WASHINGTON — When the U.S. bishops gather for their fall assembly in Baltimore Nov. 15-18, it will be the first in-person meeting of the full body of bishops since November 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the bishops’ June 2020 spring meeting, and their November 2020 fall assembly and June 2021 spring meeting were both held in a virtual format.
Topping the meeting’s agenda will be debate and votes on a proposed document on the Eucharist, “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” and on a eucharistic revival initiative.
During their spring meeting this past June, 75% of the U.S. bishops approved the drafting of a document, addressed to all Catholic faithful, on eucharistic coherence.
In a recorded video this fall produced by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to further explain the document and the planned upcoming revival on the Eucharist, Bishop Rhoades said the document will focus on how “the Eucharist is our greatest treasure as Catholics” and will look at different aspects of the Eucharist, particularly how it illustrates Christ’s sacrifice and is the real presence of Jesus, not just a symbol.
When the statement was first proposed to the body of bishops at their June assembly, some bishops said a strong rebuke of the president should be included in it because of Biden’s recent actions protecting and expanding abortion access, while others warned that this would portray the bishops as a partisan force during a time of bitter political divisions across the country.
At the end of their June discussion, Bishop Rhoades, who is chair of the Committee on Doctrine, said the document would not focus on denying Communion to people but on the importance of the sacrament.
He said the second half of the document will emphasize what Catholics should do with this deeper understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist, from more active participation at Mass to participating in devotions such as adoration and renewing their commitment to serve others.
Part of the impetus for the bishops’ work on this document and a eucharistic revival to increase Catholics’ understanding and awareness of the Eucharist was a Pew study in the fall of 2019 that showed just 30% of Catholics “have what we might call a proper understanding of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.”
The eucharistic revival would launch on the feast of Corpus Christi in June 2022. The three-year effort will include events on the diocesan level such as eucharistic processions around the country along with adoration and prayer.
In 2023, the emphasis will be on parishes with resources available at the parish level to increase Catholics’ understanding of what the Eucharist really means. This would culminate in a National Eucharistic Congress in the summer of 2024.
The bishops are expected to discuss the draft document that was sent to bishops in advance of the meeting during an executive session they have scheduled for the start of their November in-person meeting in Baltimore.
A preliminary presentation of the statement is expected to take place Nov. 16, with a debate and vote on it Nov. 17. It needs a
two-thirds majority vote to pass.
The Baltimore assembly will begin with an address by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States. The bishops also will hear from Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the USCCB.
The agenda also includes a report to the bishops from the National Advisory Council, a group created by the USCCB that is comprised of religious and laypeople primarily for consultation on action items and information reports presented to the bishops’ Administrative Committee.
Other action items on the agenda requiring debate and a vote include an update of the “Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines”; a proposal to add St. Teresa of Kolkata to the “Proper Calendar for the Dioceses of the United States” as an optional memorial Sept. 5; a resolution on diocesan financial reporting; new English and Spanish versions of the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults; and the USCCB’s 2022 budget.
During the assembly, the bishops also will vote for a treasurer-elect for the USCCB, as well as chairmen-elect of five standing committees.
>> Follow along
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 this page.
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