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When in Rome

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann concelebrates Mass at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome March 8. Archbishop Naumann and other U.S. bishops were making their “ad limina” visits to report on the status of their dioceses to the pope and Vatican officials.

Archbishop enjoys sights, sounds — and tastes — of Eternal City during ‘ad lumina’ visit

by Joe Bollig

Whenever a bishop goes to Rome for his “quinquennial visit ad limina apostolorum,” the top three items on his “must do” list are:

One, pray at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul.

Two, meet the Successor of Peter, the pope.

Three, submit a report on the state of the diocese or territorial jurisdiction he shepherds.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann completed the traditional trifecta during his “ad limina” visit from March 6 to 13.

But a man’s got to eat, too.  And when in Rome, one eats as the Romans do — at one of the city’s many great restaurants.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say I have a favorite,” said Archbishop Naumann.

But then again, “there are no bad restaurants that I’ve found.”

Even Lent didn’t feel quite so penitential in the Eternal City.

“We went to this one restaurant on Friday that had this wonderful pasta with salmon,” he recalled, “that took all the penance out of Friday.”

Archbishop Naumann made his visit with other bishops from the United States’ Region IX, which is comprised of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska. From the archdiocese, he was accompanied by vicars general Father Gary Pennings and Father Brian Schieber.

It was with his two vicars that he dined at one of the former Cardinal Ratzinger’s favorite places. But he soon discovered that even visiting American archbishops don’t rate high enough to be privy to the truly important secrets of the ancient city.

“[We] went to Roberto’s, one of the places Pope Benedict used to frequent when he was a lowly member of the College of Cardinals,” said Archbishop Naumann. “They said he liked their carbonara.”

“But when we asked if he still gets carryouts,” said the archbishop with a chuckle, “they weren’t saying.”

Come home to Rome

The term “ad limina” is Latin for “to the thresholds,” and refers to the thresholds of the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul at which each visiting bishop is called to pray.

Archbishop Naumann has made three “ad limina” visits — one in 1998 as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and twice for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

Usually, “ad limina” visits are made every five years, but there was a seven-year gap between his second and third trip because of the death of Pope John Paul II and the succession by Pope Benedict XVI.

“Ad limina” visits also include celebrations of the Mass at venerable altars. Archbishop Naumann celebrated Mass three times in the crypts and chapels of St. Peter’s Basilica and also at the major basilicas of Rome.

Part of the “ad limina” protocol is an escort by the Swiss Guards.

“If you walk in front of them, as a bishop, they always salute, which is always special to see the respect the Swiss Guard has for the church and its bishops,” said Archbishop Naumann.

It’s a nice shot in the arm for the passing prelate as well.

“I remember [my] first ‘ad limina’ visit,” he continued. “Bishop Raymond Boland from Kansas City, Mo., commented that he’d like to bring home one of the Swiss Guards just to walk in front of him when he was having a bad day, to lift up his spirits.”

Bishops bring with them to their “ad limina” visit a written report of the activities of the church in their diocese or territory, the relevant parts of which are parceled out to the appropriate Vatican agency.

For example, said the archbishop, “When we were at the Congregation for Education, they noted [the formation of teachers through the School of Faith] in our report and were pleased to see we were making this effort,” said the archbishop.

Additionally, the bishops — usually in small groups — have an opportunity to give a short verbal report to the pope directly, as well as enjoy a brief personal exchange.

The Region IX bishops decided, for the sake of efficiency, to divide up the topics they all wished to address.

“My particular area I spoke about was religious liberty and protection of conscience, and the great struggle that is going on in our country right now,” said Archbishop Naumann.

“He obviously is very aware of this. At one point, I told him that one of our serious concerns is that those who are provoking this confrontation have the objective of dividing the people from the bishops, particularly by trying to focus the issue on contraception and disguise the fact that this is really about coercion and trampling on religious liberty.”

Language was no barrier to getting his point across, said Archbishop Naumann. Pope Benedict has an excellent command of English — even better than the late Pope John Paul II, he said. And, like the late pope, the current pontiff is a good listener.

“Personally, he’s a very gentle person,” said Archbishop Naumann. “He’s very hospitable.”

“In our meeting with the Kansas and Nebraska bishops, he listened very intently to what we said,” the archbishop continued. “His words were of encouragement and support for us, very affirming. I think he’s incredible for the energy he has.”

At the visit’s conclusion, the pope gave each of the bishops a gold pectoral cross that replicated one that formerly hung at San Anselmo in Rome.

Places to go, people to see

Archbishop Naumann and Fathers Schieber and Pennings also used the trip to Rome as an opportunity to network with friends of the archdiocese in the Eternal City.

Father Pennings and Father Schieber met with members of the Community of the Lamb, and Archbishop Naumann met with members of both branches of the Apostles of the Interior Life.

“I had the opportunity to meet with one of the pope’s secretaries, Msgr. Alfred Xuereb, who is a good friend of Sister Susan Pieper of the Apostles of the Interior Life,” said the archbishop. “It was really through Sister Susan, who happened to be in Rome at the same time, that we had a chance to visit with Msgr. Xuereb.”

Two archdiocesan high school groups were also in Rome at the time — one from St. James Academy in Lenexa and the other from Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park. Archbishop Naumann wasn’t able to catch up to the Miege group, but he did celebrate Mass for and later had dinner with the St. James contingent.

For leisure time, the archbishop did a little shopping and went on a walking tour of Rome’s churches. While at the Church of St. Gregory, he saw the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury giving a lecture.

The high point of the visit was, of course, the time spent with the pope, with the opportunity to celebrate Mass at Rome’s venerable altars coming in a close second.

But if there is a place in Rome that holds a special place in the archbishop’s heart, it would be the Pontifical North American College.

“I enjoy staying at the North American College, to be there with the seminarians from the United States,” said Archbishop Naumann.

And “the beautiful view overlooking Rome from the roof of the North American College,”  he said, is truly breathtaking. “You can look down on St. Peter’s and the Vatican City and see a panoramic view of Rome.”

As great as that view is, however, there is another Roman view that is more spectacular: the view of the universal church.

“The experience in Rome is truly of the universal church,” said the archbishop. “One thing I like to do at St. Peter’s is to go into the adoration chapel. You look around the chapel and see faces that represent every continent in the world.”

“And there we are, all together, praying to the same Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament,” he continued.  “Rome gives you a tremendous sense of the universality of the church and how we are a part of this incredibly large and diverse family that is the Catholic Church.”


About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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