Tonal change in Ad Limina visit says new Melbourne Archbishop

Under previous pontificates bishops coming to Rome for meetings with Vatican officials could expect to be briefed about the work going on at head office and, if they had fallen out of line, should expect a stern telling off.

This is changing with Pope Francis. According to the Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli, who was in Rome for the Australian Bishops’ “Ad Limina” gathering this week, the Roman Curia is listening to rather than lecturing the bishops toiling in the trenches.

“There’s none of this ‘we’re the schoolmaster, and you are the pupil’, all that seems to have gone,” the energetic 55-year-old archbishop told me when we sat down for an interview in between his hectic schedule of meetings in the Vatican.

Every five years bishops from a particular region are required to undertake an “ad limina apostolorum” visit as a group to the “tombs of the apostles”, where they meet the pope, report on the state of their dioceses and meet leaders of Vatican dicasteries.

The last Australian bishops’ ad limina was eight years ago, with the delay caused by a backlog caused by the growth in the church and number of bishops worldwide.

“I was here at the last ad limina, back in 2011, and all the meetings with the dicasteries on those occasions were mainly a presentation of the dicastery, of what they were doing.

“That’s turned around completely. So far, it’s ‘what do you want to share with us?’ ‘how can we help’?”

His remarks echo those of the Archbishop of Liverpool, Malcolm McMahon who also detected a different approach under the Francis curia during his visit last September, and an end to some of the “tension” that existed before between Rome and the English bishops.

This shift, Archbishop Comensoli explains, is evidence that reform of mentality is taking root in the Roman Curia, which Pope Francis sees as just as significant as re-organising structures.

A new constitution for the Roman Curia, “Praedicate Evangelium”, (“Proclaim the Gospel”), which could come this September, is going to emphasise the importance of the Curia serving the local churches. Continue reading

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