Bishop Richard J. Malone represented Buffalo and the United States at the Vatican in November, as he was asked to be a part of the International Colloquium: The Complementarity of Man and Woman to reaffirm the Catholic Church's position on marriage. Attending the colloquium was an important affirmation of Bishop Malone's work as chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.
The colloquium was where Pope Francis officially announced he would make his first papal visit to the United States, as he will attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in Sept. 2015.
"It was a thrill to be in the presence of the Holy Father when he made the announcement," Bishop Malone said. "I am delighted he has selected the World Meeting of Families for his first visit to the United States. On many occasions, the pope has stressed the importance of the traditional family - at the colloquium, he said marriage between a man and woman is a 'fundamental pillar' of society and that children have the right to grow up with a mother and father. I look forward to leading a delegation from the Diocese of Buffalo to Philadelphia next year as the pope brings his message of peace and love to our nation."
Bishop Malone said that he was surprised and honored to be one of the four bishops from the United States invited to the colloquium. While he regrets being out of the diocese again right after the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Fall General Assembly, he credits his chancery staff and his iPhone with being able to keep in constant communication. The bishop was glad to go, and he's glad to be back.
"I've never met Pope Francis before, though I did meet Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II," Bishop Malone said. "(I had a) warm, gracious encounter after the general audience, but it was very brief."
Pope Francis began the colloquium by firmly stating that the Catholic Church teaching on marriage is "the union of man and woman." While Pope Francis has said to be more welcoming and respectful of homosexuals with much media coverage, the Church remains firm on its doctrine.
"Teaching on homosexuality has not changed and will not," Bishop Malone said. "The pope (has said) to be welcoming to those with same sex attraction and to respect their dignity, (but) sexual acts of any kind outside of marriage are immoral, homosexual or heterosexual. That will never change. (The pope) never suggested it would, because he cannot and would not. The entire meeting was to affirm that and strengthen it, on which there was unanimous agreement from all: Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu, Mormon and Christian."
The colloquium included dozens of "fine presentations," according to Bishop Malone, that featured scholarly and personal witness testimony. The group met with other interfaith leaders, watched videos on the topic and had discussions. The bishop said the colloquium included "a great global interfaith network of supporters of marriage as a man-woman union."
"The determination at the conclusion (of the colloquium) was to strengthen our efforts to promote and protect marriage against any redefinition, for the sake of the societies involved, and for the sake of children, who deserve, ideally and normatively, both a mom and a dad," Bishop Malone said of the next step in the process.
Bishop Malone had little free time during his trip, but joined in Mass at St. Peter's Basilica and prayed at the tombs of Blessed Paul VI, St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II below the basilica.