.- The coordinator of the first delegation of American bishops visiting the Vatican on their “ad limina” visits is impressed with how closely Vatican officials follow events in the U.S.
Starting with today’s group of bishops, 15 delegations will make their way to Rome over the coming months to speak with Pope Benedict and Vatican officials about the health and future of the Catholic Church in the United States.
“I think it is important for the bishops to know that the various Vatican dicasteries and offices understand what is happening in the Church and public society in the U.S. And from our meetings already this morning it is clear that they keep abreast of both,” Bishop Robert C. Evans, Auxiliary Bishop of Providence, told CNA Nov. 4.
Bishop Evans is the coordinator for the first delegation of bishops drawn from the northeastern states of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Their visit will conclude next Wednesday, Nov. 9.
Today, the bishops said Mass at the tomb of St. Peter before going on to meetings with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Congregation for Bishops.
“They were both well aware of challenges facing us and asked our opinions as to what is happening amongst Catholics, different ethnic groups, the practice of our people as well as the challenges we face on things such as health care and evangelization.”
This is Bishop Evans’s first ad limina visit, but he said he is already pleasantly surprised by the Vatican’s emphasis on listening and discussing.
“They were genuinely concerned and interested in what we had to say on all these issues, a real thirst for knowledge and information and (it was) done so very respectfully.”
The six-day visit consists of a busy schedule of prayer and meetings with the bishops residing at the Vatican’s Domus Sanctae Marthae.
“This afternoon we have two more dicasteries to visit – the Pontifical Council for Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family,” said Bishop Evans, giving an idea of their daily schedule.
On Saturday, they will say Mass at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, which is the final resting place of St. Paul. The next day they will visit the Casa Santa Maria, the post-graduate residence of the North American College seminary.
Every bishop will also have an audience with Pope Benedict. This morning the bishops from the Province of Boston, who were led by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley O.F.M., met with the Pope. Tomorrow, the bishops from the Province of Hartford will have their chance to meet with Benedict XVI.
The term “ad limina” refers to the Latin phrase “ad limina apostolorum” – to the threshold of the apostles– referring to the pilgrimage to the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul that is required of every bishop. The visits usually take place every five years.