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BALTIMORE, Md. – In his first remarks as the newly elected U.S. bishops’ conference president, Archbishop Timothy Broglio said he would welcome the opportunity to meet with President Joe Biden and denied that his election is a sign of “dissonance” between Pope Francis and the U.S. bishops.
Broglio, head of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, led each round of voting, but didn’t break the majority threshold of 119 votes until the third round, when he garnered 138 votes. Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore – who was elected conference vice president soon after – was second in the presidential vote with 99.
After the Nov. 15 public session, Broglio fielded questions from the media, including how he’ll operate in the political arena. The archbishop said he looks forward to possible conversations with U.S. political leaders, and that he wouldn’t miss “any chance to insert the gospel into all aspects of life in our country.”
That would include a conversation with Biden, a Catholic whose pro-abortion stance has made for a turbulent relationship between the Oval Office and USCCB in recent years. Broglio highlighted, however, that outgoing USCCB president Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles wasn’t afforded the opportunity.
“I know that there has been a great desire on the part of the outgoing presidency to meet with the president and that hasn’t been possible,” Broglio said. “If it’s possible in the future, I’ll certainly take advantage of that. If he wants to meet with me I’d be happy to meet with him.”
Brologio was also asked about his time as Cardinal Angelo Sodano’s secretary from 1990-2001, and how that experience forms the way he views issues of clerical sexual abuse in the church. Sodano, who died earlier this year, was the Vatican Secretary of State under Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI who repeatedly defended and covered for then-Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legion of Christ who a Vatican investigation found committed a wide range of sexual abuse and other forms of misconduct.
Broglio answered that “hindsight is always 20/20,” noting that he had left working in Sodano’s office by the time the accusations against Maciel came out. He said those circumstances are always “a good reminder that we have to be attentive and that we have to be proactive.”
This year is the 20th anniversary of the Dallas Charter, and the body of bishops ended the first day of their week-long general assembly with a prayer and reflection on the document.
In other comments Broglio said he’s “not aware” that his election indicates “dissonance” with Pope Francis as some people have suggested, saying that he’s “certainly in communion with Pope Francis as part of the universal church” and that the two are “brother bishops.”
As for his approach to the presidency, Broglio said he intends to continue the work of Gomez, which includes fostering unity among the U.S. bishops after a challenging few years.
In a conversation with Crux after the public session, Lori, the archbishop of Baltimore and soon-to-be USCCB vice president, said unity among the bishops is paramount to the success of the church.
“[Unity] has always been critical, but the importance of it is highlighted in a very polarized culture and in a culture that challenges the unity of the church itself,” Lori said. “I don’t think that coming together in unity can be overemphasized. We can never stop finding our unity in the Holy Spirit who enables us to encounter the person of Christ and to be rooted in his love.”
Unity among the U.S. bishops was a focus of Gomez’ final address as USCCB president.
Gomez said that it’s not inevitable that the U.S. falls into secularism, but added that the church needs “a bold pastoral strategy to communicate the Gospel, to use every media platform to turn hearts and minds toward Christ, to call our people to be great saints.”
The archbishop said the synod is an opportunity to do just that, because it “reminds us that the Church is all of us together — bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians; religious and consecrated; lay people in every profession.”
“[This moment] is about remembering that we’re in this together, that we belong to God, and that we’re all called to be saints,” he said. “It’s about each one of us doing what God is calling us to do to build his kingdom.”
Broglio will take over the USCCB presidency from Gomez, and Lori the conference vice presidency from Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit at the conclusion of this week’s fall general assembly. At the time of the election Broglio and Lori each held leadership roles within the USCCB, secretary and pro-life chair, respectively. Bishops will be elected to take over those roles today.
In what turned out to be Lori’s final address as the USCCB pro-life chair, he spoke on the need to build a culture of life through engaging the mind, heart and soul. He acknowledged that the recent votes in five states to protect abortion rights didn’t turn out how the conference hoped, and that the “job of educating, catechizing, evangelizing, is perhaps more massive than we thought.”
Lori told Crux that the Dobbs decision this past summer has changed the work of the committee. With abortion law now in the hands of the states, he said the committee’s work shifted to working with individual bishops and state conferences on their advocacy efforts.
Lori added that the committee is producing documents that give diocesan leaders a “user friendly” and “practical” way to approach advocacy, and convening state conference directors to share best practices, while still presenting a unified message for the U.S. Catholic Church as a whole.
His advice for whoever takes over the role today is to focus on changing hearts and minds.
“The advice I would offer anyone stepping into this is to continue the work of helping brother bishops, priests, deacons and our lay coworkers to speak and bear witness convincingly to the invaluable dignity of human life and to concentrate first and foremost on winning the hearts and minds of fellow Catholics who might be on the fence,” Lori told Crux.
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg