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ADLIMINAS-COMPLETE (UPDATED) Jan-8-2013 (660 words) xxxi

Pope completes 'ad limina' visits with world's bishops -- almost

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican announced that after more than seven years in office, Pope Benedict XVI had hosted the formal visits of bishops from every country in the world and would begin the cycle all over again by meeting the heads of Italy's 227 dioceses in 2013.

The only problem is the Vatican overlooked the bishops of the Netherlands who made their last visits "ad limina apostolorum" ("to the threshold of the apostles") with Blessed John Paul II in 2004.

Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary of the Congregation for Bishops, which coordinates the visits, said his office was informed by the Prefecture of the Papal Household, which schedules audiences with the pope, that when the last group of French bishops met Pope Benedict in November "the cycle was complete."

"But now it seems that with the Netherlands, something happened," the archbishop told Catholic News Service Jan. 8.

A spokesman for the Dutch bishops said Jan. 8 that the heads of the seven dioceses of the Netherlands expect to make their visits either late this year or early in 2014.

Also missing from the list of Pope Benedict "ad limina" visits are the bishops of communist-controlled mainland China, but that is because government restrictions prevent them from making the visits. However, the bishops of Hong Kong and Macau had their meetings with Pope Benedict in 2008.

The Code of Canon Law calls for the heads of every diocese in the world to make their "ad limina" visits every five years, but there are now almost 2,900 dioceses in the world and the 85-year-old pope also has other obligations as well.

Archbishop Baldisseri told CNS, "the firm principle is that the pope must meet the bishops of the whole world regularly." The five-year rhythm set by canon law provides concrete guidance but is not always possible to follow because of the number of bishops in the world, the pope's schedule and the schedules of the bishops.

The order in which bishops' conferences make the visits is not strictly set, which means that although the French bishops were making their first "ad limina" visits with Pope Benedict late in 2012, the bishops of Papua New Guinea already had made two: one in June 2005 and the second in June 2012.

Archbishop Baldisseri told L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, that the importance of visiting and consulting with the pope, the successor of St. Peter, goes back to St. Paul's description in the Letter to the Galatians of returning to Jerusalem for consultations with St. Peter.

However, the archbishop said, it wasn't until 743 that Pope Zachary made it a universal rule. The rule was reconfirmed by Pope Sixtus V in 1585.

"The bishops are invited periodically to come to Rome to see Peter, make a pilgrimage to the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul -- founders of the church of Rome -- and to express and reinforce the unity and collegiality of the church," he said.

The visits are not just "a simple juridical-administrative exercise," he said, but "an experience of pastoral communion, participating in the concerns and hopes" of the church on the local and universal levels.

The relationship between the bishops and the pope, he said, "cannot simply be sporadic or spontaneous, but must be regular and ordered because we are dealing with the life of the church in its universal and particular dimensions."

The Italian bishops made their first and only "ad limina" visits with Pope Benedict from November 2006 to April 2007, which means their second visits are coming six or seven years later. Bishops from Mexico, Austria, Poland and other countries that had "ad limina" visits in 2005, the first year of Pope Benedict's pontificate, will have to wait until 2014 or beyond.

The special Year of Faith calendars of Pope Benedict and of local bishops, together with the size of the Italian bishops' conference, "will not permit the visits of other episcopal conferences" this year, Archbishop Baldisseri said.


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