USCCB General Assembly: What you need to know
The bishops of the United States, including Auxiliary Bishop of Cincinnati Joseph R. Binzer, are gathered in St. Louis, Mo. for their spring general assembly. The meeting, which began June 10 wraps up today. Below are highlights from the meetings thus far.
U.S. bishops’ spring assembly opens with rapid start to communications
ST. LOUIS — A few hours before the U.S. bishops’ spring general assembly opened June 10 in St. Louis, the meeting already had begun. Tweets were trickling out from bishops, media and observers, using the hashtag #usccb15.
Among their first items to share: a link to the live stream of the proceedings, bishops making their presence known and media types encouraging followers to watch their live coverage. Approximately 250 bishops attended the June 10-12 assembly at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown St. Louis.
Topics for discussion in the three-day meeting included a progress report on combating the issue of sexual abuse of minors by clergy; the forthcoming papal encyclical on human ecology and the environment; Pope Francis’ visit to the United States and the Synod of Bishops this fall; and an update on the promotion and defense of marriage as well as on ongoing communications efforts. In a nod to the bishops’ presence in St. Louis and the unrest in nearby Ferguson and in Baltimore, where the bishops meet each November, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, made a statement on race relations, which included several concrete steps to promote peace, justice and respect for all people.
Bishops discuss upcoming encyclical, pope’s visit, top priorities
The U.S. bishops gathered in St. Louis for their spring general assembly heard presentations on the pope’s upcoming encyclical on the environment, the U.S. church’s ongoing work in promoting traditional marriage and the need to remain vigilant in protecting children from abuse.
On the first day of their meeting June 10, there also were reports on the bishops’ efforts to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform and their help in rebuilding work in Haiti, which is still recovering from the 2010 earthquake.
In the second day of the assembly’s public sessions June 11, the bishops heard a report on a draft for priorities and plans for the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishop for 2017-2020. The report, which was up for a vote, started a lively discussion about what the bishops’ top focus should be. Several bishops spoke up about the need to put concern for poverty at the top of the list to keep in line with the message and ministry of Pope Francis. The bishops voted to rework the draft document, incorporating the feedback given.
in a 165-5 vote, the bishops approved the inclusion of revised canticles for the Liturgy of the Hours for use in U.S. dioceses. It required a two-thirds vote of the Latin Church members of the USCCB. The bishops also voted to permit the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations to seek a renewed recognitio, or approval, from the Vatican for the USCCB’s “Program of Priestly Formation, Fifth Edition” for an additional five-year period without any changes to the norms.
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Bishops hear report on church’s ongoing efforts to defend marriage
As the institution of marriage faces unprecedented challenges, the Catholic Church continues to promote and defend marriage as being between one man and one woman, said Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco. As chairman of the bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Archbishop Cordileone gave bishops at their spring general assembly in St. Louis an update on the U.S. Supreme Court’s impending decision whether same-sex marriage should be made legal nationwide as well as related public policy and the church’s catechetical efforts.
The Supreme Court is considering two issues: whether the Constitution should require a state to license a civil marriage between two people of the same sex and whether it requires a state to recognize a same-sex marriage when it was lawfully licensed and performed in another state. The court is expected to make a decision by the end of its session in late June.
“Nothing the court says can change what marriage truly is, and we will continue to promote and defend it,” said Archbishop Cordileone, who received sustained applause from his brother bishops at the end of his talk. “We may have to suffer this lie about marriage in the law, but we must not participate in it or keep silent about it. The importance of responding to this challenge with truth and compassion remains paramount,” he later added. Currently, 36 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territory of Guam recognize same-sex marriage. The status of same-sex marriage in a 37th state, Alabama, remains unclear because of conflicting state and federal rulings.
Bishops briefed on detention center visits, advocacy on asylum, reforms
In reports on migration-related work June 10 at their spring general assembly in St. Louis, U.S. bishops were encouraged to visit immigrant detention centers in their dioceses to better understand the conditions under which migrants are being held.
Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo of Seattle, chairman of the Committee on Migration, outlined efforts of the committee including issuing a report on problems with the immigrant detention system; advocating on behalf of migrants who might be eligible for asylum or other forms of legal status in the U.S.; and pushing for a dramatic increase in the number of refugees from Syria, especially, and others who are fleeing their countries because of religious persecution.
In May, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Center for Migration Studies released a scathing report, “Unlocking Human Dignity: A Plan to Transform the U.S. Immigrant Detention System,” based in part on visits by bishops to detention centers around the country.
Posted June 12, 2015