Editor's note: Public sessions of general assembly discussions and votes will be livestreamed at www.usccb.org/meetings. News updates, vote totals, texts of addresses, and presentations and other materials will be posted to that page.
BALTIMORE -- The U.S. Church today is called more than ever to carry out its centuries-long evangelizing mission at a time of spiritual awakening rising from "under the clouds of the pandemic" and the country's uncertain future, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told his fellow prelates.
"People are starting to examine what they truly believe and what they value most deeply in their lives," said Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, who spoke Nov. 16 during the opening public session of the USCCB's Nov. 15-18 general assembly in Baltimore.
The questions people have allow the Church to continue its mission, even in an increasingly secularized society, the archbishop said.
The challenge, he said, is "to understand how the Church should carry out her mission."
Archbishop Gomez acknowledged that differences among members of the Church exist because of the differing views people hold on how to move forward. Still, he said, "there are also many signs of hope" that present new opportunities to bring the Gospel to others.
The archbishop turned to a 19th-century prelate to find inspiration for the path ahead. Archbishop John Ireland, who as a young priest served as a chaplain in the Union Army, was a "powerful advocate for African Americans and for the rights of immigrants," he explained.
"Archbishop Ireland believed deeply in what Rev. Martin Luther King and others have called the 'American creed,' the belief expressed in our founding documents that all men and women are created equal and endowed with sacred dignity, a transcendent dignity, and rights that must never be denied," Archbishop Gomez said.
He quoted Archbishop Ireland's 1889 address, "The Mission of Catholics in America." He described how Archbishop Ireland spoke of a "dependency upon our cooperation with the divine action in the world."
The address continued, "The duty of the moment is to understand our responsibility and to do the full work that heaven has allotted to us. ... With us it will be done, without us it will not be done."
Archbishop Gomez said that Archbishop Ireland's talk illustrates how every Catholics shares responsibility for the church's mission. "We are all baptized to be missionaries," Archbishop Gomez said.
"Second, he understood that the Church's purpose does not depend on forces outside the Church. It does not change with the culture, or politics, or the spirit of the age," he added.
Secularization and division seem to be leading American society "to be losing its 'story,'" the archbishop continued. It's a story that gave people meaning in their lives that is rooted in "a biblical world view and the values of our Judeo-Christian heritage."
That story, he added, told of how each person was created in God's image and "invested with an earthly vocation to build a society where people live in freedom, with equality and dignity."
"What we see all around us now are signs that this narrative may be breaking down. This is one of the consequences of living in a secular society. We all need God to help us to make sense of our lives, so when we try to live without God, we can become confused," Archbishop Gomez explained.
He turned to Pope Francis and the call in "The Joy of the Gospel" in which the pontiff envisioned a missionary Church that can transform the world.
"Again and again, the Holy Father reminds us: the Church exists to evangelize. ... To be a Christian is to be a missionary disciple. There is no other definition," the archbishop said.
He also described the three-year eucharistic revival that the U.S. Catholic Church will undergo as a "missionary project" that aims to draw people deeper into the heart of the mystery of the Catholic faith.
He invited the bishops to accompany the faithful during the revival by sharing their personal stories of discovering "friendship with Jesus and the love of God" in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Calling the Eucharist "the gateway key to the civilization of love that we long to create," the archbishop said that reviving "this sacramental awareness" can help end "Human indifference and social injustice."
"Brothers," he said, "our beautiful task is to continue to tell the Catholic story, to reveal Jesus to our people -- to place their hands in his hand so that can be his light and follow him on the path to eternity, to the love that never ends."
Papal nuncio urges U.S. bishops to closely listen to the Church
By Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service
BALTIMORE -- Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, spoke to the U.S. bishops Nov. 16 about the importance of listening to people in the church and being open to the work of the Holy Spirit.
He addressed the bishops on the first day of two days of public sessions at their fall general assembly Nov. 15-18 in Baltimore.
The archbishop noted that he has been in the role of apostolic nuncio for five years and has been on a journey with the U.S. bishops through challenges of religious disaffiliation, the sexual abuse crisis, increasing secularization, polarization within the nation and the Church, and most recently the global pandemic.
He quickly jumped into discussing a topic fresh on the bishops' minds from hearing about it the previous night at their opening Mass and one they will continue discussing in preparation for an upcoming world Synod of Bishops: synodality.
"I believe that synodality is an answer to the challenges of our time and to the confrontation, which is threatening to divide this country, and which also has its echoes in the Church," Archbishop Pierre said.
"It seems that many are unaware they are engaged in this confrontation, staking out positions, rooted in certain truths but which are isolated in the world of ideas and not applied to the reality of the lived faith experience of the people of God in their concrete situations," he said.
For the bishops, he said, this process should start at home by listening to each other. "The Church needs this attentive listening now more than ever if she is to overcome the polarization facing this country," he said.
The bishops' act of listening also is a means of leading by example to help U.S. Catholics be missionary disciples engaged in their own listening and discernment that he said should be a "way of life" in families, parishes, dioceses and on the periphery.
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