How do I visit other dimensions





The visit "ad limina Apostolorum" of all bishops who preside over the particular Churches around the world with love and willingness to serve in communion with the Apostolic See has a special meaning, namely the strengthening of their responsibility as Apostle successors and the hierarchical communion with the Successor of Peter the reference to the graves of Saints Peter and Paul, as the shepherds and pillars of the Roman Church, to be established during their stay in Rome.

The "ad limina" visit represents a central moment in the exercise of the pastoral office of the Holy Father: on this visit the Supreme Shepherd receives the Pastors of the particular Churches and deals with them with questions relating to their ecclesiastical mission.

An examination of the origin and the legal historical development of this visit as well as a rethinking of its theological-spiritual-pastoral significance allow a deepening of the meaning and an elucidation of the foundations, reasons and objectives of an institution so venerable because of its age and so rich in ecclesiastical importance.

For this reason, three remarks are added at the end, namely a theological, a spiritual-pastoral and a legal-historical, while we limit ourselves here to pointing out a few points for a better understanding of the Directory.

I. The "ad limina" visit must not be viewed as a simple administrative act which would consist of completing a ritual, protocol and legal duty.

In the canonical legislation itself, which prescribes the visit (CIC can. 400), its two main aims are clearly stated:

a) the veneration of the graves of St. Apostles Peter and Paul;

b) the meeting with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

II. The veneration of the "trophies" of the apostles Peter and Paul on the occasion of a pilgrimage has been customary since the earliest times of Christianity and has retained its deep spiritual meaning as an expression of ecclesiastical communion; therefore it was made a permanent establishment for the bishops.

Indeed, it expresses the unity of the Church, founded by the Lord on the Apostles and on her head, St. Peter, was built with Christ himself and his "good news" of salvation for all people as the cornerstone.

III. The meeting with the Successor of Peter, the first guardian of the treasure of truth handed down by the apostles, would also like to re-establish this unity in the same faith, in the same hope and in the same love and to further recognize and recognize the immeasurable inheritance of spiritual and moral values to appreciate that the whole Church has spread throughout the world in communion with the Bishop of Rome. The manner and frequency of meetings with the Pope may and indeed have changed over the centuries; however, their essential meaning always remains the same.

IV. In a world that is becoming more and more one, and in a church that knows that it is "a sign and instrument for the innermost union with God as for the union of all mankind among themselves" (LG 1), it appears It is indispensable to promote and encourage a constant exchange between the particular Churches and the Apostolic See, through mutual information and common pastoral concern for problems, experiences and sufferings, as well as guidelines and projects in work and life.

This church exchange moves in two directions. On the one hand, there is a movement towards the center and visible foundation of that unity which is expressed through the commitment and personal responsibility of each bishop and through the spirit of collegiality (affectus collegialis) in groups and conferences that are bonds of unity and tools of service. On the other hand, there is the "only office entrusted to Peter" (LG20) for the service of the ecclesiastical community and its missionary expansion, so that nothing remains untried which promotes and protects the unity of faith and discipline common to the whole Church, and thus oneself deepen the awareness that it is the duty of the Shepherds to take care of the proclamation of the Gospel everywhere.

V. It is obvious that the Bishop of Rome needs authentic and guaranteed information about the concrete situation in the various particular Churches, about their problems and the initiatives taken there, about the difficulties encountered there and the results of the work, in order to carry out this office of his. that can be reached there. Today, however, more than in earlier times, this can be done through correspondence, through public information media, through the reports of the representatives of the Apostolic See in the various countries, but also through contacts that the Pope has with local reality during his apostolic journeys; What remains indispensable, however, is the direct relationship that the individual bishops or the conferences in which they are united in the various countries regularly maintain with the Pope in Rome during their pilgrimage after appropriate direct and indirect preparation for this encounter.

Pauli's visit to Peter and his fourteen-day stay with him (cf. Gal 1, 18) was an encounter of mutual help in their respective office. Similarly, the visit of the bishops, who are thus representatives and messengers of Christ in the particular churches entrusted to them, to the Successor of Peter, the "representative of Christ and visible head of the whole church" (LG 18), also enriches the experience of the Petrine ministry and its task to shed light on serious problems of the Church and the world, which are understood in their different weighting depending on the place, time and culture.

VI. This preparation includes the five-year report as provided for by the Code (can. 399) with reference to the "ad limina" visit (can. 400).

This report is a means of facilitating the communal relationship between the particular Churches and the Pope. It should be presented in good time so that the Holy Father can establish useful personal and pastoral contact with each bishop and so that the relevant dicasteries can conduct a constructive dialogue with the diocesan bishops on the basis of sufficient information.

VII. Hence the need, felt by the Holy Father, the Bishops and the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, to organize the "ad limina" visit and, first of all, to prepare it for them, whether on the part of the bishops or on the part of the dicasteries To regulate ordinaries of the Latin rite. For this purpose, this directorate should provide the relevant standards.

For the bishops of the oriental rites the publication of the code of the oriental canon law is awaited.


1. The indirect preparation


The essential moments of this indirect preparation are: the spiritual preparation, the elaboration and sending of the five annual report, the contacts with the local representative of the Pope.

1.1 A time for reflection and prayer.

The best preparation is Geisan. The "ad limina" visit is an act that every bishop performs for the benefit of his own diocese and the whole Church, in order to promote unity, love and solidarity in faith and in the apostolate. Every Ordinary will therefore endeavor to understand from his own experience the salient elements of the situation, to study them carefully and to summarize those conclusions which he believes he must draw from it before God and for the good of the Church.

In doing so, he will undoubtedly feel the need to include the entire diocesan community in his reflections and prayers for the act that lies before him in a special way, "ecclesial", especially, of course, the monasteries and other centers of prayer and penance.

1.2 The five annual report.

1.2.1 In anticipation of the "ad limina" visit, the Ordinarius is required to take all care in drafting the five-year report on the status of the ecclesiastical district entrusted to him: This report is stipulated by the Code for all Ordinaries that take place within the specified period rule for at least two full years of five years.[1]

1.2.2 In order to facilitate his work and to achieve a certain consistency of drafting useful for any subsequent examination and dialogue, the Ordinary can use the scheme prepared by the Congregation for the Bishops.[2]

1.2.3 The advantages of a five-year report are the interplay of brevity and clarity, its accuracy and clarity, the objectivity of the description of the actual situation of the particular Church, which the Ordinary presides, its problems and its relationship to the other non-Catholic and non-Christian religious communities as well as to the bourgeoisie Society and the state authorities.

1.2.4 In drafting the report, the Ordinary can rely on the assistance of competent persons of his trust, always while respecting the discretion that must surround such documents as well as all correspondence with the Apostolic See on the fundamental problems of the Church.

1.2.5 The report is normally sent to the Congregation for Bishops about six months (in no case less than three months) before the "ad limina" visit, for study and synthesis to be presented to the Holy Father in order to enable them to take note of the condition and problems of each individual church before the visit.[3]

1.2.6 It would be appropriate for the Ordinary to send three copies of the report or, in order to deal with any problems or individual cases with the various dicasteries, complete extracts from it, depending on their particular responsibility.

1.3 Cooperation with the representative of the Pope

1.3.1 In each country, it is the responsibility of the Pope's representative to remind the individual bishops of the date set for their visit a few months before the beginning of the year.

1.3.2 At the same time, he will ask the chairman of the bishops' conference to determine, in consultation with the bishops, one or more periods of the year when the bishops visit Rome individually or, if the circumstances suggest it, in groups. The date mentioned must of course be presented to the Holy Father for confirmation.[4]

1.3.3 The Pope's representative will also request submission of the five-year report on the part of those ordinaries that are obliged to do so.


