The seven bishops of Costa Rica returned home Thursday from Rome, having completed the traditional “ad limina” visit, which takes place once every five years.
The two-week visit culminated in a group meeting between the bishops, known as the Episcopal Conference of Costa Rica, and Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 8.
At that meeting, the president of the conference, Bishop of Cartago José Francisco Ulloa, reviewed the areas of discussion, including migration, poverty and the status of the family.
Specifically, he spoke of the church’s work to “integrate our Nicaraguan brothers into Costa Rican society” and attempts to ease tensions surrounding the controversial approval of the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) in a referendum last October. He also touched on the bishops’ concern over “the growing inequality in the distribution of wealth,” and the “worrying phenomenon” of rising crime.
Finally, as expected, on behalf of the conference, Ulloa offered an invitation to His Holiness to visit Costa Rica, “so that you can impart your papal blessing… and so that our people may experience your love at first hand.”
The pope told the bishops that “the people of Costa Rica need to constantly revitalize their ancient and deep roots in the Christian faith.” He addressed their concerns about the deterioration of the family by encouraging them to “promote the good of the family and defend its rights.”
The pontiff closed his address by calling on the “Holy Virgin Mary to protect her children in that beloved country.” He also offered his prayers for the bishops’ ministry and gave them his blessing.
Prior to that encounter, the bishops had all met privately with the pope to discuss issues specific to their individual dioceses.
The bishops of San José, Limón, Alajuela and Puntarenas all had their personal meetings, which lasted approximately 15 minutes each, on Feb. 4.
Hugo Barrantes, archbishop of San José, said after his meeting that he felt a “closeness with the pope as a spiritual father.”
The bishops of Cartago, Tilarán and San Isidro de El General, on the other hand, met with the pope Feb. 8, just prior to the group encounter.
During the visit, the bishops also went to many of the dicasteries, the institutions or ministries that carry out the ecclesiastical and diplomatic functions of the Holy See. They made ceremonial visits to the tomb of St. Peter, where bishop Ulloa said a special Mass, and to the tomb of St. Paul.
According to press officer Laura Avila, the clerics also prayed at the tomb of the previous pontiff, John Paul II, who visited Costa Rica in 1983.