Bishop, vicar general prepare for Vatican visit

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‘Ad limina’ visit includes report on diocese

By Barb Arland-Fye

Approximately every five years, the bishop of the Davenport Diocese makes a pilgrimage to Rome during which he meets with the Holy Father and Vatican officials. The formal name of the required visit is “ad limina apostolorum,” which means “to the thresholds of the apostles” Peter and Paul, who were martyred in Rome.
“It’s basically to report to the Holy Father and to the dicasteries (congregations or pontifical councils) about the condition of the diocese,” explained Bishop Martin Amos, who will make his first ad limina visit as bishop of the Davenport Diocese next month. Accompanying him will be Msgr. John Hyland, the diocese’s vicar general.

Bishops make their ad limina visits by region; the Davenport Diocese belongs to Region IX, which covers Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. The bishops will concelebrate Mass at Rome’s four major basilicas: St. John Lateran, St. Peter’s, St. Paul Outside the Walls and St. Mary Major for the spiritual centerpiece of their pilgrimage.

They’ll also meet with officials of 11 of the 25 dicasteries: the congregations of the Doctrine of Faith, Divine Worship, Clergy, Consecrated Life, Catholic Education, Bishops; the tribunal of Apostolic Signatura; and the pontifical councils of Laity, Christian Unity, Family and New Evangelization.

Bishop Amos doesn’t anticipate a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI because the pontiff tends to meet with the bishops in groups, but there will be a photo opportunity.

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U.S. bishops who’ve already made ad limina visits this year have discussed a wide range of pastoral matters with the Holy Father and Vatican officials, Catholic News Service (CNS) reports. The pontiff’s “new evangelization” is among the pastoral matters and one which will be the focus of a Vatican synod in October. In addition, the pope has been urging the American bishops to defend religious freedom against the threat of “radical secularism,” CNS said.

Evangelization is a priority in the Davenport Diocese as well, Bishop Amos and Msgr. Hyland said. “We have a special committee designated to look at how to implement evangelization,” Bishop Amos said. “It’s one of our strategic goals for the chancery itself,” added Msgr. Hyland.

Preparations for the ad limina visit began months ago when diocesan offices (called the chancery) began compiling information for a report on the life of the Church in the Davenport Diocese, based on a list of topics provided by the Vatican.

Topics include the general religious situation of the diocese, ministry of the diocesan bishop, liturgical and sacramental life, Catholic education, catechesis, life and ministry of the clergy, the laity, evangelization of the culture, health care and financial status.

Statistics show a decline in the number of Catholics in the diocese, from 102,716 in 2004 to 97,332 at the end of 2010. Mass attendance, reception of sacraments and number of priests and women religious to serve the people also declined. By contrast, the number of people who received the sacrament of the anointing of the sick mushroomed – from 34,000 in 2004 to 39,000 at the end of 2010.

“The average age of those living within the diocese continues to climb as younger people move to other areas of the country for employment and other opportunities,” the diocese’s report states. “In the Diocese, as in the state, there is a general population shift from rural areas to urban areas which has significantly impacted our rural parishes in the last 10 years.”

In the report’s summary, Bishop Amos acknowledges challenges as well as opportunities. Among the challenges: the clergy sexual abuse crisis and the subsequent lawsuits, settlements and bankruptcy that resulted from the crisis. Staff layoffs also occurred. Among the opportunities: building resources for present and future operations with the successful conclusion of a diocesan-wide $22 million capital campaign. Pastoral planning and collaboration among parishes is identified as another opportunity.

The bishop praised cooperation between chancery staff and a willingness to work with entities of the diocese in order to serve the needs of parishes and deaneries.

“We continue to give thanks to God for the blessings he has bestowed upon the Diocese of Davenport,” Bishop Amos concluded.


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