917.

We returned after the short Fatima pilgrimage to Penha Longa Resort, in Sintra, our venue for the conference. There was great fraternity, friendship and conviviality among the Bishops who spent four lovely days of interaction, discussion, prayers, and fraternal encounters.

The theme of our conference was, “The Person at the Centre of Family, Culture and Economy. “
We listened to the following talks:

•The Foundations and Falsification of Personhood
•Culture: Colonization, Evangelization, and Ideology.
•The Human Person and the Economy.

There were three panel discussions on the Family, Business as a Vocation; and Religious and Ideological Conflict (Cardinal Alvaro Ramazzini of Guatemala, Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Pakistan, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, USA and I were the panelists who discussed the topic of religious and ideological conflict). The talks and panel discussions were very inspiring and edifying.

Penha Longa Resort, the venue of the conference now harbours what was the 14th century monastery of the Friars Minor Capuchin. Monasteries were nationalized in Portugal, which means that the lands and possessions of over 500 monasteries became the property of the government, effected by a decree of 28 May 1834, enacted by Joaquim António de Aguiar at the conclusion of the Portuguese Civil War. This explains why the monastery buildings including a very lovely Church (where we held our Masses) have become the property of the hotel which uses the halls and rooms in the monastic enclosure for secular activities, where the monks once lived and stormed the heavens with their prayers in a life of solitude and devotion to God.

Compared to the empty 14th century Church in Sintra is Fatima which is two hours journey by bus from Sintra. Pilgrims from all parts of the world flock to Fatima to pray and to drink the Marian air. Fatima has a very prayerful atmosphere as people are seen praying the rosary, doing Eucharistic adoration, engaged in quiet contemplation, and some crawl on their knees for almost two hundred metres from the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity to the Chapel of apparitions as an act of repentance. Some circle around the Chapel on their knees too while praying the rosary.

This is what gives hope that no matter how hard “modern man” tries to suppress thiings about God, God is still the hope, refuge, rock, and shield of most men and women, young and old, across all races, cultures and social status. That was the message I took away visiting Fatima.

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