New Zealand’s Catholic bishops are to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican on October 28 next year. This will happen during the bishops’ ad limina visit in 2019, during which they will visit the tombs of Sts Peter and Paul and will give the Pope an account of what is happening in New Zealand’s dioceses.

As NZ Catholic reported last year, the bishops had written to the appropriate offices in Rome indicating their readiness to undertake an ad limina visit.

Ad Limina apostolorum (to the threshold of the apostles) visits traditionally have been scheduled every five years.

The last time the New Zealand bishops made such a visit was in 2011, when they met with Pope Benedict XVI.

New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference president Bishop Patrick Dunn expressed delight at the scheduling of a meeting with Pope Francis.

“We are really looking forward to meeting Pope Francis. I’m sure he will welcome hearing about the Church in New Zealand as well,” Bishop Dunn said.

“He likes to hear from the peripheries and we are about as far away as it gets,” the bishop quipped.

Bishop Dunn noted that he himself is also looking forward to the meeting as he has never met Pope Francis before.

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

In early 2017, it was reported that Ireland’s bishops were “impressed by the level of openness and dialogue they discovered in all the offices of the Roman Curia and particularly in their closed door, informal and unscripted conversation with the Pope”. This was their first ad limina visit since 2006.

Last year, Palmerston North Bishop Charles Drennan told NZ Catholic that there are several reasons why ad limina visits by bishops’ conferences are now happening less often than every five years.

He said there is a growing number of bishops’ conferences in the world and, in some large Catholic nations, bishops from different regions make separate ad limina visits.

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