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Bishops say care for poor must be top concern following pope’s example

By Carol Zimmermann

Catholic News Service


ST. LOUIS (CNS) — After a presentation about future priorities for the U.S. bishops at their spring general assembly in St. Louis, several bishops stepped up to microphone emphasizing that care for the poor has to be a top concern.

“Don’t forget the poor,” Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, urged the bishops June 11. “If we do all these wonderful things, and don’t obviously remember the poor, we’re losing the star moment of this extraordinary Holy Father,” he said.

He was not the only one to make this point and link it to the words and example of Pope Francis. Several bishops found fault with the draft document outlining the priorities and strategic plans for the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishop for 2017 - 2020, saying it did not put enough emphasis on helping those in need.

Some bishops said the draft was too similar to previous USCCB priority statements. Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis said it should reflect the “newness of Francis” and include language stressing a “preference for the marginalized.”

Bishop George L. Thomas of Helena, Montana, also said he was disappointed with the draft and urged fellow bishops to “throw our collective weight” into helping those in need. “There needs to be much greater visibility to the plight of the poor,” he added.

The proposed draft of USCCB’s priorities and plans was presented to the bishops for a vote, and after the animated discussion, they OK’d the draft with a 165 - 14 vote — and three abstentions — so it could be reworked to incorporate the feedback.

The priorities listed in the draft are:

— Family and marriage: Urging Catholics to embrace the sacrament marriage, providing formation for married couples and youths and reaching out to broken families.

— Evangelization: Going out into communities with the message of Gospel and bringing healing to those who have left the church or who don’t attend.

— Religious freedom: Defending it in the public square, advocating for those who have been persecuted and building a support movement beyond the Catholic community.

— Human life and dignity: Rejecting the “throwaway culture” of abortion and euthanasia and emphasizing Catholic social teaching.

— Vocations and ongoing formation: Helping dioceses develop a culture of vocations by providing ongoing formation and renewed awareness of prayer.

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