2. Immediate preparation

Immediate preparation includes the previous agreements with the responsible office of the Congregation for Bishops to determine the dates and details of the visit.

2.1 Previous agreements with the Congregation for Bishops.

2.1.1 The time for the "ad limina" visit of the bishops of each country or ecclesiastical region is agreed between the Secretariat of the Bishops' Conference and the Prefecture of the Pontifical House, which sends them to the special office for coordinating visits to the Congregation for the bishops passes on.

2.1.2 Normally, a common time is set for all bishops of the same ecclesiastical province or pastoral region, so that all bishops who belong to it are in Rome at the same time, but it must always be ensured that the character of the visit is outstandingly personal is to be understood.

2.1.3 The Secretariat of the Episcopal Conference will send the Coordination Office a list of the group making the visit: the number and names of the participants, the social and pastoral situation of the areas they come from, problems affecting their area and solutions propose yourself to do so. For the same purpose, it is also useful to receive written submissions from each group, submitted in good time to the Coordination Office, containing information, suggestions and possible inquiries to be submitted to the Apostolic See.

2.1.4 The Secretariat of the Bishops' Conference and the aforementioned coordination office will determine the meeting that the bishops, individually or in groups, will have with the Roman dicasteries for purposes and content to be determined, so that their treatment can be prepared. In any case, the individual bishops are free to request such meetings directly and to explain their purpose.

2.1.5 For all negotiations about the visit, the (national or regional) bishops' conference should appoint a person in charge with headquarters in Rome who will supervise the preparation of the visit on site and therefore also maintain the contacts between the bishops and the coordination office. The aforementioned coordination office must be notified of his appointment.

2.2 Tasks of the coordination office

2.2.1 In the service of the bishops, the coordination office deals with the secretariat of the conference or with the person responsible on site all questions relating to the preparation and course of the "ad limina" visit, especially the schedule, the program of the celebrations and the meetings in Rome, as well as relations with the various dicasteries.

2.2.2 In order to facilitate the work of the individuals involved in the encounter with the bishops during the "ad limina" visit interested dicasteries, the coordination office takes on the following:

- it informs each dicastery of the dates of the visits planned for the half-year;

- it informs them in good time of the documents that have emerged from contacts with the secretariats of the Episcopal Conferences and with the persons in charge who have been appointed;

- it sends the dicasteries, depending on their competence, extracts from the five-year reports on the points which concern them;

- it negotiates with the various dicasteries to send requests and fix the dates for meetings with the various bishops, or to determine whether the dicasteries concerned would like to receive the bishops present on the visit, individually or in groups;

- in such a case, it informs the secretariat of the conference, the person in charge appointed or, if appropriate, the bishop concerned directly, while providing the dicasteries with all possible information on the situation, persons and groups.

2.2.3 The Prefecture of the Pontifical House remains responsible for setting the dates for meetings of the bishops or their groups with the Pope. But the coordination office:

- annually submits to the prefecture a complete list of the bishops who are expected to visit the "ad limina" and informs them of the dates known to them by the bishops for orientation;

- receives from the Prefecture in good time the general schedule established for the audiences of the individual bishops or their groups and communicates it to the dicasteries of the Roman Curia.

2.2.4 In the case of bishops belonging to the Congregation for the Oriental Churches or to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Coordination Office also offers its services to the offices of these dicasteries responsible for "ad limina" visits.

3. Course of the "ad limina" visit

The essential moments of the »ad limina« visit are:

- visiting and worshiping the tombs of the princes of the apostles;

- the encounter with the Holy Father;

- contacts with the dicasteries of the Roman Curia.

One or the other contact with the pastoral reality of the Roman Church can be added.

3.1 The liturgical moment

3.1.1 The pilgrimage to the tombs of the princes of the apostles, an essential moment of the visit, is concretized in a liturgical celebration that is intended to consolidate the ecclesial community and edify the participants, be they bishops, believers or others who, as is often the case in Rome is the case, participate in it for some reason.

3.1.2 To this end, in consultation with the Secretariat of the Episcopal Conference or with the person in charge, the Coordinating Office will contact the Patriarchal Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul to determine the time and place for the celebration of St. Establish Mass and possibly the Liturgy of the Hours or a Liturgy of the Word and regulate everything in advance regarding the place and people so that the liturgical act is solemn, dignified and meaningful for the purpose of the visit.

3.1.3 The form provided for this celebration is attached to this Directory.

3.1.4 If the bishops, individually or as a group, also wish to hold a celebration in the patriarchal basilicas of Santa Maria Maggiore and St. John Lateran, the coordinating office can arrange the time and prepare everything else that is necessary.

3.1.5 It would be good if pilgrims from the dioceses or regions of the bishops or other compatriots living in Rome or Italy could take part in such celebrations, as in other meetings in Rome, in order to share with their pastors in the testimony of faith and ecclesial communion to unite the tombs of the princes of the apostles and at the "cathedra Petri".

3.2 The encounter with the Holy Father

3.2.1 Each bishop will meet with the Successor of Peter for a face-to-face meeting on the day and hour set by the Prefecture of the Pontifical House for that audience.

3.2.2 If a common celebration or a group meeting with the Holy Father is possible, the person concerned or the person in charge will be informed of the exact time and place.

3.2.3 As clothing during the meetings with the Holy Father, the purple-lined, black bishop's robe with purple cingulum is prescribed.

3.3 Contacts with the dicasteries

3.3.1 The visit of the bishops to the dicasteries of the Roman Curia is of particular importance and is of great importance because of the close connection between the Pope and the organs of the Curia, which are the ordinary tools of the "Petrine office".

It is therefore desirable that the individual bishops or their groups or commissions go to the various dicasteries during the "ad limina" visit to raise problems and questions, request information, provide more detailed explanations and answer any questions. In any case it is advisable that the chairmen of the individual commissions pay a visit to the relevant dicasteries. All of this should be done out of a real community spirit in truth and love.

3.3.2 In order to establish fruitful contacts, it is necessary to inform the dicasteries in advance of the parts of the five-year reports that fall under their responsibility. Therefore, the coordination office will provide you with the relevant material in good time. The same applies to individual questions that the bishops would like to deal with personally.

3.3.3 In any case, the day, hour and circumstances of these visits should be determined by the Coordination Office, which will ensure that the wishes of the Bishops are taken into account in the best possible way.

3.3.4 At the same office, the bishops can also get all the explanations they need on the jurisdiction of the dicasteries and everything else concerning the offices and the people to whom they should address, the usual practice and the addresses to whom one has to address for the individual affairs of the visit.

3.3.5 In the case of a collegial visit, one of the participating bishops presents the group with a comprehensive overview of the pastoral situation of the region represented and deals with the questions falling within the responsibility of the respective dicastery. If one of the participants is the chairman of the bishops' conference or of a commission that has occasionally met during a visit to the dicastery, it seems appropriate that he or she should introduce the group and report on it.

3.3.6 The declarations and answers of the heads of the dicasteries have no official character before they are put down in writing in the form customary with the Roman Curia and given for the record, but they can be used as information, advice, instruction and guidance for general conduct and serve to solve particular problems for which it is appropriate to apply the practical norms established in experience and canonical tradition.

3.4 Opportunities for contact with the ecclesiastical and pastoral reality of Rome

3.4.1 As an expression of communion between the individual Churches and the Roman Church, the bishops can, if they so wish, to get to know one another and to exchange pastoral experiences on questions of common interest and analogous situations, one or more meetings with one or the other Roman parish , with another particularly significant community or with centers of religious, cultural and charitable work, etc.

