THE members of the academic board of the Pope John Paul II National Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family based in Bacolod City recently had an audience with the Holy Father, Pope Francis, at the St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

The Bacolod group met with the Pope when he had just arrived from his visit to the Holy Land to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first meeting of Pope Paul VI and Greek Orthodox Patriach Athenagoras at the Church of Holy Sepulchre.

The group was composed of Msgr. Victorino Rivas, director of JP II Institute; Fr. Ronald Quijano, academic dean; Dr. Donna Echaus, professor and member of the academic board; her husband, Leo Echaus; Fatima De La Rama, treasurer; and her niece, Christine Tanpinco-Aguilar.

In his meeting with the JPII staff, the Pope emphasized the value of unity and the need for dialog with Moslems, Jews and Christians, in order to promote peace.

Aside from meeting with the Pope, the JP II Institute board members attended the annual meeting and conference organized by Msgr. Livio Melina, president of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute—Rome for all vice presidents, directors, deans, and professors of Institutes in USA, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, India, Australia, Benin, South Korea, Lebanon, Philippines, and Zambia last May 28 to 30.

The theme was "Mercy and the Pastoral Truth." Several experts from different theological disciplines had been invited as resource persons to discuss the topic with the aim of contributing in terms of insights, reflections, and experiences about the human person, marriage and family for the forthcoming Synod of Bishops for the Pastoral Concerns of the Family in October 2014.

Also, Echaus delivered the year-end report of the Associate Center of John Paul II Institute in Bacolod for school year 2013-2014 before the members of International Council of the Institute.

The JP II Institute is in consortium with the University of St. La Salle and grants Master of Arts in Education specializing on Marriage and Family.

This course is offered for all priests, religious and lay persons who wish to teach in schools or do family ministry in their respective dioceses, parishes or any institution where they belong.

This is endorsed by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) through the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, and has been elevated into Centro Associato status by the main campus, the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.