USCCB president urges evangelization amid wars and challenges facing Church — By: Catholic News Agency

Archbishop Timothy Broglio, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, speaks at the USCCB fall plenary assembly Nov. 14, 2023. / Credit: USCCB video

Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2023 / 15:35 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Timothy Broglio, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, reminded his brother bishops of Christ’s commission to evangelize the world in the face of ongoing wars, persecutions, and challenges facing the Church.

Broglio’s remarks opened the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) annual fall meeting in Baltimore on Tuesday.

“As successors of the apostles we participate in the mandate that Christ gave at the Ascension: ‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,’” he said.

“It continues to be a daunting task,” Broglio said, citing the ongoing conflicts impacting Christians and peoples of all faiths throughout the world. 

“Our thoughts turn readily to the Holy Land, sacred to all three monotheistic religions,” he said. “We recognize and defend the right of Israel to exist and to enjoy a place among the nations. At the same time, we know that the Palestinians, who represent the majority of Christians in the Holy Land — while still being a minority, have a right to a land that is their own.” 

The archbishop also spoke about the war in Ukraine, where he said the Ukrainian people continue to suffer under the “unjust aggression” of Russia. 

“Peace seems so far away,” he said, “but we continue to pray and to keep our national leaders aware of the plight of the innocent in Ukraine.” 

Broglio mentioned the wars and persecutions in Lebanon, Syria, Myanmar, Haiti, and Nicaragua, saying that they too require the special prayers of the Church.  

“Unfortunately, it would be easy to continue to list the areas of conflict in our world,” he lamented, adding that “some wonder if any solution is possible.”

Broglio noted, however, that “it is good” that the bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace “works tirelessly, at least, to keep the bishops abreast of the developments in these situations and to encourage within the limits of what is possible, avenues of dialogue and assistance.” 

Every encounter an opportunity to extend God’s presence

Broglio, 71, has led the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, since 2008. He read a message from a priest in his diocese who serves as the chaplain for the Fifth Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, a unit that is regularly deployed on high-risk, specialized missions. 

“I am currently in an undisclosed location where every night U.S. strikes are taking place,” the message said. “In the midst of all kinds of adversities, uncertainty, dodging drones and rockets, the ability to offer solace and the sacraments is a source of profound joy and peace.” 

“The bonds formed through shared moments of prayer [and] deep conversations create a unique camaraderie that transcends the ordinary,” the priest went on in the message. “Every encounter becomes the opportunity to be an extension of God’s presence.” 

Reasons for hope

Broglio also spoke about last month’s Synod on Synodality in Rome and emphasized that the call to evangelize includes the willingness of the Church to “listen to each other.” 

In many respects, Broglio asserted, “synodal realities” already exist in the Catholic Church in America. 

“The collegial atmosphere that characterizes these assemblies, the excellent consideration and interaction that typifies the work of the National Advisory Council, the work of diocesan pastoral councils, presbyteral councils, review boards, school boards, and so many other organizations come readily to mind,” he said. 

“That is not to say that we do not have to grow and open ourselves to new possibilities,” Broglio cautioned, “but we recognize and build on what is already present. We open our hearts to the action of the Holy Spirit and we listen to that voice.” 

“On the front lines of these efforts are our committed priests on fire with the Gospel. They are our first collaborators and we are so dependent on their tireless efforts,” he said.

“We are also encouraged by young men preparing in the seminaries,” he went on, adding that “they are a sign of hope for the future.”

Broglio concluded by thanking “all of those who strive to instill vibrancy, commitment, and renewal into our faith communities while reaching out to the peripheries at the same time.”  

Looking to the hundreds of bishops assembled from across the nation, Broglio said: “May our time together, a rather full agenda, and the many opportunities for fraternal exchanges enrich each of us and send us home with renewed zeal for the mission we have in common.”  

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