The special Year of St Paul, a master stroke of Pope Benedict 16th, ended with the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 30th.

Many around the Globe (scholars and learners) have invested much more time this year both proclaiming and getting to know Paul, his letters, the impact of his conversion, his passion for Christ, his capacity to love the Churches, his theology etc.

I am thrilled that our Priests had some In-service on Paul by Fr Brian Limbourn.  Also during June it was wonderful that the whole Diocese for the first time had the opportunity of tapping into a day'€™s E-Conference on Paul on June 30th, courtesy of the Broken Bay Diocese in Sydney.

I too have been caught up in this suggestion of Pope Benedict. I have been able to follow it through in the Holy Land for two months. In June I participated in a Course on the Gospel of Saint Luke at the Centre '€œEcce Homo'€ in the Old City of Jerusalem. May was taken up with the richness of Paul, his letters, his person and Mission.

Shortly after arriving in the Holy Land I took part in a Course on Paul at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. This Institute was mainly the initiative of Pope Paul 6th. Apart from a variety of top quality lectures we had excursions to places in the Holy Land Paul had either been to, or like Jerusalem, had lived in.

I took time to read, reflect and pray over some books and articles on Paul. This led me to study something of the geography and people Paul journeyed to, with the Good News of Jesus Christ. More importantly it led me to read Paul'€™s letters again with much better understanding due the background of information with which I had been fed.

One of my disappointments in coming to the Holy Land this year was that Cardinal Martini, the previous Archbishop of Milan, was not here. He is a good Scripture Scholar. What I like about him is that he always applies the message of a passage of Scripture to life and encourages one to reflect and pray about it.

Cardinal Martini in his retirement had come to live in Jerusalem and I wanted to '€œsit at his feet'€ and be guided more deeply into the Scriptures. Illness has taken him back to Italy. Providentially before leaving Geraldton I was given a book of his '€œThe Gospel According to St Paul'€. It was as if Martini was with me as I worked and prayed through this treasure of a book.

In these few weeks I'€™ve gleaned a lot from this time of Grace on Paul (enough to fill the Sower!). However here I simply want to highlight two important things about him. Paul had a passion for Christ and a deep love for the Churches, just as they were with their gifts and limits.

It was Paul'€™s love for Jesus, crucified and risen, which inspired him to be a Missionary. He travelled far and wide to share the Good News of this merciful God who makes us His friends, offering His love to all totally and freely. This passion for Christ also inspired him to love the Church, His Body. All this we can pick up from the quiet reading of his letters. An example though of his great love for Christ is PHIL 3:4-14. An example of his love for and appreciation of the Church is 2 COR 1: 1-11 and 3:1-3.

Coming away on sabbatical, apart from wanting to be renewed in body and mind, I wanted to be renewed in spirit. In other words I wanted to grow in love of God through Jesus Christ, and in love of the Church. I want to keep playing my part to build up the Church of the Geraldton Diocese.

Paul is helping me in my relationship with Jesus as I spend time with Him in the Scriptures and prayer. Also, even though I have been praying for you the Geraldton Diocese daily for many years, I am freshly, and I trust more lovingly, thinking of and praying for you all now. Thank you sincerely for your ongoing prayer for me. It is what calls down the Grace of God needed to do His Will. Please keep praying for me that what I have spoken of will not be a '€œflash in the pan'€, but that it last and grow and sustain me in whatever God Wills for me in my life, in my Ministry and my care of the Diocese. Pray that I will be the best shepherd I can be for you in these remaining years.

Bishop Justin Joseph Bianchini
Bishop of Geraldton
July 2009