Admitting that people’s faith in God “has been shaken” by the pandemic and related economic turmoil, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez called on his fellow bishops in the US to take the news of the Resurrection and the triumph of life over death directly to people to help them navigate the crises.
“At the heart of their fears are fundamental questions about divine providence and the goodness of God”, said Archbishop Gomez, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), yesterday November 16 during an online address on the first day of bishops’ annual Fall General Assembly.
“In this hour in our country, our neighbors need the Church more than ever. Now is the hour for Christian witness”, Gomez underlined.
“This is far more than a public health emergency”, he said. “Everywhere we see spreading the fear of illness and death”.
“Of course, it is essential that we continue to proclaim the sanctity and dignity of human life from conception to natural death”, Gomez told his brother bishops.
But especially in pandemic times, “it is also essential that we empower our Catholic people to engage as faithful citizens in meeting the challenges in our society – abortion and euthanasia; racism and immigration; poverty and criminal justice reform; gender and the family; the environment and religious freedom”, the USCCB president underlined.
The US Bishops’ assembly is taking place yesterday and today entirely online for the first time because of the pandemic.
“Brothers, in this time of death, we hold the Word of life. We come in the name of the God whose love is stronger than death”, Gomez said.
“These times of social unrest and pandemic call for a heroic Christianity”, he explained.
“We need to continue to form and empower missionary disciples, as Pope Francis calls us to do”.
Citing the example of Father Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus who was beatified October 31 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut, Archbishop Gomez suggested the bishops confront modern-day injustices “by living the Gospel”.
He recalled how for the priest, “love was not an abstraction or ’cause'” because he knew the faces of “the widow and the orphan, the father with no job, the prisoner on death row”, some realities that the American people live even today.
Archbishop Gomez also pointed to the USCCB’s strategic plan that the bishops are set to approve during the assembly as a path forward for ministry.
Titled “Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope”, it sets as mission for the bishops “to continue to bring healing and hope to the people of our time”.
The archbishop paused a moment to remember in the wake of the Vatican McCarrick Report the children and adults within the Church who are survivors of clergy sexual abuse.
He also expressed “deep sorrow” and offered prayers that those survivors “might find healing and hope”.
“Let us renew our commitment today to protecting children and vulnerable adults and to eliminate this scourge of abuse from the Church”, he reiterated.