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US bishops offer prayers, pledge to engage with Biden administration

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Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2021 / 07:04 am MT (CNA).- As Joe Biden is inaugurated Wednesday as president of the United States, the U.S. bishops said they plan to engage the new administration on issues including abortion, religious freedom, racism, and poverty.

“Our commitments on issues of human sexuality and the family, as with our commitments in every other area — such as abolishing the death penalty or seeking a health care system and economy that truly serves the human person — are guided by Christ’s great commandment to

love and to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a Jan. 20 statement, Gomez said he is praying that God may grant the incoming president wisdom and courage in pursuing unity, healing, liberty, and equality.

Gomez stressed that the role of the Catholic bishops is not to endorse parties or candidates, but to offer principles that can guide consciences.

“Catholic bishops are not partisan players in our nation’s politics,” he said. “We are pastors responsible for the souls of millions of Americans and we are advocates for the needs of all our neighbors.”

The bishops’ conference, he said, has worked for years to address a wide variety of issues, including abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, peace and economic development, racism, immigration, poverty, the environment, and criminal justice reform.

“On these and other issues, our duty to love and our moral principles lead us to prudential judgments and positions that do not align neatly with the political categories of left or right or the platforms of our two major political parties,” he said.

“On some issues we find ourselves more on the side of Democrats, while on others we find ourselves standing with Republicans. Our priorities are never partisan. We are Catholics first, seeking only to follow Jesus Christ faithfully and to advance his vision for human fraternity and community.”

Gomez noted that the bishops’ conference works with every president and Congress, but added that working with Biden will be unique, since “he is our first president in 60 years to profess the Catholic faith.”

The archbishop said he finds hope and inspiration in Biden’s personal witness of relying on faith in difficult times and commitment to the poor.

At the same time, he said, “our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.”

Stressing that the bishops must preach the truth of the Gospel even when doing so is unpopular, Gomez said that the issue of abortion merits special attention as a grave evil in society.

“For the nation’s bishops, the continued injustice of abortion remains the ‘preeminent priority’,” he said, adding that “preeminent does not mean ‘only’,” and there are a wide variety of challenges and threats to human dignity facing the country today.

“Abortion is a direct attack on life that also wounds the woman and undermines the family,” he said. “It is not only a private matter, it raises troubling and fundamental questions of fraternity, solidarity, and inclusion in the human community. It is also a matter of social justice. We cannot ignore the reality that abortion rates are much higher among the poor and minorities, and that the procedure is regularly used to eliminate children who would be born with disabilities.”

The U.S. bishops will engage with the president in the hopes of beginning “a dialogue to address the complicated cultural and economic factors that are driving abortion and discouraging families,” Gomez said.

He voiced hope that Biden will be willing to work with the Church and avoid expanding abortion and contraception.

“My hope, too, is that we can work together to finally put in place a coherent family policy in this country, one that acknowledges the crucial importance of strong marriages and parenting to the well-being of children and the stability of communities,” the archbishop said. “If the President, with full respect for the Church’s religious freedom, were to engage in this conversation, it would go a long way toward restoring the civil balance and healing our country’s needs.”

Gomez praised Biden’s call for healing and unity in America, saying that such healing is “urgently needed as we confront the trauma in our country caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the social isolation that has only worsened the intense and long-simmering divisions among our fellow citizens.”

True healing can only come from God, the archbishop said, and requires forgiveness and dialogue.

“Christian love calls us to love our enemies and bless those who oppose us, and to treat others with the same compassion that we want for ourselves,” he added.

The president of the bishops’ conference concluded by entrusting the country’s transition to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“May she guide us in the ways of peace and obtain for us wisdom and the grace of a true patriotism and love of country,” he said.

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