USCCB Fall Assembly | Bishops celebrate Mass at historic black Catholic church; elect new officers

Dennis Sadowski | Catholic News Service
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BALTIMORE — The U.S. bishops broke from tradition during this year's fall assembly by celebrating Mass at a West Baltimore church known as the "Mother Church" of black Catholics, rather than Baltimore's historic basilica.

"I pray our presence will convey the Church's solidarity with you," said Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori in opening remarks Nov. 14 to a few dozen parishioners attending the Mass with more than 250 bishops filling nearly every pew of the small church.

In his homily, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., said the bishops came to the church "to be present, to see with our own eyes, so that we might humbly take a step and lead others to do so."

The Mass capped a busy first day of the bishops' fall assembly and brought full circle a theme that ran through much of the day's proceedings — concern for the nation's communities riven by racial tensions and the need for the country to heal from the acrimony of a presidential race now concluded.

On the second day of the meeting, the bishops elected new officers and selected five committee chairmen-elect; approved a new strategic plan that sets five priorities for the bishops' conference; approved creation of a permanent subcommittee on the Church in Africa; and heard reports on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and on cultural diversity in the Church.

In elections Nov. 15, the bishops elected Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston to be president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is the current vice president. As president, he succeeds Archbishop Kurtz. Elected vice president was Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles. The new officers' three-year terms begin when the assembly ends.

The bishops' strategic plan incorporates the theme "Encountering the Mercy of Christ and Accompanying His People With Joy." It sets as priorities for the next four years: evangelization; marriage and family life; human life and dignity; vocations; and religious freedom.

On Nov. 14, the bishops heard a plea from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the new nuncio to the United States, that the U.S. bishops and the U.S. Church as a whole reach out to young Catholics, meeting them where they are and engaging them in their faith.

They heard reports on the 2017 convocation of Catholic leaders to be held in Orlando, Fla., next July, and got details of a simple celebration next year to mark the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

As the meeting opened the bishops affirmed as a body a letter from Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo of Seattle, as chairman of the migration committee, calling on President-elect Donald Trump "to continue to protect the inherent dignity of refugees and migrants." The bishops' group action followed by a day a TV interview in which Trump said one of his first actions would be to deport 2 million to 3 million people he described as "criminal and have criminal records" and entered the country without government permission.

In the letter, first released late Nov. 11, Bishop Elizondo said he was praying for Trump, "all elected officials and those who will work in the new administration. I offer a special word to migrant and refugee families living in the United States: Be assured of our solidarity and continued accompaniment as you work for a better life."

In his final address to the bishops as USCCB president, Archbishop Kurtz discussed the need to move beyond the acrimony of the now-completed elections, but the main focus of his speech were the encounters he had in his three-year term in which he found that small and often intimate gestures provide big lessons for bishops to learn as they exercise their ministry.

In a final afternoon session and later at a news conference that concluded the first meeting day, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta returned to the tensions of the election year.

He is chairman of the new Task Force to Promote Peace in Our Communities, created in July by Archbishop Kurtz in response to the wave of violence in a number of communities following shootings by and of police. In his presentation, he urged the bishops to issue, sooner rather than later, a document on racism, given "postelection uncertainty" and that some of the tensions have only gotten worse following the presidential election.

Earlier in the day, the bishops heard an update from Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York on the planning for a four-day Church convocation exploring the Gospel in American life next July. More than 3,000 people reflecting the diversity of the U.S. Catholic Church are expected to participate. Cardinal Dolan urged bishops in each diocese to send a delegation to the event.

Cardinal Dolan, who is chairman of the bishops' pro-life activities committee, also spent a few moments in the afternoon session to laud the work of Courage, an organization for gay Catholics who strive to remain faithful to Catholic teaching on sexual morality. "They do wonderful work," he said. "They're right in line with the wonderful outreach and pastoral solicitude Pope Francis has shown, and (have) tremendous respect for the dignity of the human person."

Cardinal Dolan added, "They're extraordinarily faithful to the Church's timeless teaching on chastity." Moreover, he said, "they do great programs of formation for priests who would be called to this delicate ministry."

Father Paul Check, who had run Courage for the past several years, was recalled by his home Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., to minister there. He will be succeeded as director by Father Philip Bochanski, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Contributing to this story were Mark Pattison, Rhina Guidos, Carol Zimmermann and Dennis Sadowski. 


 

BALTIMORE (CNS) — In a letter read Nov. 14 during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the chairman of the bishops' Committee on Migration, Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo of Seattle, called on President-elect Donald Trump "to continue to protect the inherent dignity of refugees and migrants."