3.4.2 If necessary, it will be appropriate to pay particular attention to one's own national church in Rome, any personal parishes and the titular church of a cardinal, especially if these should be centers of pastoral activity.

3.4.3 If any form of cooperation on a pastoral or charitable level resulted from such encounters, it would be the concrete fruit of the ecclesiastical community affirmed by the "ad limina" visit.

3.4.4 The coordinating office should also be used to hold such meetings and especially for the necessary contacts with the responsible pastoral centers of the Vicariate of Rome, for the selection of places and people and for the establishment of suitable days.

Bernardin Card. Gantin, prefect

Giovanni Battista Re, secretary




To the theological, spiritual pastorals
and legal historical remarks

Right from the start, the establishment of the “ad limina” visit has a deep theological, spiritual-pastoral and legal significance for the shepherds undertaking it and the particular churches entrusted to them.

So that this wealth of content can be better understood and its fruitfulness for the life of the individual ecclesiastical communities can be developed more and more, three texts are reproduced below, which, however, are to be understood as simple contributions exclusively under the responsibility of their authors.

The theological remarks of S. Eminence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger were prepared for the introduction of a conversation with some Brazilian bishops, representatives of the local episcopate, at their meeting with the Holy Father and the Roman Curia at the end of the "ad limina" visit (March 1986): He is inserted here because it introduces essential aspects of the "ad limina" visit.

The reflections of S. Eminence Lucas Cardinal Moreira Neves offer impetus for the spiritual and pastoral dimension of the "visitatio"; Finally, Monsignor Vicente Cárcel Ortí traces the legal and historical development of the visit.



The "ad limina" visit is not just an administrative act. Rather, it encompasses an ecclesiology which he translates into concrete forms of action; in other words, it is applied ecclesiology.

The Second Vatican Council, through the deep interlinking of the four great Constitutions on the liturgy, the Church, the Word of God and the Church in the world, taught us anew the dynamism of a Church which, guided by the driving force of the Gospel, is constantly on the salvation of the world is directed, and it has shown us the center of the life and constitution of the Church in adoration, in the liturgy. The church not only celebrates communion; the church is communion. The essential structure of the church flows from its liturgical center, which is also the center of its being a church. Therefore, I believe that a brief analysis of some of the main elements of the Prayer may help us better understand the theological context and deep roots of such an important ecclesiastical act as the "ad limina" visit.

1. The perichoerese between the universal Church and the local Church and its Petrine center in the celebration of the Eucharist

The tangible subject of the celebration of the Eucharist is the local congregation, which upon receiving the presence of the Lord, the presence of Christ, receives the entire gift of salvation and thus becomes the realization of the Church. In doing so, we must be aware of the essential Christological implications. Christ is our mediator with the Father; he leads us to the Father by uniting us in the unity of the Holy Spirit. The solemn conclusion of the canon points to this trinitarian character of the liturgy, expresses its christological dimension with the words "per - cum - in", leads to the "you" of the father ("Tibi") and encloses everything "in uni tted spirit Sancti ”. Historical research teaches us that the formula "in unitate Spiritus Sancti" corresponds to another that is translated, for example, in the canon of Hippolytus as "in sancta Ecclesia tua": the church is the unity created by the Holy Spirit. Christology includes the Trinitarian faith; but the dynamism and realism of the Trinitarian faith include the catholicity of every Eucharistic celebration. The presence of the Lord includes the presence of his own, the unity of the local church with all the members of God's Church. The particular church and the universal church penetrate one another in an indissoluble perichoresis.

This perichoresis between partial and universal Church is one of the basic features of biblical ecclesiology, a logical consequence of the connection between Christology and ecclesiology. The liturgy also indicates to us the various dimensions of this perichoresis. The preface says that the Eucharist is celebrated in the presence of the angels of God. In the liturgy we are connected to the saints and to souls still suffering in purgatory - a fact that is very important in the current discussion about the problem of inculturation. The question of ancestors is very important in Africa, but not only in Africa, because it could help us to rediscover the expansion of the Church beyond the limits of death - as a universality not limited by the wall of death. And finally we celebrate the Eucharist "una cum papa nostro et cum antistite nostro ...". Historical research has shown us that these formulas have been found in the Roman liturgy at least since the third century; Such an expression of the presence of the universal Church in the particular Church really belongs to the essential Christian consciousness.

We have already come to the point where the theological significance of "ad limina" visits becomes apparent. The individual priests celebrate the Eucharist in unity with their bishop, who is their link to the chain of Catholic tradition. But this chain is - true to the radical personalism of Christianity - a personalized and sacramental chain: the apostolic succession. With the bishop, the diachronic dimension, faith of all times, enters the Eucharist. But the bishops do not form a misshapen mass, as if one were standing next to the other, as assumed by an idea that is fairly widespread today about a so-called conciliarity of the church. Following the Council of Nicea, the Byzantine Church had formulated the idea of ​​the pentarchy, i. H. the five central points in which the unity and universality of the Church are concretized. The theological core of this model was the Petrine idea, interpreted here in the tradition of the three seats of Peter (Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome), the seat of St. Mark (Alexandria), who entered the Petrine tradition through the connection of St. Peter with his translator for the Greek world, and the seat of the brother of Peter Andrew (Constantinople). It is clear that the historical foundation of this construction for Alexandria and Constantinople is very weak. It remains important, however, that with this structure the Orient also embraces the idea of ​​the Petrine foundation of unity and the concreteness of the unity and universality of the Church in the succession of St. Peter upheld. Unity is not only the result of a vague symphony of desirable conciliarity among the various particular churches; rather, the unity has name and seat: Peter and Rome. That is why we not only celebrate Mass in unity with the local Bishop, but "una cum papa nostro". This agreement with the Bishop of Rome also unites the bishops among themselves and is the fundamental condition of their collegiality.

2. The “ad limina” visit as a concrete consequence of this structure

Like all other dimensions of the Eucharist, this "una cum" also requires practice. It cannot remain a mere formula. A first component of such a practice contained in this word is a common order, the right of the church, whose function is to protect the continuation of the essential realities of unity, i.e. faith and the sacraments, and the good progress of ecclesiastical communion to settle for day. A second component of this "una cum" is the concrete cooperation with the Pope in the daily life of the Church and obedience to the Pope as a guarantor of unity and an authentic interpreter of its requirements. Christian personalism ultimately demands that this "una cum" not be exhausted in bureaucratic and administrative structures, but that it also include a personal meeting at the seat of St. Peter becomes. The "ad limina" visit is an instrument and concrete expression of the catholicity of the Church, the unity of the college of bishops, embodied by the person of the Successor of Peter and designated by the place of the martyrdom of Peter; the visit is the visible realization of that perichoresis between the Universal Church and the particular Churches of which we have spoken above. We find the trace of a first "ad limina" visit in the letter of St. Paul to the Galatians, where he speaks of his conversion and his path to apostolate for the Gentiles, and where - despite his direct calling and instruction as an apostle through the risen Lord - he says: "... later ... went I went up to Jerusalem to meet Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days ”. (1.18). The same gesture is repeated again after fourteen years: "Fourteen years later I went up to Jerusalem again ... presented the congregation ... with the Gospel;" I wanted to be sure that I didn't run or run in vain «. (2.2). In a certain sense one could say that with the "ad limina" visits an important part of Old Testament religiosity is also continued, as expressed in the book of Exodus 34:24: "... three times a year you will go up to the to appear in the presence of the Lord your God ... «. This command was applied to the preservation and concretization of the unity of Israel; In this continuous pilgrimage, the experience of the years of wandering through the desert was continued: the people of Israel remained a pilgrim people towards unity, towards their God. Pilgrimage, being on the way to unity as a local and personal expression of unity, also preserves its entire value in the Church of the New Testament.

