Unexpected papal meeting brings out best in bishop


Catholic Register, 4 May 2017

As the Ontario bishops completed their ad limina visit to Rome last week, I couldn’t help but recall one of my favourite stories about one of Ontario’s favourite bishops.

Every bishop is required to make a periodic visit to Rome — ad limina apostolorum (to the threshold of the apostles) — to report on his diocese, to meet the Holy Father and officials of the Roman Curia, and to build up the bonds of communion between the local Church and the universal Church. Usually these visits are every five years, but as the Church has grown, and the number of bishops has swelled, while there is still only one Holy Father, the intervals between visits are growing. The bishops of Canada last went in 2006 and before that in 1999.

During that 1999 ad limina, the practice of St. John Paul II was to meet each head of a diocese for a private conversation, usually lasting about a quarter hour. But in 1999, a death in the family meant that Hamilton’s Bishop Anthony Tonnos was not able to remain in Rome for the meeting with the Holy Father. Consequently, St. John Paul II met with the auxiliary bishop of Hamilton, Matthew Ustrzycki. It was unusual for an auxiliary bishop to have that private conversation and while Bishop Ustrzycki would have preferred that Hamilton be properly present in Bishop Tonnos, he was also excited to sit down with the Holy Father himself.

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