What's an 'ad limina' visit? Here's 10 things you need to know

Michigan's bishops process out after their Mass at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome in February 2012, the last time local bishops undertook an “ad limina” pilgrimage. (Catholic Press Photo | File photo)

On Dec. 9-13, bishops from Michigan and Ohio will travel to Rome for their “ad limina” visits. Here's a few things to know:

What is an ad limina visit?

An ad limina visit is an obligatory visit made by all bishops to Rome during which they pray at the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul. In addition, they meet with Pope Francis and Vatican officials.

What does ad limina mean?

It is from the Latin ad limina apostolorum (“to the threshold of the apostles”).

What happens during an ad limina visit?

While the audience with Pope Francis receives the most coverage, the spiritual heart of an ad limina visit are Masses at the major churches of Rome: St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major. In addition, the bishops will meet with officials from many of the departments and offices in the Roman Curia.

Who participates in the ad limina visit?

Every active, able American bishop will make an ad limina pilgrimage by Feb. 22, 2020. This particular trip will include bishops from Michigan and Ohio. Among them, Archbishop Vigneron and the Archdiocese of Detroit’s four auxiliary bishops, Bishop Gerard Battersby, Bishop Arturo Cepeda, Bishop Robert Fisher, and Bishop Donald Hanchon, will travel to Rome.

Is this Archbishop Vigneron’s first ad limina visit?

No, this will be his fourth ad limina visit. As Archbishop of Detroit, Archbishop Vigneron participated in the February 2012 ad limina visit. Prior to that, he participated in a May 2004 ad limina visit during his time as bishop of Oakland and a 1998 ad limina visit as an auxiliary bishop of Detroit.

What about the auxiliary bishops?

This will be the first ad limina visit for Bishops Battersby and Fisher. Bishops Cepeda and Hanchon were participants in the February 2012 ad limina visit.

Can I read more about the February 2012 ad limina visit?

Yes. The Michigan Catholic covered that visit, and you can read articles and view photos here.

What’s a quinquennial report?

A quinquennial report is a detailed report on the state of a diocese. Over several chapters, it presents to the Holy Father and the Vatican an update on the activities of the bishop and diocese in several areas, including the liturgical and sacramental life of the local Church, Catholic education, evangelization, communications, social teaching of the Church, the financial state of the diocese and more. The chapters roughly correspond to the departments and offices of the Vatican.

The Code of Canon Law dictates that the visits are supposed to occur every five years. Why was there an almost eight-year gap between the previous ad limina visit and this one?

Quite simply, the number of dioceses and bishops throughout the world has grown too large for that five-year schedule to be practical. There are currently 3,017 dioceses, prelatures and vicariates around the world. To maintain a five-year schedule, the Holy Father would need to meet with more than one bishop every single day. Even with Pope Francis’ practice of meeting with groups of bishops, the every-five-years timetable is not feasible given the other demands on the Holy Father’s time.

Where can I learn more about the ad limina visit?

Watch Detroit Catholic for full coverage of the visit next week.

Archdiocese of Detroit communications specialist Joe Tremblay compiled this report.