3. The ecclesiological dimensions of the "ad limina" visit

The perichoresis between the universal church and particular churches, which is realized and visibly expressed in the "ad limina" visits, also includes three concrete dimensions of the exercise of the episcopal office, which I would like to touch briefly at the end of my considerations.

a) This perichoresis includes the perichoresis between the collegiality of the bishops and the primacy of the successor of St. Peter. The visit requires a mutual encounter: the Pope receives the bishop and thus establishes a relationship with the members of the college of bishops; He, the guarantor of the unity, the universality and the catholicity of the Church, needs an encounter with the episcopal confreres, with the concrete catholicity of the Church: legal-theological catholicity and concrete-empirical catholicity must meet, penetrate one another in order to achieve the true catholicity of To let the church grow more and more in accordance with its theological criteria and to fill it with the diverse reality of the faith of the peoples.

The Pope refers to the bishops and the bishops refer to the Pope in order not to run the risk of running or having run in vain (cf. Gal2, 2). They are the members of the college of bishops that succeeds the college of apostles; when they visit Rome they express their awareness that collegiality requires the Petrine center and that without this center it becomes an unreal idea.

b) The encounter between collegiality and primacy logically includes an encounter between current experience of faith and permanent creed, between the synchronic and the diachronic aspect of faith, between principles and lived reality. This encounter can be difficult; the more it is needed. To be concrete, faith needs the ever new experiences of human history; However, these always fragmentary experiences only become part of the richness of catholicity when they are purified and enlightened by the glistening and burning light of common faith. It has often been said during the period between the two world wars that great human experiences require baptism. This statement is true; but one has sometimes forgotten that baptism is not just a small pouring with a little water, but death and resurrection from death to a new life. Faith does not arise from experience - rather it arises from the word of God - but it incarnates and is confirmed in experience.The mutual interpenetration of theological and juridical catholicity, which is the aim of the "ad limina" visits, requires a constant new interpenetration between experience and doctrine of the faith: experience must relate to faith and be purified in it; faith in turn must be fertilized by experience.

c) The "ad limina" visit finally includes an encounter between personal and communal principles in the government of the Church. The Lord has entrusted the government of His Church to persons, not structures. It is not the structures that are responsible, only the people, because the voice of God echoes in their conscience. The fact that the unity of the Church is ultimately expressed not in a vague conciliarity but in a person is only the ultimate pivot of personalism in the construction of the Church. On the other hand, isolated people are always in danger of indulging in arbitrariness; thus personalism becomes one-sided without the addition of the communal dimension. The personal responsibility of the Pope and the individual diocesan bishops are bound up in the collegiality of all Apostle successors and in the community of the particular Churches. In addition to the fundamental bond of faith and the sacraments through which the "we" of the Church is realized, tradition knows above all the figure of "deliberation", which includes elements such as joint reflection, dialogue, discussion and coordination, and in which we find a synthesis of personal responsibility and community structure. The “ad limina” visit also reflects this perichoresis between personalism and the communal (collegial) dimension. Two people meet, the bishop of a particular Church and the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter, each with his irreplaceable responsibility, but they do not meet as isolated persons; each of them represents in its own way the "we" of the Church, the "we" of the faithful and the "we" of the bishops, and he must represent this "we". In the communion of Pope and Bishop the believers have communion, the universal Church has communion with the particular Church.

So in the end we return to our starting point. For all this is shown in the "una cum" of the Eucharistic Prayer.

The "ad limina" visit finds its theological roots and tangible content in these words.

Joseph Card. Ratzinger




Following a precise canonical regulation (Can. 400) and in the spirit of the "Directorium de pastorali ministerio Episcoporum" (N. 45 f), it is the duty of every bishop every five years to leave his diocese and go to Rome to pay the "visitatio ad limina Apostolorum" there. This gesture is combined, at least in part, with some dogmatic impulses which make clear the theological content from which the spiritual significance and the deep pastoral meaning of the "visitatio" can be derived.

Also, so that the old and venerable act of the "ad limina" visit does not become a mere administrative or legal-disciplinary duty, it is helpful to shed light on at least an overview of those elements that give it a theological (more closely ecclesiological), spiritual and give it a pastoral dimension

I. Episcopal collegiality

The "ad limina" visit primarily calls to mind the doctrine of episcopal collegiality: It is almost as old as the Church itself and has been consolidated several times and in various ways over the course of history, perhaps sometimes remaining in the shadows but confirmed today with particular emphasis by the Second Vatican Council.

“As after the appointment of the Lord St. Peter and the other apostles form a single apostolic college, so the Pope, the successor of Peter, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are linked to one another in the same way ”. This declaration from Lumen Gentium (No. 22) contains the pivotal point of ecclesiastical teaching on episcopal collegiality. Some fundamental remarks in the Council text form the essential elements of this "locus theologicus" and the teaching it reproduces:

1) The college of twelve chosen and installed by Jesus has a causal relationship with the college of bishops: not only such an exemplary causality as its prototype and model, but, viewed more deeply, also a relationship of efficient causality. In fact, the college of bishops flows out of the college of apostles, both by virtue of apostolic succession and because of the continuity with which both deliver the same faith, perpetuate the same salvation mission, administer the same sacraments of grace and build the same community of believers in unity and preserve.

2) Each bishop receives his office in response to a personal, indivisible and unrepeatable vocation and therefore within the framework of his unique individuality; but he receives it in the lap of a college and in ontological connection with those who make it up.

3) Throughout the centuries and throughout history, the College of Bishops has passed on the charism and mission common to all the successors of the Eleven, as well as the ministry of Peter to "strengthen the brothers" (Lc 22:32), which "was given to him solely by Was transferred to the master ”(LG 20).

4) It is precisely thanks to the Petrine office that the person of the successor of Cephas finds himself deeply involved in the college and has a mission in it that cannot be explained by a marginal function; Rather, his task, expressly intended by Christ, enables him to be the head of the college itself and thus a visible principle of the communion of all its members (LG 18, 22 and 23; cf. Nota praevia, 3). That is why "the college of bishops or the body of bishops ... has authority only together with the Roman Pope, the successor of Peter, as his head ..." (LG 22). The formula "cum Petro et sub Petro" (AG 38) appropriately defines the nature of the college in the theological view of the Second Vatican Council, which is in perfect harmony with the previous magisterium: in the college the Roman Pope is really the head to which all members refer by means of a clear hierarchical-sacramental communion (cf. Nota praevia, 2 and 3).

Through the act of official meeting with the Roman Pope, every bishop acknowledges his deeper connection - precisely such an affective and effective hierarchical community - with the one who, by assuming the primacy of the visible head in the church, also visible The principle of unity among the bishops is (LG 23).

Because of this, the Bishop who makes the "ad limina" visit, in the Successor of Peter and Head of the College, ideally meets the entirety of his episcopal brothers all over the world; he meets them in that living bond of communion and point of convergence which is made head of the brothers for all brothers.

Strictly speaking, the "ad limina" visit cannot be defined as an act of collegiality: this expression is limited to a council or to a joint act of the bishops, also scattered around the world, provided that such an act is confirmed by the Head himself or at least freely accepted (see LG 22). Nevertheless, it can be said that the visitatio is an act inspired - if you will, derived - from the principle of collegiality and especially from the spirit of collegiality, with which the members of the college always express their essential relationship with the head of the same.

