The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference has asked the appropriate offices in Rome to set a date for them to make an ad limina visit to the Vatican.

NZCBC secretary Palmerston North Bishop Charles Drennan said the last ad limina visit they made was to Pope Benedict XVI in 2011.

“We have written to the appropriate offices in Rome indicating our readiness to make an ad limina visit, but we’re also very aware that this may not be for a couple of years given the extended time cycles that these visits are now following,” he said.

Ad Limina apostolorum (to the threshold of the apostles) visits traditionally have been scheduled every five years and combine a visit to the tombs of Sts Peter and Paul with an accounting to the Pope of what is happening in the bishops’ dioceses.

“There are growing numbers of bishops’ conferences in the world,” Bishop Drennan said, explaining the delay. “Also some large countries with big Catholic populations and therefore lots of dioceses make their ad limina visits in regions.

“The ad limina visits of the regions of Brazil for example take place over a number of
months and soon fill up the Pope’s diary.”

Bishop Drennan added with the advent of new technology and better communications from various Vatican departments, the visits have become complemented with others forms of contact.

“It’s a privilege and joyous experience but we have to be respectful of the fact that Pope Francis has a busy schedule,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is to put pressure on him.”

Some New Zealand bishops have met Pope Francis but they haven’t had a meeting with the Pope as a conference.

“But we’ve asked. In the end it’s a bit like a queue system and we’re in the queue. As the Italians say pazienza, patience” he said.

The Catholic News Service earlier reported that Pope Francis launched a new style of ad limina visit which is more informal and characterised by free-flowing exchanges.

In 2011, the Pacific and New Zealand bishops had also brought before Pope Benedict their concern regarding the increasing secularism in their societies.

In a letter to the bishops after the visit, Pope Benedict said it was because of this concern that the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation was established.

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