VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Tuesday received in audience Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio and all five of his auxiliary bishops currently in service to the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS): Bishops Richard B. Higgins, F. Richard Spencer, Neal J. Buckon, William (Bill) Muhm, and Joseph L. Coffey. The AMS group was among more than three dozen U.S. bishops making an “ad limina” visit to the Holy See.
Following a Church tradition dating back at least 12 centuries, Catholic bishops make ad limina visits to the Eternal City every few years. The Latin term “ad limina apostolorum” means “to the threshold of the apostles.” During their ad limina visits, the bishops traditionally pray at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul and meet with the pope to discuss the state of the Church in their dioceses. This visit was no exception.
In an almost three-hour gathering in the papal library, the Holy Father conversed at length with Archbishop Broglio, his auxiliary bishops, and other bishops of U.S. Catholic Regions IV and V, including the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, West Virginia, Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee. Some who were present describe the conversation as warm, fraternal, and straightforward.
Archbishop Broglio said: “I shared the concern of the U.S. Bishops about those who have abandoned the practice of the Catholic faith and those who claim no religious affiliation and asked what we might do. After making some comments, he asked me: ‘Your flock is composed of young people, what do you do?’ That give and take aptly describes the tone of our meeting.”
Archbishop Broglio told Catholic News Service (CNS) the bishops had “a very open conversation” with the pope, without any pre-set formalities or parameters. He said the pope “began the meeting by saying, ‘There’s no time limit on this. When have you ever seen a priest or bishop die of hunger? If we have to move lunch, it’s no big deal.’”
“Obviously, we talked about the clergy scandal,” Archbishop Broglio told CNS. “But there was an invitation from the Holy Father that we have to keep moving forward.” Archbishop Broglio said Pope Francis “made a very strong statement about the importance of Catholic schools and that we really have to continue as much as we can with Catholic education. He spoke about the importance of being missionary disciples and reaching out to young people.”