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Bishop Burbidge makes ad limina visit

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This article has been updated.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge and Bishop Emeritus Paul S. Loverde joined the bishops of Region 4 in making their ad limina visit to the Vatican Dec. 2-6. 

It is Bishop Burbidge’s first ad limina visit as the Bishop of Arlington. 

The two bishops visited diocesan seminarians studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome Dec. 2. They had an audience with Pope Francis in the papal library and celebrated Mass at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls Dec. 3.

“It was incredible,” Bishop Burbidge said of their two-and-a-half hour meeting with the pope.

“The Holy Father said from the beginning that he just wanted this to be a dialogue, a conversation with brothers to learn more about us and our pastoral situation, our challenges, our blessings,” Bishop Burbidge said. 

“We were free to ask him questions and so that’s really what the session was all about — us just sharing, dialoguing with each other. It was what he talks about so much — accompanying each other and dialoguing. In a very real way, he modeled that for us today. 

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“It was a very open, very uplifting conversation,” Bishop Burbidge said. “We had our chance to assure him of our prayers and support from all the people of our diocese. He reassured us of his prayers and support too, so it was really an uplifting experience.” 

“The pope was very encouraging to us,” said Bishop Loverde. “We left really enthusiastic and energized. It was a great gift. He was very gracious.”

This group of bishops represent the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Dioceses of Arlington, Richmond, Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va., and Wilmington, Del., as well as the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Washington, the Diocese of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.

What began as an every-five-year visit, or quinquennial, gradually changed under both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis to every seven or eight years.

Related article:What is a quinquennial report?

The trip to the Vatican comes months after the quinquennial report, a comprehensive report on the state of the diocese, is submitted by each diocese to the Roman Curia.

The bishops are required to pray at the threshold of the apostles, literally “ad limina apostolorum,” so they celebrated Mass Dec. 2 at the tomb of St. Peter in the grotto of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Pope John Paul II would meet with each bishop, Pope Benedict met with up to 10 bishops at a time and Pope Francis now meets with 20 at a time for a more than two-hour open discussion. The sheer number of dioceses worldwide — more than 2,850 — necessitates group meetings.

The form for the quinquennial report asks for information on things from the general religious situation of the diocese and the ministry of the bishop, to the life and ministry of the clergy, the diocese’s financial state, care of migrants and itinerants, communications and evangelization to name a few. 

Related article:Bishops on 'ad liminia' say unity with pope, each other, is clear

Most sections of the quinquennial report begin with statistical outlines in an at-a-glance format, followed by detailed information. The report is designed to encourage “reflection on the situation of the diocese and pastoral planning for the future,” according to the form, as well as “to facilitate their examination by the various dicasteries and offices of the Roman Curia.”

Bishop Burbidge was scheduled to give the introduction at the Vatican Secretariat for Communications on behalf of the bishops of Region 4. He is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Communications Committee and publisher of the Arlington Catholic Herald.

Bishop Loverde was scheduled to make a brief introduction at the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization Dec. 5. This is his sixth ad limina visit and his first with Pope Francis.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019