Archbishop departs for ‘ad limina’ visit

News — both print and electronic — recently flashed that Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley would be visiting Rome Aug. 29. The tone of the reports implied that the archbishop was to make a kind of “summons to report” and that the primary purpose was to “give an account of the ‘clergy sexual abuse scandal’ and ‘the parish closings.’”

The media reports gave the impression that the archbishop is being hauled like some miscreant schoolboy to the proverbial woodshed for a dressing down, a correction of his ways and directions about what to do next.

Though issues such as the abuse scandal or parish reconfiguration may be raised in the meeting between the archbishop and the Holy Father, that is certainly not its primary purpose and the visit is far from a surprise. Some clear information needed to be given to area Catholics about the reality of what is commonly called the “ad limina visit.”

The Church’s law specifies in canon 400 the purpose of the visit: “During the year when he is bound to submit a report to the Supreme Pontiff, a diocesan bishop is to go to Rome to venerate the tomb of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul and to present himself to the Roman Pontiff.”

Every five years, according to a schedule prescribed by the Holy See, each diocesan bishop is to submit a detailed report on the condition of his diocese to the “Supreme Pontiff.” The canon clearly states that this is a regularly scheduled visit and it is personal between the bishop and the Holy Father. Note that it does not say that the bishop is to submit the report to the Holy See, but personally to the Supreme Pontiff. Canon 399 of the present Code of Canon Law spells this out.

The report on the condition of the diocese covers everything for which the bishop has responsibility in his diocese. The larger and more complex the diocese the larger and more complex will be the report. In 1988 the Congregation for Bishops issued a Directory to assist diocesan bishops in preparing, compiling and sending their reports to the Holy See.

The reports follow a specific outline and ask for statistics (where appropriate); data about personnel, the condition of the physical and fiscal structure and condition of the diocese, the programs of education and religious formation, medical, charitable and social services offered by the diocese. If you wanted to know the “what” about which Archbishop O’Malley will be required to report, a copy of the “Boston Catholic Directory” would be a good starting point.

Since the visit is not simply the report of a franchise operator to the CEO, but rather a spiritual, pastoral and juridical visit of “brother helping a brother” the element of prayer permeates the Directory. Whether in the remote preparation when the bishop is urged to seek the prayers of the entire diocese as he readies to go to Rome or the time or prayer and the celebration of Mass at the various churches of Rome — especially the visit to the tombs of St. Peter at the Vatican or of St. Paul at the church of St. Paul Outside the Walls — it is clear that his is not just a regional meeting of a board of directors.

The bishops make their visits in coordinated groups, usually of an ecclesiastical province or of a pastoral region designated and directed and arranged by various offices in Rome and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In Rome bishops meet with certain officials based on matters that might be specific to their own dioceses. It is not unusual to see American bishops heading to the offices for liturgy and education since these are usually “front burner” topics. The Congregation for Bishops is a “must visit” for many bishops as this office is concerned with many of the day to day issues facing bishops, as well as those that might be of particular interest in a specific diocese. For example, if a bishop determines that he would like the assistance of one or more auxiliary bishops or he is nearing retirement age, he might make a stop at this office not only in a group meeting, but also in a personal one.

Local reports neglected to state that Archbishop O’Malley would not be going alone to Rome; in fact most, if not all of the diocesan, auxiliary and some of the retired bishops of New England will accompany him.

Interestingly, if the year designated for the ad limina visit falls within the first two years of his service, a diocesan bishop is not required to make the report.

In the case of USCCB Region I, the New England bishops, only the bishops of Burlington, Vt.; Manchester, N.H.; Providence, R.I. and Bridgeport, Conn. and the Eparch of Stamford, Conn. are required to make the report this year. All the other bishops fall into the exception provided in canon 399.2. This does not mean that each will take advantage of the exception. In any case the bishop still wants to go to Rome to meet with the Holy Father, because the visit is more than simply submitting reports.

In Rome the bishops will have a busy schedule of meetings in Roman offices. There will be time for them to celebrate Mass together not only at St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s but also at other churches, frequently ones that have special meaning for them personally.

Depending on his schedule the Holy Father may meet individually with the bishops. Even in his advancing years, the pope is still vitally interested and alert when meeting one-on-one with bishops about their sees. This is one of the primary responsibilities of the Bishop of Rome expanding on Jesus’ command to Peter: “Strengthen your brothers.”

According to published reports from American bishops who have already made their “ad limina” visits this year, the Holy Father meets with each, though for a very brief time, and then meets with the whole group. If time permits he may deliver his message to the group orally or simply present it to them in printed form. The text of the address of the Holy Father is usually available to the public the next day on the Holy See’s web site,

From what has so far been conveyed by other reports, the bishops genuinely look forward to the “ad limina” visit. The visit, while providing the Holy Father and his collaborators in the Roman Curia with a detailed picture of each local church, provides each bishop a chance to “visit Peter” and to receive support and encouragement from the pope, and his brother bishops in his duties to teach, govern and sanctify the people of Christ entrusted to his care.

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...

Addicts and their loved ones talk about life with opioid addiction

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- It was a Saturday night, and Billy was eating pizza and watching a sporting event in the basement bedroom of his residence, a ...

Signers of letter hope Vatican meeting will bring needed steps on crisis

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Signers of an open letter from Catholic women to Pope Francis urging "truth" and "transparency" on the growing sex abuse crisis expressed ...

Community 'overwhelmed and shell-shocked' after gas explosions, says pastor

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Down to earth: Vatican brings together world's meteorite curators

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Rocks, mineral debris and even dust from space are kept in special collections, museums and laboratories all over the ...

Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Algeria Dec. 8

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The beatification of 19 martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, will be celebrated Dec. 8 in Oran, ...

'Anything but a picnic' - Cardinal Dolan on the Church's summer of scandal

New York City, N.Y., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spoken about how the extended sexual abuse scandals facing the Church have taken a ...

Restoring and reimagining: Transformation at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross

BOSTON -- Considered by many to be the heart of the Archdiocese of Boston, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the largest Catholic church in New England, ...

Archdiocese says Cardinal O'Malley will personally review all abuse letters

BRAINTREE (CAN) -- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced changes to the way it will process and respond to letters addressed to Cardinal Séan P. ...

CM receives $2.5M grant from Yawkey Foundations

West Roxbury -- Catholic Memorial, a college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7 to 12, announced Sept. 5 that they have received a $2.5 million grant ...

Father Christian Ohazulume removed from ministry

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese announced on Sept. 11 that it had removed a priest from ministry after receiving an allegation that he sexually abused a ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

This week I am in transit to Rome in anticipation of the next meeting of the C9 Council of Cardinals. So, I have asked Vivian Soper to share some reflections ...

Kavanaugh's birth control comments spur controversy -- What did he say?

Washington D.C. (CNA) -- Opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have suggested that a reference to birth control pills as "abortion-inducing drugs" during ...

Missouri to enforce abortion regulations in wake of appeals court ruling

Jefferson City, Mo. (CNA) -- Missouri's health department announced Monday that it will immediately being enforcing state laws regulating abortion clinics ...