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Pope no longer delivering addresses to bishops making ad limina visits

January 30, 2017

Pope Francis has broken with the tradition of delivering an address to each group of bishops making ad limina visits to Rome, notes veteran Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister of L’Espresso.

All bishops visit Rome every five years, to confer with Vatican officials and report to the Pope. These visits are organized in groups, by country and metropolitan region. For many years, the Pope would meet the bishops individually, then give a prepared talk to each group as a whole. “To the expert eye,” notes Magister, “these speeches were the Roman thermometer for the Church’s state of health in the various regions of the world.”

Pope Francis continued that practice, Magister notes. However, the Pope would usually hand out a text that had been prepared for him. He would then speak extemporaneously, but the text that had been written in advance—not by the Pontiff himself—would be made public.

That practice continued until November 2015, when the prepared text delivered to a group of German bishops was candid and detailed in exploring the sharp decline in Catholic practice in that country. That grim appraisal of the health of the German Catholic Church came at a delicate time: just after the meetings of the Synod of Bishops, at which German prelates had led the charge for a more liberal approach to Catholics in illicit marital unions.

After that meeting with the German bishops, Pope Francis suspended ad limina visits for the duration of the Jubilee Year. Since the resumption of the ad limina visits, the Pope has met with groups of bishps from Ireland, Cambodia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Macedonia. No record of the Pope’s remarks to these visiting bishops has been made public.

 
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