TO THE TOMBS OF PETER AND PAUL
Next Friday, a week from today, I leave for Rome and my third visit Ad Limina since becoming your bishop. Every bishop in the world is to travel to Rome once every five years to report on the situation of his diocese, both to the Holy Father, and to his collaborators in the various Congregations, Councils and other offices of the Holy See. Our group is the next to the last of fifteen groupings of US bishops to make the trip since the latest round began in the late Fall of 2011.
There are so many bishops in the United States that we travel for these visits by episcopal regions. Our “region” includes the provinces of Atlanta and Miami or perhaps more understandable to you, the bishops of the arch/dioceses of Charlotte, Raleigh, Charleston, Atlanta, Savannah, Pensacola-Tallahassee, St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Orlando, Venice, Palm Beach and Miami.
Our visit is preceeded by the accumulation of pages and pages of reports and statistics indicating progress and/or loss since the last report (now eight years ago). There is also a narrative as well. The report was sent in advance and generally someone in each major office is delegated to peruse the reports for any anomolies or suspect problems.
In the past, bishops had private meetings with the Holy Father of about twenty minutes. In my two visits with Blessed John Paul II, the first five were always spent answering his questions about the health of Bishop Larkin, his classmate at the Belgian College in Rome in their younger days. There were always a few openers by the Holy Father (how are vocations? how is family life? what is being done for evangelization?) but generally with him, the bishop had to carry the conversation. At the end there were pictures with the Pope and a brief but fond farewell. Pope Benedict has decided to forego the private meetings and instead meets with us by province and during this time he invites an open discussion of any issues of concern to ourselves. Bishops completing their Ad Limina visits this year have spoken well of both the discussions and overall experience.
Then we make the rounds of various “must-see” congregations and councils and some of those which we wish to see to conduct any business which we might have.
Required of every bishop in the world on these visits is Mass at the Tomb of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica and at the Tomb of St. Paul and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. We will also be offering Mass during our week in Rome at the North American College, at the altar of Blessed John Paul II in St. Peters, and at the Basilicas of St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major. Between the Masses throughout the city, the work and the obligatory receptions (North American College Graduate House, the residence of the Ambassador of the United States of America to the Holy See, the Villa Stritch where US priests working for the Holy See reside), I can assure you that it is no “Roman holiday.” I will be exhausted when I return and have to plunge right into the confirmations, graduations and ordination schedule. I will attempt to blog each day but two cautions: there is a six hour difference in time zones and I must respect certain confidentialities along the line. Still I hope to capture the dialogue and exchanges. Next week prior to departure and after I have met with the priests of the diocese, I will indicate on what topic I wish to dedicate my three or five minutes of interaction with the Holy Father. If you have any thoughts and/or suggestions for the topic, please leave them in the comments column (only parishioners of the Diocese of St. Petersburg please, as the rest of the readership have their own bishop).