Pope Francis greets Bishop Koenig during the training session for new bishops in the Vatican
Most bishops will tell you they were taken aback when they answered the phone, and a representative of the pope was on the line to tell you the Holy Father chose you to be bishop.
Before long, they moved on and took on a new role.
They are priests and have been in the company of other men who have worked as bishops, but how does a first-time bishop really find out about the job?
The Vatican is helping provide the opportunity to learn some details at a training session for new bishops held in Rome. Bishop Koenig, installed as bishop of Wilmington Diocese in July 2021, attended the week-long session in mid-September with 170 of his colleagues. Another group of 150 other new bishops attended a similar session held earlier in the month as the Vatican struggled to catch up on meetings during COVID-related restrictions.
It was a chance to know his brother bishops from the United States and beyond, Bishop Koenig said. He also had the opportunity to have an audience and a brief personal exchange with Pope Francis.
“He spent about an hour and a half with us,” Bishop Koenig said in an interview after his return.
“He would say a few sentences at first, and then the bishops could get up and ask him a question or talk to him about something that concerned their diocese. And he would speak another 10 minutes and answer the question. The bishops asked questions and he answered and offered his thoughts. He was very nice and very human.
“It was really a dialogue, no doubt.”
Language barriers are considerable in a conference of people from almost every continent, but Zoom sessions with formal translations have made this achievable for everyone, the Bishop said. The meeting with the pope, however, did not include translations, much of the interaction was in Spanish.
“It was a conversation, back and forth with the bishops,” the bishop said.
Bishop Koenig said he met several priests from the United States who work in Rome and learned about the inner workings of the church.
The Bishop was also among those celebrating Mass at the St. Peter’s Church chair in the basilica.
“There’s such a great sense of history, obviously,” he said. “You just feel the presence of all the people who have walked through those doors. All these pilgrims from all over the world, the popes and other clergy.
The bishops lined up and were able to briefly introduce themselves to Pope Francis.
Bishop Koenig said he was happy to be part of the gathering.
“It was worth it,” he said. “Glad to be back in Wilmington, but it was a great opportunity to experience the universal church.”