SAN DIEGO – A delegation of more than 30 Catholic bishops from California, Hawaii and Nevada, including San Diego’s Bishop Robert W. McElroy and Auxiliary Bishop John P. Dolan, are in Rome to report on the state of their dioceses.
The bishops will be making their “ad limina” visit from Jan. 26-Feb. 1.
“There’s an ancient tradition in the Church that, periodically, every diocesan bishop visits the Holy See to meet with the pope … and also to meet with the different departments of the Vatican,” Bishop McElroy told The Southern Cross.
Traditionally, “ad limina” visits are to take place every five years. But, because the number of bishops worldwide has grown so large, this has proven impossible in recent decades. For the U.S. bishops, who are making their visits divided into 15 separate groups by geographical region, it has been eight years.
The Latin phrase “ad limina” is an abbreviated form of “ad limina apostolorum,” or “to the threshold of the apostles,” a reference to the fact that the visiting bishops are required not only to meet with the pope and high-ranking Vatican officials, but also to pray at the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul during their visit. Additionally, the bishops will be celebrating Masses together throughout the week at the major Vatican basilicas – St. Peter’s, St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside-the-Walls and St. Mary Major.
In anticipation of the “ad limina” visit, the bishop said, the diocese had been required to produce and submit a comprehensive report on “the whole array of life within this Local Church of San Diego,” including demographic trends, and what has been accomplished in various ministry areas.
That report was submitted to Rome about six months ago and the information therein was shared with the appropriate Vatican departments, said the bishop, who explained that this information, along with that from similar reports submitted by the other bishops, will set the stage for many of the discussions that will take place during their visit.
Bishop McElroy, who has made one previous “ad limina” visit during his time as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said different popes approach their meetings with the visiting groups of bishops in their own way. With Pope Francis, he anticipates “a very long conversation,” several hours in length, between the pope and the entire group of bishops.
Bishop McElroy has spoken with some of his brother bishops who have already made their “ad limina” visits, and they have told him about their experience.
“The bishops have been very moved – I’d even say emotionally so – by the depth of the conversation with the pope,” he said, explaining that the pope has been inviting the bishops to raise any issues they have and freely discuss whatever challenges they are facing.
The result, he said, has been “a very profound level of reflection.”
“They’ve been frank, they’ve been prayerful,” he said. “Many of [the bishops] say they really feel like they’re coming to Peter, as it were, for this discussion.”