My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
Ad limina Apostolorum is the Latin phrase meaning “to the threshold of the Apostles.” It refers to the visit every several years that bishops from different countries and regions are obliged to make to the Holy Father and the congregations and pontifical councils that assist him in his mission as the Universal Shepherd, and for the bishops to share with the Holy Father and the Holy See the challenges as well as the many pastoral, spiritual and charitable initiatives of their dioceses. The last such visit for our diocese was in November 2011. Ideally these visits take place every five years; however, with the transition in the papacy with the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 28, 2013, and the election of Pope Francis on March 13, 2013, they have been delayed.
The Holy See describes the visit as follows:
“The visit ‘ad limina Apostolorum’ by all the Bishops who, in communion with the Apostolic See, preside in charity and in service over particular Churches in every part of the world, has a very definite purpose: that is, the strengthening of their own responsibility as successors of the Apostles and of their hierarchical communion with the Successor of Peter. The point of reference is a visit to the tombs of St. Peter and Paul, pastors and pillars of the Roman Church.”
The ad limina visit for the bishops of Region II — the Metropolitan Province of the Archdiocese of New York to which the eight (arch)dioceses of New York belong — took place the week of Nov. 11-15. In fulfillment of this required visit, I joined with the bishops of Region II when, as the Holy See notes, “the Supreme Pastor receives the Pastors of the particular Churches and discusses with them questions concerning their ecclesial mission.” We did not meet privately with Pope Francis but as a group.
I very much looked forward to meeting Pope Francis. While I had the privilege to be in the Holy Father’s presence during his 2015 pastoral visit to the United States, I did not have the opportunity that the ad limina visit provided to meet with His Holiness. I have been blessed over the years to greet now St. Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. It always is an uplifting and very moving experience to greet the Vicar of Christ.
In addition to celebrating Holy Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, we also celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the basilicas of St. Mary Major, St. Paul Outside the Walls and St. John Lateran. I hoped this would be a prayerful week where, as bishops encouraged by our Holy Father, we strengthened our resolve to serve faithfully those entrusted to our pastoral care. Be assured that each day I prayed for you, especially the suffering members of our diocesan family and the victims of sexual abuse.
We stayed at the Pontifical North American College so I had the opportunity to visit with our seminarians who are studying at the college. Please pray for all our seminarians who have accepted the call to follow Christ in such a difficult period in our church’s history.
I asked for your prayers for the success of the ad limina visit, that this five-day period of meetings would affirm and strengthen our bond with the Successor of Peter as we received his guidance and his blessing; and I asked for you to kindly pray for the positive effects of our meetings with the congregations and pontifical councils, as each has a particular competency for the church’s universal mission to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His message of salvation.
During this same month of November, we also pray for our deceased loved ones, asking the Lord in His love and mercy to welcome them into His Kingdom of eternal life. It has always been and continues to be a noble and meritorious tradition to have Holy Mass offered for the souls of the faithful departed: members of our family, our friends and for those who are forgotten and so sadly died alone. I encourage our parishes during this month to arrange for special Masses to pray for our deceased sisters and brothers, especially remembering lives lost in violence, war and acts of inhumanity. As we pray daily for the living, so must we also pray for the deceased. This is our faith so beautifully expressed in Preface I for the Mass for the Dead: “Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven.”
In closing, I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving which is celebrated at the end of this month. Not only on this day, but every day, I thank God for your fidelity to the church as we seek renewal and restoration in the image of the Good Shepherd and acknowledge Christ Our King, celebrated on Nov. 24. His is a kingdom “of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace” (Preface: Christ, King of the Universe).
Invoking the intercession of Our Mother Mary and St. John Fisher, our diocesan patron, I remain,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend
+ Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester