November 12, 2013

U.S. bishops urged to live simply, make church welcoming

The Vatican ambassador also advises bishops not to ‘follow a particular ideology.’

By Rachel Zoll
The Associated Press

BALTIMORE — The Vatican ambassador to the U.S., addressing American bishops at their first national meeting since Pope Francis was elected, said Monday they should not “follow a particular ideology” and should make Roman Catholics feel more welcome in church.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston speaks at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual fall meeting on Monday.

The Associated Press

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano noted the challenges from broader society to Christian teaching. He cautioned that the bishops’ witness to faith would be undermined if they failed to live simply. Francis, in office for eight months, has captured attention for eschewing some of the pomp of the papacy, including his decision to live in the Vatican hotel and his use of an economy car.

“There has to be a noticeable lifestyle characterized by simplicity and holiness of life. This is a sure way to bring our people to an awareness of the truth of our message,” said Vigano, the apostolic nuncio based in Washington.

“The Holy Father wants bishops in tune with their people,” Vigano said, noting that he visited the pope in June. “He made a special point of saying that he wants pastoral bishops, not bishops who profess or follow a particular ideology.”

In a September interview, Francis said Catholic leaders should give greater emphasis to compassion, arguing the church’s focus on abortion, marriage and contraception has been too narrow and alienating. For the last several years, the public sessions of the fall bishops’ assembly have centered on those issues. This year’s meeting gave the first glimpse of how that message was resonating among American leaders.

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, dedicated his speech to persecuted Christians overseas, asking the bishops to make international religious freedom a top priority. He made only a passing reference to the bishops’ own religious freedom campaign, and then only to say that their struggles “pale in comparison” to the plight of Christians and others overseas.

Dozens of Catholic charities and dioceses, along with evangelical colleges and others, are suing the Obama administration over a requirement that employers provide health insurance that includes contraceptive coverage. The bishops say the religious exemption to the rule violates the religious freedom of nonprofit and for-profit employers. The issue is expected to reach the Supreme Court.

In a news conference after the speech, Dolan said his speech was not a shift away from that fight – but an expansion of it. “It’s almost raised our consciousness to say we can’t stop here,” Dolan said.

Several bishops in the general discussion urged fellow church leaders to heed Francis’ call for more attention to the poor. After a presentation on the priorities of the conference, Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza, a former president of the bishops’ conference, rose to say it was “missing this essential element” of a focus on the poor.

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)