Originally Published on 26 November 1988 by The Rev. Richard J. Whetstone, J.C.L of The Byzantine Ruthenian Metropolitan Province in America (now the Byzantine Archeparchy of Pittsburgh). This reprint is being published in honor of the fifth anniversary of Fr. Richards death.
On November 26, 1988 The Byzantine Ruthenian Metropolitan Province in America will be the main topic at the Vatican, and it happens every five (5) years! Why?
According to the norms, customs, and laws of the church, the residential bishops of each diocese or eparchy, must make a quinquennial visit ad lumina apostolorum- a visit to the threshold of the apostle. The last such visit by our bishops in 1983.
The history of the ad limina visit is not traceable to any singular or specific act or legislation of years gone by, but had developed naturally from the infant church centuries ago. More recently, however, it has become a legislated duty for each residential bishop.
We read in the following Canons from The Schema of The Code of Canon Law for the Eastern Churches the duties of these bishops. ( The Schema is the proposed code of law for the eastern churches, which is in its final preparation stages before promulgation. Once finalized it will be promulgated by and for the eastern churches and will become its official law.) The Canons state:
Canon 204.1– The Eparchial Bishop exercising his authority in the territorial boundaries of a patriarchal church is bound to make a report every five years to the patriarch about the status of the eparchy committed to him, according to the manner set up by the Synod of Bishops. The bishop is to submit a copy of the report to the Apostolic See as soon as possible.
Canon 204.2-Other Eparchial Bishops must make the same report to the Apostolic See every five (5) years, and, if it is a case of bishops of some patriarchal church or AUTONOMOUS METROPOLITAN CHURCH, they are to send a copy of the report to the patriarch or METROPOLITAN.
Canon 205– An Eparchial Bishop of whatever autonomous church, even of the Latin Church, is to inform the Apostolic See in the quinquennial report, about the status and needs of the Christian faithful, who, even if they are enrolled in other autonomous churches, are committed to his care.
Canon 206.1-Eparchial bishops exercising authority within the territory of a patriarchal church, within five years of their enthronment are to make a visit to Rome along with the patriarch, insofar as this can be done, so that they may venerate the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and present themselves to the successors of Blessed Peter in the primacy over the Universal Church.
Canon 206.2– Other Eparchial Bishops are to carry out the visitation to Rome personally every five years or if legitimately impeded, through another. But, if they are within a patriarchal church, it is desirable that at least some time it be done with the patriarch.
What these laws do, is to allow the Holy See to asses the needs. progress, etc. of each diocese or eparchy, and to evaluate its overall total programme.
When our Archbishop and Bishops journey to the threshold of the apostles as an AUTONOMOUS METROPOLITAN CHURCH, they will attend to three (3) specific acts, which are distinct, but yet closely related to each other, in the fulfilling of their visit.
The three various acts, but not necessarily done in the order listed, consist in the following:
The bishops visit the boundaries (tombs) of Saints Peter and Paul to pray. Our bishops, the direct descendants of these apostles through the grace of apostolic succession, pray not only for their own needs, but, also remember their entire flock entrusted to their care, namely our AMERICAN BYZANTINE CATHOLIC CHURCH. While at the tombs of these two apostles, they sign the register kept in the sacristies of these Basilicas, and receive a document of proof of their visit.
The bishops have a personal visit with the Holy Father offering Him their acts of obedience, and giving Him a verbal report concerning our AUTONOMOUS METROPOLITAN CHURCH. Our bishops will also meet with other heads of congregations and discuss the present needs and future ramifications for our American Byzantine Catholic Church (The American Byzantine Catholic Church has adapted well to her surroundings. As America has been known as the melting point, so our church can boast the same. Once predominately Ruthenian-Hungarian-Croation, she now can boast of other ethnicities within her jurisdiction, adding such ethnic groups as the Slovaks, and other American groups due to intermarriage and to the evangelization accomplished from the requests of the Second Vatican Council.)
The Bishops will also present a written report on the status of their dioceses to the sacred congregation for the eastern churches. Once completed the Holy See will have a better understanding of our AMERICAN BYZANTINE CATHOLIC CHURCH and will be able to meet her needs.
On a Personal Note: Metropolitan Archbishop Stephen J. Kocisko and Auxiliary Bishop John M Billock along with our bishops of the suffragan diocese of Passaic, Parma, and VanNuys will be departing to Rome for the Ad Limina visitation on Tuesday, November 22, and return on Thursday, December 1.