II. Local Church and Universal Church

The "ad limina" visit clearly draws our attention to another theological fact: the close relationship between the Peilkirche and the universal church.

Here, too, we are dealing with a doctrine which is of great influence on the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council. It is therefore helpful to briefly recall your content.

1. The New Testament simply and naturally sets out two different dimensions of the Church: on the one hand, its uniqueness and universality, on the other hand, its realization in a multitude of congregations scattered around the world, which are marked by geographical, historical and cultural features, which give them their own identity.

"My Church": with this expression (cf. Mt 16:18) Jesus certainly refers to a single reality, which is not determined by the boundaries of a city, province or nation, but which is ready to spread throughout the universe . The author of the Acts of the Apostles sees it in this universalistic dimension when he writes: “The Church in all of Judea, Galilee and Samaria now had peace; she was strengthened and lived ... "(Acts 9:31). Paul, too, often thinks of the church, which extends and expands beyond the small local congregation to which he is addressing: for example, when he demands that "the church submits to Christ" like a woman to her husband (Eph 5, 24); or where on the same line he declares that "He (Christ) is the head of the body" which forms the church (Col 1:18, 24); and finally even when he confessed that he had "persecuted the Church of God" (1 Cor 15: 9).

Elsewhere the word ekklesia refers to the various local congregations: in this sense the seer of Patmos writes in the plural to the churches (Ap 1, 4-11.20) and the author of the Acts of the Apostles notes that Paul, when he was through Syria and Cilicia drew, "strengthened the churches" (Acts 15:41). For his part, Paul does not hesitate to speak of churches that are located in a province (cf. 1 Cor. 16, 19: "the churches of the province of Asia"; Gal. 1: 1: "the churches in Galatia"), in a city (1 Cor. 1: "the Church of God, which is in Corinth"; Col 4, 15: "the Church of Laodicea"; 1 Thess 1, 1: "the Church of Thessalonica") and are even in the house of a family (1 Cor 16, 19: »Aquila and Priska and their house church»).

2. The Church considers these realities both on the level of her path in history and on the level of reflection on her teaching. It knows that it is both universal and partial church at the same time - neither alternately nor one after the other. There are no two churches, but rather it is one and the same, which on the one hand is universal and on the other hand appears locally or as part of it. (The terminology of Orts - the particular Church, which is still fluent in the Council documents, was better specified after the Council. The new Code of Canon Law, with its inclusion of the expression particular Church, contributes even more to the consolidation of this terminology).

The Church is universal - in this sense also called the Katholikè or the Oikuméne - insofar as it is "sacramentum salutis", sign and instrument of salvation for all people without distinction up to the ends of the earth, namely in the cross and resurrection of the Son of God achieved salvation, which we accept in faith, which is present in the sacraments and which is repeatedly experienced anew in the preached and grasped word.

The Church is constituted as part insofar as she makes this plan of salvation present in this or that specific community, which is united and led by shepherds whom the Lord has sent.

According to the will of God and the plan of the Savior Christ, the church appears in its uniqueness and universality; nevertheless, this universality is fulfilled and realized in the various particular Churches scattered around the world. It is of course not as if the universal church were only their numerical sum or their material juxtaposition, that is, a kind of federation of already existing particular churches; it is rather their community and their mutual exchange of life. On the other hand, it is the only and universal Church that is reflected as a whole in the particular Churches; these are "designed according to the image of the universal church" (LG 23).

The full mystery of the Church requires a harmonious realization of its two dimensions. The aspect of catholicity, if correctly emphasized, frees the authentic universality of the Church from a "synagogal" aftertaste and from a diminutive, that is to say limited to the dimensions of a people or a culture; Too much emphasized, however, the same universality could lead to an idealized view of the Church that is far removed from its concrete historical incarnation. Conversely, the dimension of the particular Church, if properly worked out, has the merit of showing the precise features of a Church composed of concrete people and concrete historical and geographical situations, a Church that is described by the outlines of a particular part of humanity; however, underlined in an exaggerated way, this trait could turn the Church into a ghetto, as it would fragment its comprehensiveness.

3. In the constant transition from the universal Church to the particular Church and vice versa, the bishops play a privileged and unique role. As heads of their particular Churches and at the same time as members of the College of Bishops, when they stand in unity with the universal Shepherd, the particular Churches are integrated into the universal Church as it permeates it.

It is therefore permissible to assert that the "ad limina" visit represents an urgent invitation - indeed an incentive - for every bishop to compare his mission in relation to the particular Church entrusted to him with the universal vocation of the Church. It can happen that his commitment to the limited community that forms his particular church diminishes the spatia caritatis which he has to keep open for the sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum (2 Cor 11:28); the visitatio will help him to understand in all their depth the statements of the council: “The individual bishops who preside over the particular Churches exercise their pastoral power over the portion of the People of God entrusted to them, not over other churches and not over the universal Church. But in their capacity as members of the college of bishops and as legitimate successors of the apostles, Christ's institution and ordinance require care for the universal Church. Although this is not exercised in the form of acts of jurisdiction, it nevertheless contributes to the highest degree to the well-being of the universal church «. (LG 23). The "ad limina" visit can invigorate the awareness of such a concern.

III. To the Church of Rome

The reflection on the theme of the "universal Church - particular Church relations" has a special bearing on the theme of the Church of Rome. This is because it enjoys a special position.

1. The Church of Rome does not simply identify with the Universal Church. It is a particular Church in every respect, with its pastor, its own institutions, its unique features.

Nevertheless, from the beginning of the Church the "sedes romana" had a privileged place among all other Churches, for its first shepherd was the Apostle Peter, who was appointed by the Lord as head of the College of Apostles and to whom the latter gave a primacy, which he gave him as a "rock" on which the church was built. The Church of Rome "presides over universal love", wrote Ignatius of Antioch in the 2nd century (Letter to the Corns, Introduction). As Cyprian said, she is called to watch over all who call on the name of the Lord ”(Letter 8: 2-3). And the fact that a Bishop of Rome like Clement could give the Church of Corinth with authority directives and admonitions to it shows what honor the Roman Church has been accorded and what responsibility it has been accorded from the beginning.

The Second Vatican Council, which completed and deepened the teachings of Vatican I and the previous councils, vigorously and clearly reaffirmed the unchangeable teaching on the position of the Roman cathedra and its pastor, by virtue of an irrefutable plan by the founder of the ecclesiastical center. Thanks to this central position, all churches look to those of Rome, relate to them and expect from them enlightenment, direction, consolation and support.

Between the churches scattered around the world and the Church of Rome there is therefore a movement which an eminent theologian has defined as "perichoresis" or the cycle of life, and which other theologians do not hesitate to compare with the diastolic systole with which the blood from the heart closes flows through the limbs and out of them returns to the center, the heart.

In the universal Church, the Church of Rome has this function of bringing together and concentrating for the good of the churches themselves and for the good of universality. The often turbulent history of the particular churches shows in detail how much they have benefited from the support and help provided by the primacy.

The Church of Rome is therefore not simply the universal Church, but through divine vocation and historical destiny it has a grace through which around it - and not around another church - the unity of others and therefore universality is consolidated.

2.This "charisma" of the "Petri sedes" or "cathedra romana" finds its concrete expression in the "ad limina" visit.

In fulfilling what the Apostle Paul called "videre Petrum", and in the concrete expression of their belief in the primacy of the Roman Pope, the individual bishops publicly recognize the special, characteristic role of the Roman Church as "mater" for the edification of their believers et centrum omnium ecclesiarum orbis «.

