Pope Sends Message to US Bishops

Prelates Share Laughter, Goals, Collegiality

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BALTIMORE, Maryland, NOV. 18, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is sending his support and prayers to the U.S. bishops who are currently meeting in Baltimore for their annual fall general assembly.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope’s secretary of state, affirmed this message in a telegram he sent on the Pontiff’s behalf, addressed to Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The message assured the bishops of the Holy Father’s prayers, invoking the “wisdom of the Holy Spirit” upon their assembly.

It gave an assurance of his prayer that the conference’s deliberations will be assist the spiritual growth of all of the people in the United States.

Benedict XVI concluded by sending his apostolic blessing to the prelates, who have been in working sessions since Monday and will conclude the assembly with a day of prayer Thursday.

In a press conference today, at the end of the public sessions, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, expressed satisfaction at the accomplishments of the past few days.

Five priorities were approved by the conference at a previous assembly, including: strengthening marriage, faith formation focused on sacramental practice, priestly and religious vocations, life and dignity of the human person, and recognition of cultural diversity.

In this assembly, they approved some 65 activities stemming from these priorities, which will take them through the next two years.


Archbishop Kurtz noted that as a body of bishops, “we have a clearer focus than we have even had.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston affirmed this, stating that “the focus we’ve developed over the last few years have given a direction to our Church.”

As part of these priorities, the conference approved on Tuesday a pastoral letter titled “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan,” as well as a document on reproductive technologies called “Life-Giving Love in an Age of Technology.” Both documents are now available to the public on the bishops’ conference Web site.

In a press conference, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the Committee on Pro-life Activities, was asked if the latter document contained any guidelines about the question of adopting frozen embryos.

He noted that the conference’s statement follows “Dignitatis Personae” closely. In that document, the cardinal said, the Holy See neither outlaws nor accepts it, so “we’re not in a position to give an absolute definitive answer to the question.”

Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut, chairman of the conference’s Committee on Doctrine, explained that this is a matter that is undergoing further study.

The guidance for now, he said, would be to avoid taking this step, “until there is greater clarity around all of the issues that are involved.”

Aside from the official votes and decisions that were taken in these days, the prelates enjoyed many moments of collegial fraternity, including many moments of humor.


In a test run of the electronic voting system, a question was put to the prelates: Was your favorite baseball team in the World Series this year?

Laughter arose from the crowd as the results were tallied: Some 75% of the bishops indicated that neither the New York Yankees nor the Philadelphia Phillies had their allegiance.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, the conference president, had opened the assembly by urging the bishops to cultivate unity among themselves and within the Church as a whole.

He underlined the need to strengthen relations with those entities that call themselves Catholic, especially universities and media organizations.

In a press conference after Monday’s session, the cardinal explained that if an institution calls itself Catholic, the bishops would like to remain in a good relationship with it.

If some organization, or periodical situates itself outside the Catholic communion, he continued, it is important for the prelates to clarify for those who are in communion that this one is not.

It is our responsibility to the Lord, said Cardinal George, to be “the visible points of unity in the Church.”

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On the Net:

For documents from the fall meeting: www.usccb.org/meetings/2009Fall

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