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Ad Limina Visit


(Visitatio ad limina apostolorum) Refers to the periodic visit to Rome required of each residential bishop (CIC c. 400; Pastor bonus, no. 28) and military vicar approved by apostolic authority (S.C. Consist., Feb. 28, 1959, AAS 51:272). This visit is directly tied to the quinquennial report that is required of each residential bishop every five years in c. 399, as the visit is to be made the same year as that in which the report is submitted (c. 400 & sect.1). The 1983 Code of Canon Law has made the bishop's obligation to make the ad limina visit personally, and only if he is impeded may he satisfy the obligation through another, i.e. his coadjutor, the auxiliary, or a suitable priest who resides in the diocese (c. 400 & sect. 2). Since auxiliary and other titular bishops are not the primary pastors of a particular church and have no quinquennial report to make, they are not held to the ad limina visit. This visit has a sacred meaning, since "the bishops with religious veneration pay a visit to the tombs of Peter and Paul." It has a personal meaning, "because each individual bishop meets the successor of Peter and talks to him face to face," and it has a curial meaning, that is a "hallmark of community, because the bishops enter into conversation with the moderators of the dicasteries, councils, and offices of the Roman Curia" (Appendix 1, no. 6, of Pastor bonus ). The purpose of the visit, for the bishops, is "the strengthening of their own responsibility as successors of the Apostles and of their hierarchical communion with the Successor of Peter" (Congregation for Bishops, "Directory for the 'ad limina' visit," in L'Osservatore Romano, July 11, 1988). The ad limina visit has changed considerably under the pontificate of John Paul II from a canonical formality into a genuine exercise of the pope's care for all the Churches. As stated in the "Directory for the 'ad limina' visit," it is "an important moment in the exercise of the Holy Father's pastoral ministry," because he receives the bishops and discusses personally with them their questions concerning "their ecclesial mission." Though there is no concrete date in which the visits started, "There are, however, numerous testimonies which speak of its existence from the 4th century" (Orti, Accompanying Historico-Juridical Notes to the "Directory for the adlimina' visit").

[t. c. kelly]

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