Pope Francis has broken with the tradition of delivering an address to each group of bishops making ad limina visits to Rome, notes veteran Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister of L’Espresso.
All bishops visit Rome every five years, to confer with Vatican
officials and report to the Pope. These visits are organized in groups,
by country and metropolitan region.
For many years, the Pope would meet
the bishops individually, then give a prepared talk to each group as a
“To the expert eye,” notes Magister, “these speeches were the
Roman thermometer for the Church’s state of health in the various
regions of the world.”
Pope Francis continued that practice, Magister notes.
Pope would usually hand out a text that had been prepared for him. He
would then speak extemporaneously, but the text that had been written in
advance—not by the Pontiff himself—would be made public.
That practice continued until November 2015, when the prepared text
delivered to a group of German bishops was candid and detailed in
exploring the sharp decline in Catholic practice in that country.
grim appraisal of the health of the German Catholic Church came at a
delicate time: just after the meetings of the Synod of Bishops, at which
German prelates had led the charge for a more liberal approach to
Catholics in illicit marital unions.
After that meeting with the German bishops, Pope Francis suspended ad limina
visits for the duration of the Jubilee Year.
Since the resumption of
the ad limina visits, the Pope has met with groups of bishops from
Ireland, Cambodia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Macedonia.
of the Pope’s remarks to these visiting bishops has been made public.