Tuesday 26 January 2010

Ad Limina Apostolorum

As noted in the previous post, yesterday was the feast of the conversion of St Paul. At some point within a few years of his conversion, Paul travelled to Jerusalem to meet with the leaders of the Church there, most notably St Peter. If it was important for the Apostles to meet with St Peter in those early years of the Church, it is no less important that their successors meet with the Pope, who occupies the chair of St Peter today. So it is that - in a rolling programme which takes a few years - all the bishops of the world travel to Rome to meet with the Holy Father and the various departments which oversee the Church's life and mission around the world. These visits, which take place country by country, are known as 'Ad Limina Apostolorum'.

Yesterday the Bishops of England and Wales began their Ad Limina visit, which will last for about ten days. Over this time they will pass through the gates of the Vatican (such as the Porta Sant'Anna, seen here) for meetings in Vatican departments. These departments (known as 'congregations') oversee every aspect of the Church's life: faith, liturgy, education, missionary work, the appointment of bishops, ecumenism and so on. At their meetings with our bishops, they will discover more about the life of the Church in our country, so that their understanding of the life of the worldwide Church may be kept up-to-date. Each bishop prepares reports about his diocese in advance of the visit, to help this process. The congregations may also suggest to the Bishops some ways forward, based on their knowledge of the Church's progress elsewhere across the globe.

Each week the Pope meets with many bishops, as we saw during our recent parish trip to Rome (pictured). During the Ad Limina, however, the Holy Father will not only meet with the Bishops, but also address them. He is likely to offer them some encouragement and advice about their ministry in these difficult times, and perhaps will make reference to his forthcoming visit to England, which seems likely to take place in September.

The term Ad Limina Apostolorum is translated 'to the threshold of the Apostles', and refers to the fact that the Bishops will also visit the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, to venerate the relics of these two great saints. Each bishop is required to make this visit every five years. Keep an eye on the blog during the visit, as we will bring you any information that makes its way back from the Eternal City!