The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) gathered for the 2020 Fall General Assembly from November 16-17, this year, in a virtual format. This gathering, one of the best-attended general assemblies, was unique not only in its form but in the necessity of condensing three full days into two shorter days of sessions. Also changed for this year, the regional and committee meetings were held the week prior.
While I admit I enjoyed attending from the comfort of my office without traveling; I did miss the personal interactions and conversations with my brother bishops. Dialogs, which usually occur during the general meetings, in small groups, during breaks, or during evening receptions, an essential and fruitful aspect toward the mission of the USCCB, were sorely missed. However, I am still Impressed by the breadth of what we were able to cover and accomplish—-continually grateful for today’s technology.
The public portion of the assembly began with an address by the Papal Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre. We also heard from Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who gave his first address as USCCB president. These addresses, along with other portions of the public forum, can be found in the video link below.
Summary of My Conference Work
The Strategic Planning Committee, of which I am completing my tenure, approved the new theme of our next 3-year cycle for 2021-2024. This theme, beautifully titled, “Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope,” has a special focus on the Eucharist.
Many questions are remaining about what the Church will look like following the pandemic restrictions. The Church has done her best to balance the desire to celebrate the Eucharist with the desire to keep people safe. The bishops recognize the many concerns people have, such as will people return when the Mass dispensations are lifted? How, in the meantime, can we help strengthen the domestic church, the celebration of faith among the family? One diocese has adopted the slogan, “Home is the Holy Place.” This idea reinforces what a Catholic home is and how families can use this time to fortify faith within the family.
Special Ad Hoc Committee on Racism
The USCCB authorized an extension to the Ad Hoc Committee on Racism. In light of the events of 2020, it seemed prudent to allow this committee to continue the important and impressive work they’ve begun. In 2018, the committee released a pastoral letter and study guide entitled, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love. It is good to see this committee able to continue its important work to provide guidance or resources against the sin of racism.