February 8, 2012 // Uncategorized

‘Ad limina’ visit

I am writing this column prior to my departure on February 7th for my first ad limina visit to Rome. Bishop D’Arcy and I will be joining our brother bishops from Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin for this ten-day visit to the Vatican. The ad limina visit is an obligation of diocesan bishops and has three purposes: to venerate the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul (ad limina apostolorum means “to the threshold of the apostles”); to meet with the Holy Father; and to meet with the officials of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia.

Though ad limina visits traditionally take place every five years, the last visit by U.S. bishops was in 2004. I was ordained a bishop in December, 2004, so I just missed the last visit of U.S. bishops to Pope John Paul II.

Prior to the ad limina visit, diocesan bishops are required to make a report to the Holy Father on the state of their dioceses. This report is called the quinquennial report. It is examined by the various dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the Holy Father receives a synthesis of each quinquennial report. Preparing the report provides the bishop an opportunity to reflect on the situation of the diocese and pastoral planning for the future. I am very grateful to Bishop D’Arcy and to my Cabinet and diocesan office directors for their help in preparing this comprehensive report. Special thanks to Fred and Lisa Everett for their excellent work as editors of the report!

The quinquennial report has 22 sections and examines all the various aspects of the life of the Church in our diocese (e.g. Catholic education; Catechesis; the life and ministry of the Clergy; the Laity; etc.). I learned a great deal from this report. When visiting the Holy Father and the officials of the Roman Curia, this report will have been studied beforehand and provide very helpful information for our discussions.

The ad limina visits foster the communion of all the bishops of the world with the Pope, the successor of Saint Peter. It is a concrete expression of the Pope’s solicitude for the whole Church.

In the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus, issued by Blessed John Paul II in 1988, we read the following: “On the one hand, these visits give the bishops an opportunity to sharpen their awareness of their responsibilities as successors of the Apostles and to feel more intensely their sense of hierarchical communion with the successor of Peter. On the other hand, the visits in some way constitute the highest and most central point in that universal ministry that the Holy Father is carrying out when he embraces his brother bishops, the pastors of the particular Churches, and takes up with them the business of sustaining their mission in the Church.”

The ad limina visit reminds us of Saint Paul’s visit to Saint Peter as described in Saint Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Saint Paul wrote that he went up to Jerusalem to meet Cephas (Peter) and stayed there with him for fifteen days. Fourteen years later, he did so again. This visit manifests the communion of Saint Paul with Saint Peter. The ad limina visits today manifest the communion of the successors of the Apostles with the Successor of Saint Peter.

We read in Pastor Bonus: “The natural result of this meeting with Peter’s successor, first guardian of the deposit of truth passed on by the Apostles, is to strengthen unity in the same faith, hope and charity, and more and more to recognize and treasure that immense heritage of spiritual and moral wealth that the whole Church, joined with the bishop of Rome by the bond of communion, has spread throughout the world.”

I ask for your prayers for Bishop D’Arcy, me, and our brother bishops, as well as for the Holy Father, during this time. Our ad limina visit begins on February 8th and ends on February 17th. I will be praying for the people of our diocese each day as we celebrate Mass in different Roman basilicas. I am the principal celebrant of the Mass on the last day of the visit which will be celebrated at the altar over the tomb of Blessed John XXIII in Saint Peter’s Basilica. We will also be celebrating Masses at the altars over the tombs of Saint Peter and Blessed John Paul II in Saint Peter’s Basilica, as well as at the basilicas of Saint Paul Outside the Walls (over the tomb of Saint Paul), Saint Mary Major and Saint John Lateran.

May the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul intercede for us!

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