Irish bishops’ Ad Limina visit to Pope Francis and to the Holy See

13 Jan 2017

From this Sunday 15 January, for ten days, members of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference will undertake their Ad Limina Apostolorum visit to Rome  – or “to the threshold of the Apostles” – a reference to the pilgrimage to the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul that all bishops are required to make.  The Ad Limina normally occurs every five years and its purpose is to strengthen the bishops’ communion with the universal Church and with the successor of Saint Peter, Pope Francis.

Please see below:

  • Six ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ concerning the Ad Limina visit of the Irish bishops
  • List of Irish bishops and diocesan administrators participating in the 2017 Ad Limina visit
  • Explanation of the role of the Holy See dicasteries to be visited by Irish bishops

Frequently Asked Questions
What will the bishops’ 2017 Ad Limina visit to Rome involve?

The bishops’ visit which combines prayer including at the tombs of the apostles, a series of meetings with the staff of the various diacasteries (departments) of the Roman Curia in the Holy See to share their pastoral experience, and a meeting with the Holy Father.

Which Irish bishops are attending the Ad Limina pilgrimage?
There are 26 dioceses on the island of Ireland and all serving bishops – or a diocesan administrator if the diocese is currently not being led by a bishop – will be taking part in this pilgrimage.  Please see below the list of bishops and diocesan administrators attending the 2017 Ad Limina visit.

With whom will Irish bishops be meeting?
During the visit the bishops will meet with the relevant staff of the various dicasteries of the Curia.  The dicasteries have special significance and importance because of the close connection that exists between them and the Pope in his mission of leadership in the universal Church.  Bishops will discuss the situation of the Church in Ireland at this time, make known pastoral initiatives, to discuss specific issues of concern, ask questions, seek information, and furnish clarifications.  A list of the dicastaries which the bishops intend to visit is available below.

What might be contained in a diocesan report prepared for the Ad Limina visit?
Prior to the Ad Limina visit, each diocesan bishop submits a report on his diocese to the Holy See.  The report from each diocese describes the actual situation of the Church in that diocese (overview of the present situation, facts and figures) for which the diocesan bishop is responsible, its challenges, its relations with non-Catholic and non-Christian religious communities, with civil society and with the public authorities.  It is forwarded to the Holy See in advance in order that it can be studied, synthesised and a summary presented to the Pope.  This allows the Holy Father to acquaint himself with the situation of each diocese prior to meeting with the bishops.

When will the bishops meet with Pope Francis?
On Friday 20 January the bishops will collectively have an audience with Pope Francis.  The President of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Eamon Martin, will make a reply on behalf of the bishops.

Where will the bishops celebrate Mass during their Ad Limina visit?
As part of their Ad Limina visit bishops will concelebrate Mass in the Pontifical Irish College as well as at the four main papal basilicas in Rome, as detailed below:

  • Mass at the tomb of Saint Peter will be celebrated on Monday 16 January at 7.30am.  Principal Celebrant, Archbishop Eamon Martin.
  • Mass in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran will be celebrated on Wednesday 18 January at 4.00pm.  Principal Celebrant, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.
  • Mass at the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls will be celebrated on Friday 20 January at 4.30pm.  Principal Celebrant, Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly SMA.
  • Mass in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major will be celebrated on Saturday 21 January at 4.30pm.  Principal Celebrant, Archbishop Michael Neary.

 List of Irish bishops and diocesan administrators
Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh, President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, Vice President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference
Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly SMA, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly
Archbishop Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam
Bishop Michael Smith, Bishop of Meath
Bishop John Buckley, Bishop of Cork and Ross
Bishop John Kirby, Bishop of Clonfert
Bishop Éamonn Walsh, Auxiliary Bishop in Dublin
Bishop Leo O’Reilly, Bishop of Kilmore
Bishop Philip Boyce OCD, Bishop of Raphoe
Bishop Raymond Field, Auxiliary Bishop in Dublin
Bishop John McAreavey, Bishop of Dromore
Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry
Bishop John Fleming, Bishop of Killala
Bishop Denis Brennan, Bishop of Ferns
Bishop Brendan Kelly, Bishop of Achonry
Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor
Bishop Liam S. MacDaid, Bishop Emeritus of Clogher
Bishop William Crean, Bishop of Cloyne
Bishop Brendan Leahy, Bishop of Limerick
Bishop Raymond Browne, Bishop of Kerry
Bishop Denis Nulty, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin
Bishop Francis Duffy, Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois
Bishop Kevin Doran, Bishop of Elphin
Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore
Bishop Fintan Monahan, Bishop of Killaloe
Monsignor Michael Ryan, Diocesan Administrator of Ossory
Canon Michael McLaughlin, Diocesan Administrator of Galway
Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, Diocesan Administrator of Clogher

 Explanation of the role of dicasteries of the Holy See to be visited by Irish bishops

