Some insight on recent ad limina visits, from John Allen:
Predictably, Pope Benedict XVI’s own priorities — the push for a “new evangelization,” meaning outreach to lapsed Catholics, and the defense of religious freedom — have figured prominently. Yet a variety of other issues have also surfaced, including:
- The sexual abuse crisis;
- American debates over marriage and the family;
- The new translation of the Catholic Mass;
- The state of Catholic schools, hospitals and charities;
- Parish closings;
- Vocations and seminary life;
- The changing demographics of the American church.
The fact that a subject arises doesn’t necessarily signal a policy shift or new initiative, but sometimes papal interest alone can have consequences. For instance, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York reported that Benedict asked the Americans questions about immigration, which came across as a sign that defense of immigrant rights is a papal priority. In other cases, the meetings allow bishops and Vatican officials to iron out their differences. This time around, that’s included a special focus on parish closings.