Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, led his brother bishops in prayer for wisdom as they began their fall plenary assembly in Baltimore on Nov. 13 with a Mass for peace.
The archbishop was the homilist for the Mass at the historic Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first Catholic cathedral in the United States. The Mass followed a morning of prayer, reflection and confession.
The morning also included a welcome to the Baltimore Archdiocese, the first Catholic diocese in the United States, by Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who is vice president of the USCCB.
"Living our faith, we open our plenary session in this historic basilica, home to so many meetings and councils of the vibrant Church in the United States," said Archbishop Broglio in his homily.
"At the beginning of our plenary session we beg for wisdom because we recognize that we are servants of the truth and charged to find ways to help those entrusted to our care welcome that truth, see its logic, and embrace the way of life that Christ holds out for us," he said. "We do so in many ways as we work in Synodal fashion to serve the Church in this part of the world."
The prayers of the Mass were offered for peace and reconciliation in a troubled world, and Archbishop Broglio pointed out the significance of the plenary opening on the feast of St. Frances Cabrini, patron saint of immigrants.
"It seems supremely eloquent that our first saint came over on a ship in the 19th century like many of our grandparents. She can only bless the tireless work to ensure a dignified welcome, which is a constant care of this assembly of bishops," he said.
Archbishop Broglio also reminded his brother bishops of the current situation in the Middle East.
"The suffering and death of the innocent on both sides continue to horrify people of goodwill as well, as Pope Francis reminded us yesterday," he said, referring to the pope's words during the Angelus.
The pontiff said Nov. 12 that every day he remembers the suffering Palestinians and Israelis, prays for them and offers his "embrace" at this "dark moment." He appealed for a stop to the violence, immediate rescue efforts and humanitarian aid for all.
Archbishop Broglio said, "We pray for world leaders that they might find solutions to bring peace to every troubled corner of the world."
St. Frances Cabrini "even obliged the poor to give from their poverty to help those more needy than they," the archbishop said in concluding his homily. "It was also a way of insisting on the dignity of all and the common responsibility for others. It is a message that is very appropriate today and every day. … Charity demands our attention to the little ones, the weak, the simple, fraternal correction and unlimited pardon to those who ask."
The two public days of the assembly, Nov. 14 and 15, promised a packed agenda for the bishops.
Archbishop Broglio is scheduled to give a presidential address to open the public sessions the morning of Nov. 14.
But before his remarks, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S. will speak to the bishops for the first time as a cardinal. Cardinal Christophe Pierre received his red hat from Pope Francis at the consistory held Sept. 30, days before the Synod on Synodality Oct. 4-29. His address is expected to continue emphasizing the importance of synodality to the church's mission entrusted to them by Jesus Christ.
Three delegates who attended the first session of the synod also will share their experiences with the U.S. bishops: Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas; Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana; and Father Iván Montelongo, a priest from the Diocese of El Paso, Texas.
Among the tasks facing the U.S. bishops is taking the 41-page synod synthesis report back to the faithful of their local churches for consultation and feedback that can help inform the discernment of the synod's second and final global session in October 2024.
The U.S. bishops also are electing their new secretary, and also chairmen for six standing committees on Catholic education, communications, cultural diversity in the church, doctrine, national collections and pro-life activities.
Also on Nov. 14, the U.S. bishops' chair of the Committee on Divine Worship, Bishop Steven J. Lopes of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, will give a preliminary presentation on U.S. adaptations to the Liturgy of the Hours, which is the public prayer of the church proper to all the baptized, and also drafts related to the blessing of an abbot or abbess, and the consecration of virgins, for votes the next day by the Latin Church bishops.
On Nov. 15, Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, is set to give updates on the National Eucharistic Revival, its three-year initiative to renew Catholic belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and the National Eucharistic Congress planned for Indianapolis in 2024.
The bishops also will hear a presentation on the implementation of "Encountering Christ in Harmony," the pastoral response to Asian and Pacific Islander Catholics they authorized in 2018.
The bishops are getting an update on their newly launched mental health campaign from Metropolitan Archbishop Borys A. Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, chair of the USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, along with Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, chair of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.
In other action items during their assembly's two days of public sessions, the bishops will decide whether to approve a new introductory note, five bulletin inserts, and a template video script to supplement their teaching "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship"; will vote on "Keeping Christ's Sacred Promise: A Pastoral Framework for Indigenous Ministry" as a formal statement from the body of bishops; will be asked to support the request of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales to ask Pope Francis to name St. John Henry Newman a doctor of the church; and will vote on the reauthorization of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism for a period of two years.
Peter Jesserer Smith, national news and features editor for OSV News, contributed to this report.