I had seen this in regards to the recent Ad Limina visits for the Australian Bishops, but didn’t realize this is now the norm.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In a quiet modification of a traditional format, the Vatican has dropped most of the individual private meetings between Pope Benedict XVI and bishops making their “ad limina” visits to Rome.
The unannounced change was instituted earlier this year, apparently in an effort to reduce the scheduling burden on the 84-year-old pope and to help cut through the backlog of “ad limina” visits, which are supposed to be made every five years by heads of dioceses.
In place of one-on-one meetings, the pope now usually holds more freewheeling sessions with groups of 7-10 bishops at a time, lasting about an hour. That is expected to be the format for U.S. bishops when they begin their “ad limina” visits in early November.
Several bishops who have recently come through Rome on “ad limina” visits had good things to say about the new practice.
“The Holy Father welcomed us, he sat down and made us comfortable, at home and he chatted with us. He said, ‘Now tell me,’ and he listened very attentively and made a comment here or there. At the end, he summed up beautifully what was said,” said Archbishop Felix Machado of Vasai, India, who met the pope with a group of eight others in early September.
“It was very spontaneous, a heart-to-heart talk. And that’s what it should be. It was a real sharing between him and us,” the archbishop said.