Bishop Michael R. Cote, along with other bishops from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont began their “ad limina” visits with Pope Francis and Vatican officials November 4, 2019.
An “ad limina apostolorum” visit is a papal meeting required for every diocesan bishop in the world to provide an update on the state of one’s diocese. The trip to Rome, usually made together with all the bishops from a country or region, also serves as a pilgrimage to “the threshold of the apostles,” giving the bishops, who are the successors of the apostles, the opportunity to pray at the tomb of St. Peter and St. Paul.
Ad limina visits typically take place every five years, as the world’s more than 5,300 bishops rotate through Rome.
Bishops from New England began the first round of visits with a Mass in Santa Maria Maggiore. A Mass was celebrated November 5 in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, and November 7 in St. Peter’s Basilica.
“We feel very keenly today, all of us, the weight of human sinfulness, of infidelity, of scandal, of the sin that weighs down the Church,” Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford said in his homily during the Mass in Santa Maria Maggiore, according to CNS.
Before meeting the pope, bishops on an ad limina trip also typically visit all of the Vatican dicasteries and can schedule personal meetings with the head of each dicastery to discuss particular matters.
During such visits, bishops’ conferences deliver exhaustive reports, called Quinquennial Reports, describing the status of the Church in their country.
Previous to Francis' pontificate, the meeting of the bishops with the pope included an exchange of speeches from both the president of the bishops' conference and pope, who delivered a speech providing pastoral recommendations and priorities. After the exchange of speeches, the pope then held a short conversation with each bishop individually.
Pope Francis changed the format of these visits to an open group conversation among the visiting bishops, who are allowed to ask questions of the pope for up to two hours. He also added an additional meeting presided over by himself with the bishops and the heads of some of the dicasteries. In past visits, this has included representatives from the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for Clergy, the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, and the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.
The American ad limina visits coincide with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ General Assembly and election November 10-13. Bishops from the state of New York will therefore be absent from the General Assembly and will vote remotely from the North American College in Rome.
Before the end of 2019, Pope Francis will meet with bishops from Washington, D.C., Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, West Virginia, and the U.S. Military Archdiocese, in addition to New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
Portions of this article are from a CNA article by Courtney Mares