  • Secretariat of State is the dicastery of the Roman Curia which works most closely with Pope Francis in the exercise of his universal mission.
  • Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith promotes and safeguards the doctrine on faith and morals throughout the Catholic world.
  • Congregation for the Oriental Churches works with the Oriental Catholic Churches to assist their development alongside the liturgical, disciplinary and spiritual patrimony of the Latin Rite and the heritage of the various Oriental Christian traditions.
  • Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments deals with the regulation and promotion of the sacred liturgy, primarily of the sacraments, without prejudice to the competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
  • Congregation for Bishops oversees the selection of new bishops pending appointment by the Pope and also schedules Ad Limina
  • Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples directs and coordinates throughout the world the work of spreading the Gospel as well as missionary cooperation, without prejudice to the competence of the Congregation for Oriental Churches.
  • Congregation for Causes of the Saintsis responsible for dealing with the causes of candidates for sainthood.
  • Congregation for Catholic Education deals with matters related to Catholic education and Catholic educational institutions at primary, post primary and at third level, including Catholic universities and faculties and Catholic institutes of learning.
  • Congregation for Clergy considers matters regarding the pastoral ministry of diocesan priests and deacons and the resources available to them for the exercise of this ministry; it also deals with matters relating to seminaries and vocations.
  • Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life is responsible for everything which concerns institutes of consecrated life (orders and religious congregations, both of men and of women, secular institutes) and societies of apostolic life regarding their government, discipline, studies, goods, rights, and privileges.
  • Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life established in 2016 is competent in matters that pertain to the Holy See regarding the promotion of life, the apostolate of the lay faithful, the pastoral care of the family and its mission according to God’s plan and for the safeguard and support of human life.
  • The Secretariat for Communication was established in 2015 as the single point of reference for communication which has become increasingly complex and interdependent, reflecting the current media reality.  It is charged with encouraging the use of modern forms of communication and to examine the ways in which they are valid instruments of evangelization.
  • The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is an advisory body at the service of the Holy Father.  The purpose of the Commission is to propose initiatives to the Pope, according to the procedures and determinations specified in itsstatutes, for the purposes of promoting local responsibility in the particular Churches for the protection of all minors and vulnerable adults.
  • Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization works to deepen the theological and pastoral sense of the New Evangelization, promoting to the Bishops’ Conferences the study, the dissemination and the implementation of the Papal Magisterium on the New Evangelization.  This Pontifical Council also deals with matters related to catechetics.
  • Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity engages in ecumenical work through initiatives and activities, labouring to restore unity among Christians.
  • Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace promotes justice and peace in the world in accordance with the Gospel and the social teaching of the Church.
  • Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peopleshas the task of studying and providing pastoral care to “people on the move” such as: migrants, exiles, refugees, displaced people, seafarers, nomads, circus people, pilgrims and tourists.
  • Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialoguepromotes mutual understanding, respect and collaboration between Catholics and the followers of others religious traditions; to encourage the study of religions; and, to promote the formation of persons dedicated to dialogue.
  • The Pontifical Council for Culture dates from the Second Vatican Council.  A whole section of that Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church – Gaudium et Spes – emphasises the fundamental importance of culture for the full development of the human person, the many ways in which salvation and culture are linked, and the mutual enrichment of the Church and cultures throughout the history of civilisations.
  • Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts deals with matters related to examining the place of canon law in the life of the Church.
  • Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Healthcare Workers promotes the work of formation, study and action carried out by the diverse Catholic international organisations in the healthcare field as well as other groups and associations which work in this sector.
  • The Pontifical Council COR UNUM for Human and Christian Development promotes the care of the Catholic Church for the needy, thereby encouraging human fellowship and making manifest the charity of Christ.  The objectives of COR UNUM are (i) To assist the Pope and be his instrument for carrying out special initiatives in the field of humanitarian actions when disasters occur, or in the field of integral human promotion; (ii) To foster the catechesis of Charity and encourage the faithful to give a concrete witness to evangelical charity; and (iii) To encourage and coordinate the initiatives of Catholic organisations through the exchange of information and by promoting fraternal cooperation in favour of integral human development.
  • TheApostolic Penitentiary formerly called the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary, is one of the three tribunals of the Roman Curia.  The Apostolic Penitentiary is chiefly a tribunal of mercy, responsible for issues relating to the forgiveness of sins in the Catholic Church.  The work of the Apostolic Penitentiary falls mainly into these categories: (i) the absolution of excommunications latæ sententiæ reserved to the Holy See, (ii) the dispensation of sacramental impediments reserved to the Holy See, and (iii) the issuance and governance of indulgences.
  • TheRoman Rota generally deals with appeals from around the world in canon law cases concerning applications for marriage annulments.
  • The Supreme Tribunal of theApostolic Signatura is the highest judicial authority in the Church apart from the Pope himself, who as supreme ecclesiastical judge is the final point of appeal for any ecclesiastical judgment.


For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678