This does not mean that the particular Churches all over the world must slavishly imitate the existence and actions of the Roman Church: an exaggerated Roman centralism, which would destroy and caricature the above-mentioned central position, would ignore the legitimate autonomy of the particular Churches, their spiritual one and impoverish pastoral heritage, distort its features and thus do not contribute to "diversity in unity". Certainly, however, each particular Church can see the picture of all other Churches reflected and summarized in the Roman Church and its Shepherd.

The "Roman adire", the basic gesture of the visit, finds a further meaning in the pilgrimage "ad limina (vel ad trophaea) Apostolorum", which gives the visit itself its name.

If Rome enjoys this central position in the Church, it is thanks to the testimony given by the two eminent apostles who shed their blood there. It is precisely because of this testimony that they are seen as the foundation of the Church of Rome and at the same time as the foundation of the Universal Church. For millions of "Romans" the pilgrimage to their relics is a return to the sources, a re-encounter with the deepest and most decisive origins of faith and the Church.

For a successor to the apostles, the meaning of pilgrimage is even more memorable: It means the double relationship, on the one hand, with the missio apostolica, which was fulfilled by Peter and Paul in a difficult and decisive moment in church history, precisely on Roman soil; on the other hand, to the confessio fidei, which the two apostles brought to an end either on the Vatican hill or at "Tre Fontane" on the "Via Ostiense".

In this way, in the testimony of both, each bishop will gladly reflect on his own mission and his own episcopal testimony before his particular Church.

*  *  *

One could also shed light on other aspects of the "ad limina" visit for a spiritual and pastoral understanding. However, the considerations presented seem to suffice within the framework of this Directory, which is offered to the bishops for use.

Lucas Card. Moreira Neves




Canonical norms

Canons 399 and 400 of the new Code of Canon Law deal with the five-year report that the bishops have to submit to the Holy See and the visit "ad limina apostolorum".

Canon 399 specifies:

"1. The diocesan bishop is required to report to the Pope every five years on the status of the diocese entrusted to him, in the form and at the time as determined by the Apostolic See.

2. If the year set for the reporting falls wholly or partially within the first two years of his diocesan guidance, the bishop may for this time refrain from drawing up and submitting the report «.

Canon 400 reads:

"1. The diocesan bishop has to go to Rome in the year in which he is obliged to report to the Pope, unless otherwise decreed by the Apostolic See, to worship the tombs of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and to present himself to the Pope.

2. The diocesan bishop has to fulfill the mentioned obligation personally if he is not legally prevented; in such a case he satisfies the obligation by sending a possible coadjutor or an auxiliary bishop or a suitable priest from his presbytery who is domiciled in his diocese.

3. The Vicar Apostolic can fulfill this obligation through a representative, even if the latter is in Rome; the Prefect Apostolic does not have this obligation «.

The historical tradition

Although there is no even remotely certain specific date to which the "ad limina" visit can be backdated,[5]there are numerous testimonies that tell of its existence since the 4th century. The custom of making a pilgrimage to Rome to pray at the graves of the apostles Peter and Paul is even older. The first councils dealt with the relations between the particular Churches and the Church of Rome, and in 347 the Synod of Sardis addressed to Pope Julius (337-352) - ad] ulium urbis Romae episcopum - a letter to suggest that he should: that he would be informed of the religious situation in the various parts or provinces of the Roman Empire. [6]

In May 597 Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) reminded his legate Cyprianus of the old custom introduced by the bishops of Sicily, namely to visit the Eternal City every three years. The same Pope stipulated that the "ad limina" visit should take place every five years.[7] The Roman Synod of 743 issued new orders for this visit.[8]

In the High Middle Ages, Pope Paschal II (1099-1118) reminded the elected Archbishop of Spalatum in Dalmatia, who had been surprised because of the oath he was asked to take the "ad limina" visit, that this obligation was accepted by all bishops in the same way and that they undertook to do so by taking the oath before their episcopal ordination. He also drew his attention to the fact that even the bishops of the most distant parts of Europe, such as B. those of Saxony and Denmark, had the visit carried out by their delegates every year.[9]

In the 11th and 12th centuries, the bishops were aware of the obligation to make an annual visit, although not all made it because of the difficulties associated with traveling to Rome. For this reason, numerous dispensations were given in the pontificate of Innocent IV (1243-1254) and Alexander IV (1254-1261).[10]

The tridentine reform

In 1540, before the Council of Trent, some bishops made Pope Paul III. draw attention to the fact that the obligation of annual "ad limina" visits constitutes a major obstacle to the residence obligation of the bishops in their dioceses and suggested a period of three or five years, depending on the distance of their seats from Rome.[11]

The council dealt with the question,[12] and the "ad limina" visit was included in the great reform program carried out by the post-Tridentine popes for the pastoral service of the bishops.

It was then Sixtus V (1585-1590), who with the Apostolic Constitution Romanus Pontifex of December 20, 1585[13] reformed the old order of the "ad limina" visit and introduced some innovations which were imposed as a duty on all bishops; for the decision of the Council of Trent was not duly followed in all dioceses. Sixtus V tightened surveillance on this point and made the old habit of visiting the Apostolic See an obligation to inform the Pope from time to time about the material and spiritual status of the individual churches. He also emphasized the need to establish periodic contacts with the prelates (the curia) with the aim of making the needs of the various dioceses known in a direct way so that one could better cope with the growing and spreading heresy.

In the part devoted to the dispositions, the Constitution of Sixtus V stipulated that all patriarchs, primates, archbishops and bishops, as well as cardinals, swore the oath before their consecration or before receiving the pallium or transferring it to another seat would have to faithfully carry out the personal visit to the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul and to the Pope in order to inform him about their pastoral service and to receive the necessary instructions, be it from the Pope or from the dicasteries of the Roman Curia. Should a bishop be legally prevented, he could fulfill the obligation through a procurator or delegate who could be a canon or priest of recognized reputation. The prevention of the bishop had to be documented before the cardinal protodeacon.

In order to organize and facilitate the process of the visit, the Apostolic Constitution divided the dioceses into four groups and established the following periods for the visit:

every three years the bishops of Italy and the associated islands, Dalmatia and Greece;

every four years those from Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, Bohemia, Hungary, England, Scotland, Ireland, the Baltic countries and the Mediterranean islands;

every five years the other bishops of Europe, those of the nearby coasts of Africa and those of the other European and African islands in the Atlantic;

every ten years those from Asia, America and the rest of the world.

For the calculation of the periods mentioned, the constitution of Pope Sixtus V stated that the period valid for the individual bishop was counted from the day of his ordination (so the fact that he had not yet received the visit could not be used as a pretext for postponing the visit his diocese term taken or not yet taken permanent residence in it) or from the day the pallium is presented or the day of transfer to another seat. So that the "ad limina" visits do not spread too much apart, the Pope decided that man also have to include the period after the death, the transfer or prevention of the previous bishop in the exercise of office, whatever the reason for this.

The penalties envisaged for those who did not fulfill the obligation were very severe: suspension "ipso facto" from the spiritual and secular government of their dioceses and from the enjoyment of their income, even the suspension "ab ingressu Ecclesiae", always up to to absolution through the Holy See.

