What’s an ‘ad limina’ visit? Here are 8 things you need to know

Denver Catholic Staff

On Feb. 10-15, bishops from Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico will travel to Rome for their “ad limina” visits. Here’s a few things to know:

What is an ad limina visit?
An ad limina visit is an obligatory visit made by all bishops to Rome during which they pray at the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul. In addition, they meet with Pope Francis and Vatican officials and present a quinquennial report of their respective diocese.

What does ad limina mean?
It is from the Latin ad limina apostolorum (“to the threshold of the apostles”).

What happens during an ad limina visit?
While the audience with Pope Francis receives the most coverage, the spiritual heart of an ad limina visit are Masses at the major churches of Rome: St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major. In addition, the bishops will meet with officials from many of the departments and offices in the Roman Curia.

Who participates in the ad limina visit?
Every active, able American bishop will make an ad limina pilgrimage by Feb. 22, 2020. This particular trip will include bishops from Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Among them, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and the Archdiocese of Denver’s auxiliary bishop, Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez will travel to Rome.

Is this Archbishop Aquila’s first ad limina visit?
This marks his first ad limina visit as the archbishop of Denver, but it will be his third ad limina visit overall. As bishop of Fargo, Archbishop Aquila participated in the 2004 and 2012 ad limina visits.

What about the auxiliary bishop?
This will be the first ad limina visit for Bishop Rodriguez, as he was ordained a bishop in November 2016.

What’s a quinquennial report?
A quinquennial report is a detailed report on the state of a diocese. Over several chapters, it presents to the Holy Father and the Vatican an update on the activities of the bishop and diocese in several areas, including the liturgical and sacramental life of the local Church, Catholic education, evangelization, communications, social teaching of the Church, the financial state of the diocese and more. The chapters roughly correspond to the departments and offices of the Vatican.

The Code of Canon Law dictates that the visits are supposed to occur every five years. Why was there an almost eight-year gap between the previous ad limina visit and this one?
Quite simply, the number of dioceses and bishops throughout the world has grown too large for that five-year schedule to be practical. There are currently 3,017 dioceses, prelatures and vicariates around the world. To maintain a five-year schedule, the Holy Father would need to meet with more than one bishop every single day. Even with Pope Francis’ practice of meeting with groups of bishops, the every-five-years timetable is not feasible given the other demands on the Holy Father’s time.

This report of the ‘ad limina’ visits was originally compiled and published by Detroit Catholic. It is updated and reprinted here with permission.

COMING UP: Transforming quarantine into retreat

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This bruising Lent, in which “fasting” has assumed unprecedented new forms, seems likely to be followed by an Eastertide of further spiritual disruption. What is God’s purpose in all this? I would be reluctant to speculate. But at the very least, the dislocations we experience – whether aggravating inconvenience, grave illness, economic and financial loss, or Eucharistic deprivation – call us to a more profound realization of our dependence on the divine life given us in Baptism: the grace that enables us to live in solidarity with others and to make sense of the seemingly senseless.

If we cooperate with that grace rather than “kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14), it can enable us to transform quarantine, lockdown, and the interruption of normal life into an extended retreat, a time to deepen our appreciation of the riches of Catholic faith. Dioceses, Catholic centers, and parishes are offering many online opportunities for prayer, thereby maintaining the public worship of the Church. Here are other resources that can help redeem the rest of Lent and the upcoming Easter season.

* Shortly before the Wuhan virus sent America and much of the world reeling, I began watching Anthony Esolen’s Catholic Courses video-lectures on the Inferno, the first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy. I’ve long admired Tony Esolen’s Dante translation and his lucid explanation of the medieval Christian worldview from which Dante wrote; and there was something fitting about watching Esolen accompany Dante and Virgil through hell during a hellish Lent. Professor Esolen’s explication of Dante’s Purgatory and Paradise (also available from Catholic Courses) are just as appropriate these days, however. For the entire Comedy is a journey of conversion that leads to the vision of God; and that is precisely the itinerary the Church invites us to travel during Lent, as the Forty days prepare us to meet the Risen Lord at Easter and experience the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

* Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was arguably the greatest papal homilist since Pope St. Gregory the Great in the sixth century. The March and April sermons in Seeking God’s Face: Meditations for the Church Year (Cluny Media), help put the trials of this Lent and Eastertide into proper Christian focus.

* I’ve often recommended the work of Anglican biblical scholar N.T. Wright. Two chapters (“The Crucified Messiah” and “Jesus and God”) in The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is (InterVarsity Press) make apt Lenten reading in plague time. The fifth chapter of that small book, “The Challenge of Easter,” neatly summarizes Dr. Wright’s far longer and more complex argument in The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress Press) and makes a powerful case for the historical reality of the Easter events. Like Wright, Pope Emeritus Benedict’s reflections on the empty tomb and the impact of meeting the Risen One in Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week (Ignatius Press) underscore the bottom of the bottom line of Christianity: no Resurrection, no Church.

* Bishop Robert Barron’s Catholicism series is the greatest audio-visual presentation of the faith ever created. If you’ve never watched it, why not now?  If you have, this may be the time to continue with Bishop Barron’s Catholicism: The New Evangelization (an exploration of how to put Catholic faith into action) and Catholicism: The Pivotal Players (portraits of seminal figures in Catholic history who did just that – St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine of Siena, St. John Henry Newman, G.K. Chesterton, and Michelangelo).

* Pope St. John Paul II’s centenary is the Monday following the Fifth Sunday of Easter: an anniversary worth celebrating, whatever the circumstances. The first 75 years of this life of extraordinary consequence for the Church and the world are relived in the documentary film, Witness to Hope – The Life of John Paul II. Liberating a Continent, produced by the Knights of Columbus, is a stirring video evocation of John Paul’s role in the collapse of European communism – and a reminder, in this difficult moment, of the history-bending power of courage and solidarity.

* The Dominican House of Studies in Washington and its Thomistic Institute are intellectually energizing centers of the New Evangelization. The good friars are not downing tools because of a pandemic; rather, they’re ramping up. Go to thomisticinstitute.org to register for a series of online “Quarantine Lectures” and an online Holy Week retreat. At the same home page, you’ll find Aquinas 101, 52 brief videos that make one of Catholicism’s greatest thinkers accessible to everyone, free and online, through brilliant teaching and striking animation.

And may the divine assistance remain with us, always.