Monday, January 14, 2013

Ad limina visits

Today's photos

1. St. Peter's Basilica was built over the site of the martyrdom and the burial place of the first bishop of Rome.

2. The tomb of Peter lies two levels beneath the main altar which is directly beneath the baldachino (canopy).

3. This little church rises above the site of the martyrdom of St. Paul (See Rome: Sights and Insights, Chapter 1, San Paolo alle Tre Fontane).

4. The Basilica of St. Paul outside the walls where St. Paul is buried beneath the main altar.

5. The tomb of St. Paul.

6. The successor of Peter lives on the top floor of the Apostolic Police, overlooking St. Peter's Square, where you see the lights on.

7. Benedict XVI (2005 - ), 264th successor of Peter, bishop of Rome, head of the universal Church.


Ad limina visits


I read with great interest last week that the Italian bishops will be making their ad liminia visits to the pope throughout 2013. It occurred to me that some people might not know the meaning of the term ad limina and the purpose of the visit, so here is a short explanation.


Every bishop of a diocese everywhere in the world is required by Canon Law to travel in pilgrimage to Rome once every five years. The purpose of the visit is threefold: 1) to pray at the tombs of the apostles, Peter and Paul; 2) to meet personally with the pope, the bishop of Rome and successor of Peter; 3) to consult with the heads of the various ministries (dicasteri) of the Church and report on the activities of his diocese.


The Latin term ad limina is shortened from ad limina apostolorum (to the thresholds of the apostles), referring to the first purpose of the bishop's trip: to pray at the tombs of Peter and Paul. The symbolism is very strong here. Peter and Paul are the patron saints of Rome, the center of Roman Catholicism, where they were both martyred. In addition, Peter was the first bishop of Rome, the first pope. The visit to his tomb is followed by the meeting with Peter's 264th successor, the current bishop of Rome, the 265th pope, Benedict XVI. 


Although the pope is the bishop of Rome, he is also the head of the Universal Church, so he does not personally administer the day-to-day activities of his diocese. He has a vicar (il vicario), a cardinal who manages the diocese on his behalf.  Because of the great size and importance of the diocese of Rome, the cardinal vicar has five auxiliary bishops to assist him. The diocese is divided into five sections: north, south, east, west and historic center, each of which is administered by one of the five auxiliary bishops.


The ad limina visits of the Italian bishops began last week with the visit of the cardinal vicar of Rome and his five auxiliary bishops. Surely a special moment for the pope as he receives the bishops who are in charge of his diocese.


I mentioned above that I read of this visit with "great interest", because the auxiliary bishop in charge of the historic center is Matteo Zuppi who, until two years ago, was the pastor at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, my parish church. It is a great honor for the parish that its former pastor is now an auxiliary bishop of the pope's diocese and that he has been given the responsibility of the historic center, which includes his Trastevere neighborhood.


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