BISHOP JAMES WALSH, freed last month after 12 years in a Chinese Cornmunist jail, was thanked by the Pope at a private audience on Tuesday for "all that you have done and suffered."
The 79-year-old American horn Maryknoll Bishop, who spent six weeks recuperating in the Maryknoll Hospital, Hongkong, flew to Rome on Monday, accompanied by Sister Patricia Fitzmaurice, a doctor at the hospital.
On Tuesday he made the 17mile journey to the Papal summer residence at Castelgandolfo where the Pope told him: "You have returned from your mission — more painful than you perhaps expected."
The Pope was in tears as, speaking in English, he went on: "We thank you in the name of Christ for all that you have done and suffered."
On his arrival in Rome, Bishop Walsh was greeted by two of his sisters from Cumberland, Maryland. He was accompanied at the audience by Fr. John McCormack, the Maryknoll Superior-General. Later in the week Bishop Walsh was flying on to New York.
He will also visit his old home in Maryland, where many members of his family still live. including his brother William, 80, a retired judge and former Maryland Attorney-General, and three sisters.
For much of his time in jail in Shanghai, Bishop Walsh was held incommunicado, and at the time of his release was not even aware that Pope Paul had succeeded Pope John. After crossing the border into Hongkong he described him self as a "modern Rip van Winkle."
During his stay in Hongkong, Bishop Walsh was offered a job in the British colony by Bishop Francis Hsu of Hongkong.
"Bishop Walsh told us that if he feels he is strong enough, he certainly wishes to come back," a spokesman for the Maryknoll order in Hongkong said.
Bishop Walsh had been in China since 1918, apart from a 10-year period from 1936 when he served as Maryknoll Superior-General.