With the quoted constitution of Pope Sixtus, all privileges, dispensations, concessions and authorizations from earlier times were abolished, including those that Pope Sixtus V himself had granted.[14]

The historian of the Popes, Ludwig von Pastor, states that the great impetus that the German Church received towards the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries coincided with the implementation of the Constitution by Pope Sixtus. Further studies that followed led to a deepening and rounding of this view, so that we can conclude: the Constitution Romanus Pontifex represents one of the most important steps in a reform of the episcopate after the Council of Trent, because here the presence of the shepherds at the Roman Curia is required was to give an account of the state of the respective churches from time to time.[15]

Responsibility for the control of the "ad limina" visits as well as for the examination of the reports of the bishops, for the answer to them and the necessary remarks was transferred to the cardinal commission, which in 1564 by Pius V for the authentic interpretation and the exact application the norms established by the Council of Trent. A good part of the competence of this commission later passed to the new Council Congregation, which Sixtus V brought into being through the Apostolic Constitution Immensa aeterni Dei of January 22, 1587.[16]

Later reforms up to the Codex of 1917

After the establishment of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith on June 22, 1622, the territories of the mission countries came under the jurisdiction of the new dicastery, to which the bishops sent their reports.[17] The Latin American dioceses, however, remained under the jurisdiction of the Council Congregation, insofar as they were under the patronage of the Crown of Spain, which also extended to these churches.

Since the 18th century the popes introduced various changes to the "ad limina" visit and the report. But they left the substance of the constitution of Pope Sixtus V untouched in its threefold aspect: veneration of the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul in the respective Roman basilicas, visit of the Pope and submission of the report on the state of the diocese.[18]

An innovation of greater importance that Benedict XIII. (1724-1730) and confirmed by Benedict XIV. (1740-1758) consisted in the publication of a papal instruction in which the points which the bishops had to deal with in their report were explicitly mentioned. It was left to the personal judgment of each bishop to deal with other things that were not mentioned in the instruction. This decision had become necessary because experience had shown that many bishops confined themselves to sending the report and added a short letter with greetings and declarations of devotion to the Pope, but sometimes did not even touch upon the subjects of interest to the Holy See. In other cases the bishops sent their procurator without a report, but verbally authorized him to inform the Pope, if he received them in audience, or the Council Congregation of the state of the diocese.

According to the aforementioned instruction, the report should contain nine chapters: the material status of the diocese; the activity of the bishop; the world clergy; the religious clergy; the nuns; the seminar; the churches, brotherhoods and places of pilgrimage, the people; and requests for favors or faculties.[19]

Benedict XIV changed the timing for "ad limina" visits: every three years for the bishops of Italy and the surrounding islands; every five years for all other bishops.[20]

During the First Vatican Council there were not a few bishops who drew attention to the need to introduce some innovations in the course of the "ad limina" visits, especially in the questionnaire submitted for the report in order to meet the needs of the Church and society 19th century adapt. A scheme or reform project was even prepared, but this could not be discussed because of the unexpected break-off of the council.[21]

The new guidelines had to be adopted by the pontificate of St. Pius X (1903-1914) waiting. They were incorporated into the general reform of the Roman Curia, which was adopted on June 29, 1908 by the Apostolic Constitution Sapienti consilio[22] came into force. With this, the competence of the Council Congregation for the pastoral activity of the bishops ceased and passed to the Consistorial Congregation.

On December 31, 1909, the new dicastery issued the decree De relationibus dioecesanis et visitatione SS. Liminum and addressed "to all ordinaries not subject to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith". Considerable changes were made to the previous order, especially with regard to the period of "ad limina" visits, so that now all bishops had to come every five years, beginning on January 1, 1911, according to a plan proposed by the office had set up. The document insisted on the well-known fundamental aspects of the commitment:

Adoration of the graves of the apostles and a visit to the Pope. This decree was followed by the Ordo servandus in relatione de statu ecclesiarum, which contained a catalog of 150 questions to which the bishops had to answer. Essentially, it was about the nine chapters of the instruction Benedict XIV. Only a few points were added on the training of the youth, the activities of brotherhoods and pious associations, the works of Caritas and social aid, and finally printing and reading of forbidden books.[23]

The Codex of Canon Law of 1917 dealt with the "ad limina" visit in canons 340, 341 and 342. It gave the obligation to present the Five Annual Report priority over the veneration of the apostles' graves and the visit to the Pope. In this Codex, the "ad limina" visit was included in the total of the basic duties of the bishops: residence duty, application of St. Mass pro populo, written report to the Holy See on the direction of the diocese and pastoral visits. One year after the publication of the Codex, the Consistorial Congregation worked out a new form which one had to adhere to when writing the report. The Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith also conformed to the new canon law.[24]

The Consistorial Congregation also extended the obligation of "ad limina" visits to the military bishops by a decree of February 28, 1959, who also submit a report every five years on the condition of their vicariate in the sense of can. 341 had to submit.[25]

Today's legislation

During the preparation of the Second Vatican Council as well as during the council itself, some bishops made various proposals concerning the "ad limina" visit and the recommendation to make changes to the norms in force. After the Council, the Holy See repeatedly stressed the necessity and importance of the relationship between the Pope and the bishops.[26] However, the Congregation for the Bishops declared in the Directorium de pastorali ministerio Episcoporum of 1973,[27] that the "ad limina" visit and the five annual reports are necessary in order to maintain personal contacts between the Roman bishop and the bishops: "Visitationem ad limina peragens laetam arripit occasionem videndi Petrum (Gal. 1, 18), cum eoque de rebus suae particularis necnon universalis Ecclesiae fraterne colloquendi «.[28]

The same congregation issued the decree Ad Romanam Ecclesiam on June 29, 1975.[29] This deals with "De visitatione SS. Liminum deque relationibus dioecesanis". It is divided into two parts. The first has a representative character and comprises a concise theological-historical synthesis of the canonical legislation up to now. He also establishes the new norms. The second part contains the decrees and regulates the relevant legislation in five articles.

At the beginning, the decree explains the need to preserve and promote the unity between the particular Churches and the Church of Rome, where the seat of Peter is located, which is the permanent principle and visible foundation of the communion of bishops, as well as of the faithful according to the Teaching of St. Irenaeus and the Decree Unitatis redintegratio of the Second Vatican Council on ecumenism. It refers to a text by St. Leo the Great, according to whom the firmness of Peter is passed on to his successors. It closes with the statement that the Kathedra Petri on the one hand protects justified differences, but on the other hand also ensures that the peculiarities of the various churches not only do not constitute an obstacle to unity, but rather promote it. Therefore, the Pope not only has the task of looking after the common good of the universal Church, but also that of the individual Churches in accordance with the teaching of the Council in the decree Christ Dominus. Logically, his presence in the various countries of the world is appropriate, because he thus learns from close quarters the needs and local conditions of the various communities of believers.

The decree Ad Romanam Ecclesiam also declares, of course, that although material progress has provided the Bishop of Rome with means which allow him to make frequent visits to distant lands, one must not for this reason abandon the centuries-old customs of great importance insofar as they are expressed ecclesiastical community at the highest level. The decree therefore emphasizes the need to strengthen personal contacts between the Pope and the bishops, not only through correspondence, but above all through trips to Rome. It is evident and thus justifies such encounters that in the church the movement that goes from the center to the most distant members and thus reaches all particular churches individually must correspond to a movement in the opposite sense, i.e. from the periphery to the center and heart of the Church.

