A Five-Year Report in Rome


Pardon me, but I’m a little bit nervous.

Next week I’m being called into the principal’s office!

Sunday, along with the bishops of New York State, I’ll be in Rome for what we call our ad limina visit.

By canon (church) law, we prelates are obliged to visit Rome every five years to give a report on our leadership. We call it the ad limina, Latin for “to the edge” as we first go “to the edge” of the tombs of the apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, to pray the Creed, offer Mass, and renew our promises as successors of the apostles.

Then, all week, we visit each of the offices of the Holy See: Catholic education, charity, clergy, religious, bishops, Doctrine of the Faith, ecumenism, protection of young people, the secretary of state, and, finally, the Successor of St. Peter himself, Pope Francis.

Each of these offices will have read the lengthy report we earlier sent about the life of our dioceses, called the Quinquennial (Latin, again, for “five years.”) They’ll have questions, criticism, and, please God, compliments!

It’s a time of prayer, reflection, accountability, and renewal.

I might even, perhaps, get a chance to get a good bowl of pasta at one of my old favorites.

It will also be a time of fraternity, as we bishops prepare for and make these visits together. These are tough days for us as bishops, as they are for our priests and people.

What we will cherish especially is our time with Pope Francis, where we are confident he will follow what the Bible tells him to do, and “confirm the brethren in the faith.”

One of the litany of complaints we hear today is that we bishops have to be more “accountable.” Agreed...as long as you agree that we already are...even though we can, to be sure, always improve. I’m accountable to my priests’ council, college of consultors, finance council, pastoral council, reporters who badger me, my brother bishops, all of you, and, especially to God. And, next week I’ll be examined by the Pope and his closest collaborators in the pastoring of the Church universal.

If I flunk, I might just stay in Rome and be a tour guide.

If I pass, I’ll be back, hopefully refreshed, renewed, and encouraged.

With me will be my brother bishops: John O’Hara, Peter Byrne, and the bishops-elect, Gerardo Colacicco and Edmund Whalen.

We’ll have a chance to visit our seminarians at the North American College—where we’ll stay—our graduate priests at the Casa Santa Maria, and our own New Yorkers in service to the Vatican, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, O.P., and Monsignor Luke Sweeney.

While, at the tombs of the apostle Peter and Paul, I’ll pray an act of faith, an act of hope for my continued ministry, and an act of contrition for my multiple failings and I’ll also pray for you.

I’ll let you know how it went when I get back a week from Saturday.


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