The bishops of the U.S. met June 13-16 for our summer meeting in Indianapolis. Listed below is my summary of the meeting:
➤ 1. The bishops of the U.S. sent greetings to Pope Francis, assuring him of our fidelity and prayers. We promised to continue our efforts toward civil dialogue and a willingness to address current issues in the U.S., especially care for the poor.
➤ 2. The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Pierre, addressed the bishops and extended the greetings of our Holy Father and his gratitude for the ministry of the bishops. In the last year, Archbishop Pierre has been impressed by the faith of the people in the U.S. The archbishop reminded us that Jesus is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” – we must encounter him and be willing to give witness to others as true disciples. “Evangelii Gaudium” of Pope Francis was discussed, and he reminded us we must move from our churches and go out to the world to find the lost and to evangelize with compassion. We must accompany families and help them in their daily struggles. Pope Francis calls us to listen and show respect, even when we disagree. The use of technology enables us to communicate only with those with whom we are comfortable. We must reach out, especially to the poor and needy. The nuncio mentioned that the Synod on Youth in Rome (October 2018) is an important opportunity to reach out to the young church and help them grow in faith and discuss the challenges that face them.
➤ 3. The National Advisory Council, composed of laity, clergy and religious (50 members), reviewed our agenda and gave insights and suggestions on the various topics. The chair, Mrs. Margaret Simonson, gave a summary of their discussion, which is always helpful to the bishops.
➤ 4. Dr. Francesco Cesareo, chair of the National Review Board, gave the annual report on the implementation of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” He expressed his appreciation for the cooperation given to the annual audit in each diocese. Our vigilance must continue in order that children are safe. We must be steady in our efforts so that the safety of children and the respect owed to them is given by the clergy and all members of the church. The bishops continue to “Promise to Protect and Pledge to Heal.”
➤ 5. Dr. John Cavadini led us in a reflection in preparation for the 2018 Synod in Rome on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” (In the Archdiocese of New Orleans, I have sent the preparatory document for the Synod to many who provide ministry to our youth. I have asked for reflections on this important topic.) Further presentations were given by bishops on how we can engage the youth in voicing their opinions and experience regarding faith and the Church. How can we hear our youth? How can we enable them to understand the meaning of vocation?
➤ 6. A report was given on the “Bishops’ Working Group Regarding Immigration Issues.” Reflections were given by Rev. Daniel Groddy, C.S.C., and bishops who work with the Committee on Immigration and the Resettlement of Refugees. The bishops reported on many Catholic agencies who continue to dedicate themselves to education, advocacy and direct service to those seeking immigration.
➤ 7. The bishops voted in favor of:
a. The establishment of a permanent Committee for Religious Liberty (formerly it was an ad-hoc committee).
b. The publication of the “Bendicional: Sexta Parte” (a collection of blessings in Spanish for use in the U.S.); awaiting the approval of the Holy See.
c. The new translation of the “Order of Blessing of the Oil of Catechumens and of the Sick and of Consecrating the Chrism”; awaiting approval by the Holy See.
d. The publication of the revised “Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities.”
➤ 8. The bishops entered in a discussion on health care reform. The USCCB has been active in this discussion with members of Congress as we want to be a voice for the poor, aged and all those in need. We also are concerned with the respect for life and all moral issues involved in health care in the U.S.
The key principles of the USCCB in health care are as follows:
1. Respect for life
2. Access for all
3. Truly affordable
4. Comprehensive and high quality
5. Conscience protection
➤ 9. The bishops discussed international religious persecution and violations of human rights. The committee on International Justice and Peace has been a strong voice with Congress and other agencies relative to this concern. Christians are harassed in 128 countries in the world. In many countries, people of the Muslim and Jewish faiths are also persecuted.
Thanks to all those who give us prayerful support during our meetings.
This is my summary of the meeting, therefore not an official summary or document.
– Most Reverend Gregory M. Aymond