With these considerations in mind, a revision of the previous legislation on "ad limina" visits and new norms that correspond to our time, including new criteria for the division of the five seasons, seem appropriate. The papal representatives are instructed, a few months before the beginning of the new year, to draw the attention of the bishops of the countries concerned to the date set for the "ad limina" visit and to invite the chairmen of the bishops' conferences concerned to prepare the schedule in consultation with the bishops. when each of them or a group, when the special circumstances suggest, has to go to visit the Pope. We recommend that you send in the diocesan report in good time before the time set for your trip. This report must be drawn up according to the questionnaire drawn up for this purpose by the Congregation for the Bishops.[30]

The current practice

As stipulated in the decree Ad Romanam Ecclesiam, the new five-year periods are calculated for the "ad limina" visit on January 1, 1976. From this point on, Paul VI. a new practice for this visit that had already been used in individual cases in previous years.[31]

In the autumn of 1972, some Spanish bishops were unable to receive a private audience with the Pope, because the work for the Synod of Bishops was unusually demanding at the time. Since he could not receive them individually, Paul VI received. they in mutual audience and addressed them in a speech in which he assured them that he had carefully studied their five-year reports, in order to find in them "not just a mere written list, but above all the zeal, the devotion and the spirit of each of you as shepherds of your flock, your priests, religious and believers, who carry with you the mission to make the kingdom of God present among all people. Without a doubt, the most beautiful pages of your ecclesiastical life are the reading of which fills us with spiritual joy. Even now we would like to express our sincere admiration and love in the Lord to you and all of your co-workers.[32]

After the entry into force of the Ad Romanam Ecclesiam decree, the system of group audiences became a fixed rule, and Paul VI. showed from 1976 until his death that he would have liked to expand personal contacts with the bishops.[33]

A careful analysis of his last addresses allows us to summarize the fundamental aspects of the "ad limina" visit. In an address to bishops from Czechoslovakia on March 18, 1977, he explicitly named their three essential elements - the veneration of the graves of the apostles Peter and Paul, the visit to the Pope and his information about the status of the dioceses -,[34] while he reminded French bishops of the northern region of the venerable age of this canonical regulation.[35]

Paul VI justified the new norms issued by the Congregation for the Bishops in an address to the Italian bishops from the Marche and clearly showed them the values ​​of a face-to-face encounter and a personal visit: “As with every visit, it is an encounter or one Opportunity to talk to one another, to be together and to exchange the holy kiss of love and peace in the name of Christ. If this happens on your part when you come to Rome for certain things and obligations, it finds its expression on our part in the mutuality of the community and in the openness to thoughts that we entrust to you. Of course we would like to honor every bishop when we visit. Before there were bishops' conferences, which are known to be a new institution, the visit consisted of a face-to-face encounter between the Pastor of each diocese and the Vicar of Christ. Today this is by no means out of date, even if the time situation, the complexity of the problems and the supra-diocesan character of certain circumstances at the level of pastoral practice have favored group and communal forms. But one must never sacrifice or falsify the exact and definite character that the individual diocese with its pastor and priesthood possesses within the universal Church. Is it not true that the mystery of Christ is present in full in the particular Church which, as the Council teaches (cf. Lumen Gentium 23), is shaped in the image of the one Church and bears its features? Therefore, we repeat, honor is paid to each of you. Our wish is therefore to recognize the authority of every bishop, to help him in every possible way and to strengthen him in the sense that this word has in the Gospel (cf. Lk 22:32), and finally to encourage him in his sense of responsibility that he may watch over the flock of whose shepherd the Holy Spirit has appointed him (cf. Acts 20:28) ”.[36]

Paul VI also attributed due importance to the five-year report, which is not just a bureaucratic formality, but rather a means by which the Pope and the Holy See “gain a deeper knowledge, not only of yourself, but also of your official ones Activity that demands your strength between joys, sorrows and hopes "; [37] it is at the same time a reflection of the pastoral interest that the bishops feel in getting to know the life of their diocesans. "Your five-year reports - said the Pope to the French bishops of the West Region - which you have drawn up with great ardor for truth and accuracy, reflect your concern to know and love all that is the life of your diocesans." ]

In all of his addresses to the bishops, Paul VI. the profound meaning that the "ad limina" visit contains, its essence and purpose, starting from a set of thoughts which formed the doctrinal basis of his speeches: ecclesiastical communion, communion of all bishops with the seat of Peter, communion between bishops and pope. [39] For Paul VI. the contact with the bishops was one of the most important tasks, and it seized it again and again in his ecclesiastical mission, [40] because here the deep sense of the attachment and communion of the pastors with the head of the college of bishops was expressed. [41]

Pope John Paul II, however, gave the "ad limina" visit a new, decisive impulse that has no equal in the history of the Church. He intensified the encounters with the bishops, discussed the pastoral problems of the various dioceses with them and gave them advice and direction in his extensive doctrinal talks. The canonical norms are of great ecclesiastical importance because they go beyond the purely bureaucratic aspect of the visit and reveal their real essence, which essentially consists in making visible and strengthening the unity of the bishops with the Pope and then also the concern of all to affirm for the Church of Christ. [42]

Vicente Cárcel Ortí




Preliminary remarks


1. The indirect preparation

2. Immediate preparation

3. Course of the "ad limina" visit


I. Theological comments (Joseph Card. Ratzinger)

II. Spiritual-Pastoral Notes (Lucas Card. Moreira Neves)

III. Legal historical observations (Vicente Cárcel Ortí)



[1]Cf. CIC, can. 399, § 2. For the five years see the decree De visitatione SS. Liminum deque relationibus dioecesanis, of June 29, 1975, n. 2: AASLXVII (1975), 675-676.

[2] Formula Relationis Quinquennalis, Vatican Polyglot Printing House, 1982.

[3]See Decree De visitatione SS.Liminum deque relationibus dioecesanis, n.5: AAS LXVII (1975), p. 676.

[4]See Decree De visitatione SS.Liminum deque relationibus dioecesanis, n.4: AAS LXVII (1975) p. 676.

[5] From the Latin limen, liminis. In Italian it is called soglia; in French it means something like doorstep; in Spanish as well; in German, the threshold of the door or the crossbeam on the door, above and below, is meant; in English the door threshold, also the door beam. In Latin literature the term is also used to denote the door or entrance to a location (Ae. Forcel-lini. Lexicon totius latinitatis III. Patavii 1940, p. 88). When the Church speaks of the visit ad liminia apostolorum, she means the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul, which, according to tradition, are in Rome.

[6] J. D. Mansi. Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, vol. III (Graz 1960), col. 40

[7] Migne, PL, vol, 77, col 875.

[8] Mansi, vol. XII, col. 382; Corpus Iuris Canonici, ed. Richter-Friedberg, pars prior (Graz 1955), col. 321.

[9]Corpus Iuris Canonici, pars secunda, col. 50.

[10]Bullarium Romanum, III. P. 383; J. B. Ferreres, Las relaciones diocesanas y la visita "ad limina" :, "Razon y Fe" 27 (1910), p. 385.

[11]Concilium Tridentinum ... tomus quartus, actorum pars prima, ed. Goerresiana (Friburgi Br. 1904), p. 484, n.27.

[12]Ibid., Tomus secundus, diariorum pars secunda, pp. 750, 782, 790; tomus nonus, actorum pars sexta, p. 854.

[13]Bullarium Romanum, vol. VIII (Augustae Taurinorum 1863), p. 642-645.

[14]R. Robres Lluch y V. Castell Maiques, La visita "ad limina" durante el pontificado de Sixto V (1585-1590). Datos para su estadística general. Su cumplimiento en Iberoamérica: "Anthologica annua" 7 (1959), pp. 147-213.

[15]Ibid. P. 212.

[16]F. Romita. Le origini della S.C. del Concilio: «La Sacra Congregazione del Concilio. Quarto Centenario della Fondazione (15644964). Studi e ricerche »(Città del Vaticano 1964), pp. 13-50.

[17]Collectanea S. Congregationis de Propaganda Fide seu decreta instructiones rescripta pro apostolicis missionibus, vol. I. (Romae 1907), p. 10, n.24.