By Susan Gately - 14 January, 2017
Twenty-nine men representing twenty-six dioceses begin their five-yearly pilgrimage to Rome this weekend.
Twenty-six bishops and three apostolic administrators representing the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference will be in Rome from Sunday for ten days for their ‘Ad Limina’ visit.
The highlight of the visit to Rome will be the bishops’ meeting with Pope Francis next Friday 20 January, when the men will collectively have an audience with the Pope, and Archbishop Eamon Martin, the President of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, will address the Pope on behalf of the bishops.
“As a relatively new bishop, I look forward, along with my fellow bishops, to have the opportunity to engage at a more intensive level for a few weeks with the Universal Church, through our meeting with Pope Francis, who is the visible symbol of the unity of the Church,” Bishop Kevin Doran told CatholicIreland.net. He added that having lived in Rome for eight years he was “very familiar with Saint Peter’s Basilica”, but “this pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Peter has a unique significance for me. I look forward to praying there for the intentions of all our priests, deacons, religious and parishioners”.
Catholic bishops are required to make an Ad Limina Apostolorum visit (literally ‘to the threshold of the Apostles’) every five years. The aim of the visit is to “strengthen the bishops’ communion with the universal Church and with the successor of Saint Peter, Pope Francis,” said a spokesman for the bishops.
During the ten-day visit, the bishops will have a series of meetings with the staff of the various departments of the Roman Curia in the Holy See to share their pastoral experiences. They will also pray together at the tombs of the apostles.
Each of Ireland’s four archbishops will celebrate Mass in one of the main basilicas of Rome: Archbishop Eamon Martin at St Peter’s on Monday 16 January; Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at Saint John Lateran on Wednesday 18 January; Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly SMA at Saint Paul outside the Walls on Friday 20 January; and Archbishop Michael Neary at Saint Mary Major on Saturday 21 January.
Two auxiliary bishops from Dublin, Bishop Ray Field and Bishop Éamonn Walsh, are part of the delegation, as well as three diocesan administrators representing ‘vacant sees’ – dioceses awaiting the appointment of a new bishops – Ossory, Galway and Clogher.
According to the Catholic Communications office in Maynooth, each of the bishops submits a report on his diocese to the Holy See before the Ad Limina visit. “The report from each diocese describes the actual situation of the Church in that diocese (an overview of the present situation, facts and figures) for which the diocesan bishop is responsible, its challenges, its relations with non-Catholic and non-Christian religious communities, with civil society and with the public authorities.”
These reports are studied in advance and a summary is presented to the Pope.
During the ten-day visit, bishops will visit the Holy See department to which they have a particular link. For example, the bishops who are members of the Council for Education (Bishops Brendan Kelly, Leo O’Reilly, Donal McKeown and Liam MacDaid) would expect to visit the Congregation for Catholic Education. During their visit, they will discuss the situation of the Church in Ireland in relation to this particular area and the pastoral initiatives they are taking. They will also discuss issues of concern. As there are over 20 departments in the Roman curia, no one bishop will visit them all.
This Ad Limina visit by the bishops of Ireland takes place during the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity (18–25 January each year), which means that no Catholic bishops will be present to take part in ecumenical gatherings during the week of prayer.
The bishops leaving for Rome this weekend are: Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh, President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference; Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin; Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly SMA, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly; Archbishop Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam; Bishop Michael Smith, Bishop of Meath; Bishop John Buckley, Bishop of Cork and Ross; Bishop John Kirby, Bishop of Clonfert; Bishop Éamonn Walsh, Auxiliary Bishop in Dublin; Bishop Leo O’Reilly, Bishop of Kilmore; Bishop Philip Boyce OCD, Bishop of Raphoe; Bishop Raymond Field, Auxiliary Bishop in Dublin; Bishop John McAreavey, Bishop of Dromore; Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry; Bishop John Fleming, Bishop of Killala; Bishop Denis Brennan, Bishop of Ferns; Bishop Brendan Kelly, Bishop of Achonry; Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor; Bishop Liam S. MacDaid, Bishop Emeritus of Clogher; Bishop William Crean, Bishop of Cloyne; Bishop Brendan Leahy, Bishop of Limerick; Bishop Raymond Browne, Bishop of Kerry; Bishop Denis Nulty, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin; Bishop Francis Duffy, Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois; Bishop Kevin Doran, Bishop of Elphin; Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore; Bishop Fintan Monahan, Bishop of Killaloe; Monsignor Michael Ryan, Diocesan Administrator of Ossory; Canon Michael McLaughlin, Diocesan Administrator of Galway; and Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, Diocesan Administrator of Clogher.