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Ad limina visit

Posted By December 2, 2011 | 2:52 pm | Lead Story #1
Photo courtesy of L’Osservatore Romano In looking back, Bishop McManus finds himself excitedly looking forward. At the beginning of November, he and other New England bishops spent a week in Rome reflecting on the past, specifically 2004-2010, in what is called an “ad limina” visit. They visited with Pope Benedict XVI and with officials in various Vatican offices that oversee particular segments of the Church’s pastoral life. Approximately every five years bishops from around the world make such a visit “to the threshold of the Apostles.” The theme of “passing on the faith, in the context of the new evangelization” was repeated again and again during this visit, Bishop McManus said.

By Margaret M. Russell

In looking back, Bishop McManus finds himself excitedly looking forward.
At the beginning of November, he and other New England bishops spent a week in Rome reflecting on the past, specifically 2004-2010, in what is called an “ad limina” visit. They visited with Pope Benedict XVI and with officials in various Vatican offices that oversee particular segments of the Church’s pastoral life. Approximately every five years bishops from around the world make such a visit “to the threshold of the Apostles.”
The theme of “passing on the faith, in the context of the new evangelization” was repeated again and again during this visit, Bishop McManus said.
As such, he is looking forward to concerted efforts worldwide toward assisting Catholics to rediscover their faith – what is often called new evangelization. It is a commitment that has permeated Bishop McManus’ ministry since coming to the Diocese of Worcester in 2004. And it is the focus of Pope Benedict XVI’s “Year of Faith,” the observance of which begins next October.
This past October the pope announced the special “Year of Faith” in an apostolic letter, “Porta Fidei” (“The Door of Faith”). The year’s beginning, Oct. 11, 2012, coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Photo courtesy of L’Osservatore Romano

During the “Year of Faith,” Bishop McManus said he would like “everything we do pastorally, specifically our Catholic school education and catechetical work,” to be done “through the lens of the new evangelization.”
He noted that in his letter, Pope Benedict talks about using the Catechism of the Catholic Church as “a privileged vehicle for passing on the faith and for moving the new evangelization ahead.”
“Our visit to the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization was like a pep rally,” Bishop McManus said. A very dynamic Italian Archbishop Rino Fisichella oversees the council, he said.
New evangelization is also the theme of the October 2012 world Synod of Bishops, he noted.
“So, there is this confluence of energy and apostolic zeal putting forward the new evangelization. That was very encouraging,” Bishop McManus said.
The ad limina visit, Bishop McManus explained, is best described as a pilgrimage.
An outsider might look at a diocese as a local franchise of an international corporation and the visit to Rome as going to headquarters to let them know about profits and sales, he said.
“The fundamental reason for an ad limina visit is an exercise in communion between the local bishop and the apostolic see, in particular, the successor of St. Peter, the pope. Really it is a spiritual experience but also, obviously, administrative responsibilities are addressed and reflected upon,” he explained.
“The administrative responsibilities of reporting to Vatican officials has to be seen and understood in a broader context. … In every dicastery we went to, the prefect or the president of the pontifical council made it very clear that this is an opportunity for ecclesial communion. … There is no sense of ‘we are in charge and we will tell you what you are going to do.’ It was very fraternal,” he said.
The officials they met with included ones in: the Congregation for Divine Worship who gave the bishops kudos for implementing the new English translation of the Missal;
The Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family who were interested in the American bishops’ work for the pro-life cause and expressed their thanks for their work on the preservation of marriage;
The Congregation for Catholic Education who wondered why the governments in countries far more secular than the United States financially support Catholic schools;
And the Congregation for the Clergy with whom they had a frank talk about pastoral reconfiguration and appeals made to that congregation by parishioners of churches a bishop decides to close.
“What was impressive in our meeting with the pope was that he made it very clear that we share in his apostolic mission in overseeing the life of the Church,” Bishop McManus said.
In fact, he explained that the word for bishop comes from the Greek “episcopos” – which means overseer.
As overseer of the diocese, the bishop and his collaborators write a quinquennial report to see what has happened pastorally since the previous visit to the Holy See. This kind of snapshot of life in the diocese, including strengths and weaknesses, is presented to the papal nuncio who gives it to the Vatican secretary of state who then distributes its parts to the appropriate Vatican offices. Bishop McManus said he presumes Pope Benedict gets an executive summary of each diocese’s report.
Worcester’s report is 94 pages and includes statistics and information about pastoral initiatives. Many people in the diocese contributed to the report, Bishop McManus said.
He highlighted three important aspects of the report: passing on the sacramental life of the local church; how the faith is being passed on (especially through Catholic school education and religious education programs); and how the life of charity is being exercised in the diocese – “which shows how our social services and outreach to the poor and disenfranchised are a manifestation of our commitment to the Gospel.”
Bishop McManus said the most important part of the report describes the sacramental life of the diocese, “especially the number of people who are practicing their faith regularly in terms of celebrating Sunday Eucharist. The Second Vatican Council reminds us that the Mass is the source and summit of the Christian life. In a sense, that is the heart of the Catholic identity. Without the Eucharist, you really cannot be authentically Catholic.”
One statistic delineated in the report is cause for concern, but it is an issue that is being addressed. The fact that just 22 percent of baptized Catholics in the Diocese of Worcester attend Mass regularly is stark evidence of the need for a new evangelization, Bishop McManus said. (In 2002, the report notes, it was about 30 percent.)
“We may have a very high number of baptized Catholics, nominal Catholics, but in terms of actual practice of the faith, we (in New England) are one of the lowest in the United States,” he said.
“What we have to do, somehow in our pastoral strategies, we have to reintroduce the person of Jesus Christ to these people actually baptized into his body – the Church – and who have drifted from the practice of the faith and become very, very secular,” he said.
The 2012 focus on new ways to evangelize will help the Church do just that.

PHOTO: Photo courtesy of L’Osservatore Romano
Pope Benedict XVI and Bishop McManus  in the pope’s library at their “ad limina” visit in early November. Bishop McManus said the pope “exuded profound serenity” during the encounter with the New England bishops.