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Brisbane bishop shares brotherly laugh with Pope Francis in first meeting

Bishop Joseph Oudeman meets Pope Francis

Fraternal joy: Pope Francis and Bishop Joseph Oudeman meet for the first time in St Peter’s Square, Rome. The pair were laughing about a gust of wind that seized their zuchettos. Photo: Capuchin Friars Australia

FORMER Brisbane auxiliary Bishop Joseph Oudeman has finally crossed off meeting Pope Francis from his bucket list just months after retiring from ministry.

Despite having been a bishop for Pope Francis’ entire papacy, Bishop Oudeman had not been given a chance to meet the Holy Father before retiring in March.

He finally met Pope Francis during a pilgrimage for Capuchin bishops, which is held in Italy every six years at the invitation of the order’s Father General Fr Mauro Jöhri.

“We go to Rome, Assisi, all the Franciscan places in Rome, including Laverna where (St) Francis received the stigmata,” Bishop Oudeman said. “It’s a wonderful reunion that takes us out of isolation so we can just be friars.”

During the meeting Bishop Oudeman made a small request to a fellow Capuchin friar who has close dealings with the Pope, Boston archbishop Cardinal Seán O’Malley, to meet the pontiff for the first time.

“I said to Cardinal Sean that I haven’t met the Pope, and could I meet him, and he said ‘No problem’,” Bishop Oudeman said.

Cardinal O’Malley arranged a private meeting between Pope Francis and the former Brisbane auxiliary bishop at the Pope’s residence at Casa Santa Marta.

Bishop Oudeman was given a second chance to meet him when he was seated “metres away” from him at his general audience on September 20, which was being translated by former Brisbane priest Fr Anthony Ekpo.

“When it was all finished I was the first to meet the Pope,” Bishop Oudeman said. “At that time there was a gust of wind that took his zucchetto off his head and the red one I have nearly came off but I packed it down.

“Both of us were laughing at the sorry state of our zucchettos.”

Pope Francis proceeded to tell Bishop Oudeman that “it was good to see the Capuchins” and there were “Capuchins everywhere”.

“It was very brief, fraternal, relaxing and full of laughing,” he said.

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