By Peter Bradley
During the last week of January, Bishop Gerald Barnes, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Rutilio del Riego and our new Coadjutor Bishop Alberto Rojas went to Rome for their official “Ad Limina” visit.
During this time, the Archives Office received calls asking: What is an “Ad Limina” visit, and how many visits has our young Diocese had in 42 years? Both are good church and historical questions. To begin: the term “ad limina” is a Latin phrase that translates “to the threshold,” the entrance of the Vatican.
The Vatican Directory for “Ad Limina Visits” speaks of two purposes for the visits: first, to venerate the tombs of the Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul. The time of prayer strengthens each bishop in his responsibility as a successor of the Apostles and of their hierarchical communion with the successor of Peter.
Secondly, the visit is an important moment in the exercise of the Holy Father’s pastoral ministry. He receives the Pastors of the particular churches (Dioceses) and discusses with them questions concerning their ecclesial mission.
St. Pope John Paul II wrote in his apostolic constitution, Pastor bonus: “In these meetings, the Pope confirms and supports his brother bishops in faith and charity; the bonds of hierarchical communion are strengthened and the catholicity of the Church and the unity of the episcopal college are manifested openly.”
The first Ad Limina visit for the Diocese of San Bernardino was on July 7, 1983 when Bishop Phillip Straling, the founding Bishop of the Diocese, met with St. Pope John Paul II. These visits are structured to occur every five years. So, the second visit was on July 8, 1988 when Bishop Straling again met with St. Pope John Paul II.
In his third Ad Limina visit, Bishop Straling did not go alone; this time he was joined by his newly ordained Auxiliary Bishop, Gerald Barnes. They met with St. Pope John Paul II on December 2, 1993 in Rome.
A Bishop does not go to Rome alone for these Ad Limina visits. He joins other Bishops from his episcopal region in the United States. The Diocese of San Bernardino is part of Region XI of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which comprises the 15 Dioceses in the states of California, Nevada and Hawaii.
Bishop Barnes went on the next Ad Limina visit in 1998 as the second Diocesan Bishop.
He again met with St. Pope John Paul II in May of 2004 for his second visit as Diocesan Bishop. Before each Ad Limina visit a lengthy report called a Quinquennial Report is prepared by the Diocese for the Pope and Vatican officials that describes the ecclesial life of the local church.
Because of the death of St. Pope John Paul II in 2005, the next Ad Limina visit was done in 2010. Bishop Barnes and Auxiliary Bishop del Riego met with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.
Now in 2020, the seventh Ad Limina visit for the Diocese of San Bernardino was conducted with Pope Francis.
At your next ministry gathering or parish dinner, the number of Ad Limina visits would be a good trivia question!
Peter Bradley is Archivist in the Diocese of San Bernardino.