In a television interview Nov. 13, Trump said he is looking at a plan to deport 2 million to 3 million people whom he described as "criminal and have criminal records" and entered the country without permission. A day later, the U.S. bishops, meeting in Baltimore, affirmed Bishop Elizondo's letter encouraging efforts "to work together to promote the common good, especially those to protect the most vulnerable among us."

In the letter, first released late Nov. 11, Bishop Elizondo said he was praying for Trump, "all elected officials and those who will work in the new administration. I offer a special word to migrant and refugee families living in the United States: Be assured of our solidarity and continued accompaniment as you work for a better life."Bishop Elizondo asked for the protection of the family unit, as "the cornerstone of society," and asked that the new administration recognize the contributions of refugees and immigrants "to the overall prosperity and well-being of our nation."

He said the migration committee would continue to work to protect human policies for refugees and immigrants and their inherent dignity."Serving and welcoming people fleeing violence and conflict in various regions of the world is part of our identity as Catholics," he said. "The church will continue this life-saving tradition."

With more than 65 million forcibly displaced around the world, he said, "the need to welcome refugees and provide freedom from persecution is more acute than ever, and 80 of our dioceses across the country are eager to continue this wonderful act of accompaniment born of our Christian faith."

Trump, during his campaign, vowed to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and have Mexico pay for it and deport 11 million immigrants who have entered the country illegally by using a "deportation force." He also said he would ban Muslims from entering the country and he called for a "pause" in allowing refugees into the country until some form of "extreme vetting" of their background could be put in place.

During his interview with CBS, he told interviewer Lesley Stahl: "What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers. We have a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million. We are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate. But we're getting them out of our country, they're here illegally."

Bishop Elizondo said the bishops' committee was willing to work with the new administration "to continue to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans," adding that "a duty to welcome and protect newcomers, particularly refugees, is an integral part of our mission to help our neighbors in need." 


USCCB Fall Assembly

Cdl. DiNardo elected USCCB president, Abp. Gomez elected vice president

Mark Pattison | Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston was elected president of the U.S. bishops' conference Nov. 15 for a three-year term to begin at the conclusion of the bishops' annual fall general assembly in Baltimore.

Cardinal DiNardo collected a majority of votes on the first ballot of voting on the second day of the bishops' public session. Based on the number of bishops voting, 104 votes were needed for election, and Cardinal DiNardo — the current vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — received 113.

He will succeed Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., whose three-year term as president concludes at the end of the meeting.

Elected vice president was Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles. By virtue of his election, Archbishop Gomez will not take over as chairman of the bishops' Committee on Migration. He was elected last year as chairman-elect of the committee and was to succeed the current outgoing chairman, Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo of Seattle, at the end of this year's general assembly.

Archbishop Gomez was elected vice president on the third ballot.

Under rules established by the USCCB, the names of 10 bishops who are willing to be nominated for the USCCB presidency are presented for voting. After a president is elected, the remaining nine are then considered for the vice presidency.

The other nominees were, in alphabetical order, Archbishops Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City; Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, the only non-archbishop among the original 10; and Archbishops William E. Lori of Baltimore, Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, and John C. Wester of Santa Fe, N.M.

The bishops also voted for chairmen-elect of five standing committees and three representatives for the board of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency.

The standing committees include Canonical Affairs and Church Governance; Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Evangelization and Catechesis; International Justice and Peace; and Protection of Children and Young People.

The chairmen-elect each will begin a three-year term as chairmen at the end of the bishops' fall general assembly in 2017:

• Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance: Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland, Maine, elected over Bishop David M. Malloy of Rockford, Ill., 111 to 89.

• Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs: Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Penn., elected over Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland, Calif., 115 to 90.

• Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis: Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles elected over Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn., 122 to 90.

• Committee on International Justice and Peace: Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services elected over Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego, 127 to 88.

• Committee on Protection of Children and Young People: Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Ind., elected over Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Wash., 128 to 86.

Also several chairmen-elect chosen last year will become committee chairmen at the end of this year's assembly and will serve three-year terms:

• Divine Worship: Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta.

• Domestic Justice and Human Development: Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla..

• Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations: Cardinal-elect Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis, who recently was appointed archbishop of Newark, N.J.

• Catholic Education: Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio.

• Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth: Archbishop Chaput.

A vote also was taken for three seats on the board of Catholic Relief Services. Elected were Archbishop Coakley, who ends his term as president of the board but remained eligible to continue serving; Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee; and Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla.. 

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