In conformity with Canon Law I made a recent "ad limina" visit to Rome from last March 6th through the 15th. Normally, this is demanded of Diocesan Bishops every five years, but because of the millennium celebrations and the election of a new Pope, this one was the first I had been on since November of 2004, a few months before the death on April 2, 2005 of Blessed Pope John Paul II.
The Latin term "ad limina" literally means "to the threshold" and refers to the Bishops’ duty to pray at the tombs of Saints Peter and Saint Paul. However, the visit consists of much more. It is preceded by a very extensive and detailed report about the Diocese drawn up by the Bishop with his staff, many copies of which have to be sent ahead of time to Rome through the offices of the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington (the Pope’s ambassador to our country). These are examined by the various departments of the Holy See in preparation for the visit.
The United States’ Bishops do these visits by region. The American hierarchy is divided into 15 regions. We Bishops of Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa form region number 9 and so we all were together in Rome for this visit. We were a total of 19 Bishops plus the new Bishop-designate of Salina, Kansas, Monsignor Edward Weisenburger. Our number included 4 retired Bishops and 1 auxiliary Bishop.
I was accompanied on my trip by my sister, Sister Collette, who acted as my assistant and secretary. Our parents had left some money for her possible future travel expenses, and so it cost our Diocese nothing to have her come with me.
While in Rome for those ten days, I stayed at the apartment of Archbishop James Harvey, the Prefect of the Pontifical Household. It is located on the second floor (seconda loggia) of the Apostolic Palace. My quarters had been the private bedroom and study of Pope Julius II in the 16th century. My sister stayed at the House of Study (Domus Guadalupe) of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious.
We have four priests from our Diocese of Lincoln currently living in Rome and my visit gave me the opportunity to visit with them, interact with them, and dine with them on several occasions. Along with the staff of the North American College in Rome, those four priests, Monsignor Fucinaro, Fathers Menke, Kilcawley, and Snitily, were of great help to me during my stay, along with the comfortable and, indeed, delightful company and hospitality of Archbishop Harvey.
I arrived in Rome on March 5th, having left Omaha and going through Atlanta on the 4th. I offered Mass in Archbishop Harvey’s Chapel and tried to adjust to the new surroundings. On the evening of March 6th, all the Bishops of our region had an orientation meeting and prayer session at the North American College. Then we concelebrated Mass with the entire seminary staff and community and dined with the Rector. That seminary currently has the highest enrollment of any American seminary.
Early on March 7th we concelebrated Mass at the tomb of Saint Peter and then had a morning meeting at the Congregation for Bishops, which is headed by the Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet. In the afternoon, we had a reception and discussion period with Ambassador Diaz at Villa Richardson, the home of the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. That evening Monsignor Fucinaro arranged a nice dinner meeting with some of my many American and Roman friends who still live in the Eternal City.
The next day, March 8th, we had two morning meetings, the first with the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature, now headed by Cardinal Raymond Burke, an American, and the second at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity which is headed by the Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch. In the afternoon we concelebrated Mass at the tomb of Saint Paul in the great Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. That evening we had a reception at Villa Stritch, the residence of American diocesan priests who work in the Roman Curia.
At the present time our Monsignor Thomas Fucinaro, who works in the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, is in charge of that residence, which is owned and operated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Then we had a Lincoln diocesan dinner with our priests, Archbishop Harvey, and my sister.
On Friday, March 9th, we had meetings in the morning with the Congregation for the Clergy which is headed by the Italian Cardinal Piacenza. Then the Bishops from Nebraska and Kansas were told they were to have an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.
This took place, enabling us to have a rather extensive discussion with the Holy Father. I found him well informed about our Diocese and very cordial and laudatory in his remarks. The Holy Father did not seem rushed and gave me (and the other Bishops, too) all the time we needed to speak with him, ask him questions, and receive his advice and wise words. He gave a discourse on marriage and chastity education to the Bishops from Minnesota and the Dakotas, which he also directed to our region as well.
Bishops were allowed to take only one priest in to meet the Pope to save wear and tear on that 84-year-old man, and I had decided to take in Monsignor Fucinaro, since he had been in Rome the longest of any of our priests. Bishop Michael Jackels of Witchita had no priest there to take in with him and so he agreed to take in one of mine. By some selection process it was Father Snitily who got to go in. At the last minute, the officials allowed me to take Father Steven Snitily back from Bishop Jackels and so he came in with me and Monsignor Fucinaro.
At the conclusion of the audience, Pope Benedict XVI gave me, as he did to each of the Bishops, a silver, gold plated, pectoral cross. That afternoon, we concelebrated Mass at Saint Mary Major Basilica and then had a meeting at the new Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, which is headed by the Italian Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella.
TO BE CONTINUED.
AD LIMINA VISIT - 2012- I