The Catholic bishops of the United States convened their Fall General Assembly in Baltimore this morning. The meeting began with remarks by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops delivered his last address as president of the Conference.
Reflecting on his soon-ending term as USCCB President, Cardinal DiNardo mentioned some of the experiences during his tenure that had the biggest impact:
“Visiting the border detention centers, I remember the many hand-drawn pictures of Jesus or Mary in the children’s rooms and the long lines for confession before Mass. Separated from their families, I met dozens of children who called upon their Catholic faith and the firm knowledge that Christ and His Church would be present with them. Along with my brother bishops, we went because Jesus was already there. We followed our shepherd. I invite everyone who may hear this to share our journey of solidarity with migrants and refugees. May we accompany our sisters and brothers as Jesus accompanies us in our own struggles.
“Through the cry of a baby in her mother’s arms, I met dozens of respite center volunteers at the border. Without their generous response, that child might not have gotten the medicine she needed for her fever. They are doing God’s work.
“So are the people I’ve met in pregnancy centers across the country. They are working hard to make abortion an unnecessary choice by providing support and child-care options for expectant mothers. Public policy advocates are fighting for health care that is comprehensive enough to nurture every child’s right to life. If you are a mother feeling alone and considering abortion, please know that if you call one of our churches, a compassionate voice will answer and help identify resources. The continued fight to defend unborn children is one of the most significant things we do. And it will remain so as long as the most innocent lives are left unprotected. My life is also forever changed by meeting with survivors of abuse. When too many within the Church sought to keep them in the darkness, they refused to be relegated to the shadows. Their witness brought help to countless fellow survivors. It fueled the resolve of my brother bishops to respond with pastoral support and prevention programs. Background checks, safe environment training, expert review boards, and zero-tolerance policies are in place and working — not in spite of our past failures but rather because of them. By sharing their pain, survivors empowered us with the knowledge needed to respond. And Pope Francis has ushered in a new era of bishop accountability with a worldwide standard for investigating wrongdoing, protecting whistleblowers, and serving survivors.”
Archbishop Pierre offered encouraging words on the situation of the Church in the United States:
“Although there are challenges, there are also many dedicated Catholics who live daily their faith. The Church in the United States has been strong not only in it defense of human life and religious liberty but also in its defense of the rights of migrants and families. The generosity and willingness of Catholics to sacrifice is witnessed in the charitable works during times of national disasters or through Catholic Relief Services, in addressing global issues of poverty, hunger, healthcare, water, and sanitation.”
The bishops meet November 11-13 for their annual plenary in Baltimore. Public sessions of general assembly discussions and votes will be available via livestream at http://www.usccb.org/live.