This is the third Ad Limina Apostolorum (to the Threshold of the Apostles) visit and pilgrimage that I have made to Rome, but my first as a Diocesan Bishop. Every seven or eight years, each national hierarchy is called to Rome to give an account of what they are doing.
In preparation for this visit I was responsible for bringing together a report on all aspects of the Diocese. For this I have been grateful for the assistance I received from priests, deacons, religious and lay people.
Compiling the report also helped me to focus on the challenges the Diocese will face in the coming years, challenges which I have begun to discuss with those who advise me in the governance of the Diocese.
This Ad Limina was different from the first two. Our visits to the Congregations and Secretariats of the Roman Curia were not just a reporting to the Pope and the heads of the different departments. It was very much a dialogue, very much a listening process for us all. There was good advice and support and encouragement from everyone.
At the heart of the Ad Limina were our visits to the four great Basilicas of Rome – S Peter’s, S Paul’s, S John Lateran and S Mary Major ‑ where we celebrated Mass and renewed our faith. And, of course, our audience with the Holy Father was the high point of the week – it lasted two and half hours!
It was very much a dialogue – Peter listening to his brothers, strengthening them and encouraging them in their mission and apostolate. Pope Francis told us to be joyful in the gospel, to pray more intensely and fix our eyes always on the Lord.
Pictured above is Bishop Alan meeting Pope Francis during the Ad Limina visit to Rome. Picture copyright the Vatican.