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Age of Martyrs: Bishops Conference Begins with Powerful Messages from Papal Nuncio and Cardinal Dolan

By Deacon Keith Fournier
November 12th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganÚ, gave an amazing address to the Bishops on Monday. He opened  up the richly pastoral, prophetic and evangelistic vision Pope Francis has for the Bishops of the whole Catholic Church in this new missionary age.The outgoing President of the Conference, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, gave a powerful message on the rising tide of threats to religious freedom and the growing persecution against Christians around the world. The Cardinal Archbishop from New York has been an extraordinary leader of the Bishops Conference for the last three years.

BALTIMORE.MD (Catholic Online) - On Monday, November 11, 2013, Veterans Day in the United States, the United States Catholic Bishops gathered in Baltimore Maryland for what is shaping up to be an historic Fall Plenary Session. The gathering began with the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore, Maryland.

As is now routinely the case, the finest reporting on these important meetings is coming from Rocco Palmo, the Church Whisperer, on his outstanding and always insightful blog, Whispers in the Loggia. Rocco is offering the LIVE feeds throughout the gathering, accompanied by real time text updates.  I encourage our readers to regularly visit Whispers throughout the day and pray as these important meetings continue.

The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganÚ, gave an amazing address to the Bishops on Monday. He opened  up the richly pastoral, prophetic and evangelistic vision Pope Francis has for the Bishops of the whole Catholic Church in this new missionary age. The entire address can - and should - be read right here.

The outgoing President of the Conference, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, gave a powerful message on the rising tide of threats to religious freedom and the growing persecution against Christians around the world. The Cardinal Archbishop from New York has been an extraordinary leader of the Bishops Conference for the last three years.

His closing address as President was another example of what a gift he truly is to the Church in the United States, and beyond. I ask our readers to pray that in his next assignment, in the Lord and for His Church, he will continue to bear the fruit which has been borne over his years of faithful service throughout his service as Priest and Bishop. This is a great man at a time when we need great men.

Cardinal Dolan told his brother bishops: We are living in what must be recognized as, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, "a new age of martyrs." One expert calculates that half of all Christian martyrs were killed in the twentieth century alone. The twenty-first century has already seen one million people killed around the world because of their belief in Jesus Christ - - one million already in this young century.

And the threat to religious believers is growing. The Pew Research Center reports that 75 percent of the world's population "lives in countries where governments, social groups, or individuals restrict people's ability to freely practice their faith." Pew lays out the details of this "rising tide of restrictions on religion," but we don't need a report to tell us something we sadly see on the news every day.

His address was warmly received by the Bishops. He set forth a global vision of how we are all called to not only know about the suffering of our brethren around the world but stand in solidarity with them. He insisted that such a posture is not only integral to our Christian mission, it should call forth focused prayer and action. Further, that it must inform our public policy as a Nation.

Cardinal Dolan said:  Protecting religious freedom will be a central social and political concern of our time, and we American bishops already have made very important contributions to carrying it forward. Now we are being beckoned - - by history, by Pope Francis, by the force of our own logic and the ecclesiology of communion - - to extend those efforts to the dramatic front lines of this battle, where Christians are paying for their fidelity with their lives. As the Council reminded us, we are bishops not only for our dioceses, not only for our nation, but for the Church universal.

The leadership of the Catholic Church in the United States which has been given by Cardinal Dolan during his term of service, as well as the serious and sobering content of his stirring analysis of the growing persecution against the Church around the world, underscore the importance of the election of his successor. We need a strong man of faith and deep prayer with a humble and happy heart and a gift of communication to continue this important work in this historic moment. 

We ask our readers around the world to pray that the Holy Spirit guide the Bishops in this vital decision.  The handicapping which accompanies these selections has produced a flurry of articles speculating who among the ten candidates on the ballot will be selected.  The president and vice president of the conference will be selected from the slate of 10 candidates who have been nominated by the Bishops:

-  Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans
-  Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., of Philadelphia
-  Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Washington
-  Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston
-  Archbishop Josť H. Gomez of Los Angeles
-  Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky
-  Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore
-  Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati
-  Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit
-  Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami

The president and vice president are elected to three-year terms. Those terms begin as soon as the meetings in Baltimore end. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, complete their terms as president and vice president at that time. As explained on the website of the USCCB:

USCCB by-laws provide that the election of the president will take place first from among the list of 10 candidates. Following the election of the president by a simple majority vote, the vice president is elected from the remaining nine candidates. In either election, if a candidate does not receive more than half of the votes cast on the first ballot, a second vote is taken. If a third round of voting is necessary, that ballot is a run-off between the top two vote getters from the second ballot.

I pray for another surprise of the Holy Spirit as the bishops select the President and Vice President to lead this conference - like the one which occurred at the papal conclave in March.  

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