.- The new leader of the U.S. bishops said that Pope Francis is calling Catholics to follow Christ in the Gospels through a personal encounter with the most vulnerable in society.
“Our Holy Father brings this sense of ‘going out,’” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., newly-elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In a Nov. 17 interview with CNA, Archbishop Kurtz noted that Pope Francis often speaks of the need “to accompany” people, in other words “to see the person first.”
“And that is really what Jesus did in the Gospels,” he explained. “So our Holy Father is telling us nothing more than to imitate Christ.”
The archbishop’s words echoed his previous comments at a Nov. 12 press conference in Baltimore, shortly after being elected president of the bishops’ conference.
At that time, he said that he saw Pope Francis as calling the bishops to respond pastorally to the various challenges posed by the “culture of indifference.”
Archbishop Kurtz added that he would work to “warm hearts and heal wounds” while defending human dignity wherever it is attacked, including the areas of human life, the sanctity of marriage and family, poverty, immigration, religious freedom and peace efforts.
The U.S. bishops’ new president spoke with CNA during a four day conference in Mexico City entitled “Our Lady of Guadalupe, Star of the New Evangelization on the American Continent.”
Described by organizers as a “pilgrimage and encounter,” the conference brought together bishops, priests, religious and lay leaders from across the Americas to consider the role and mission of the Church throughout the region, giving particular attention to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The event was sponsored by the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, the Knights of Columbus, and the Higher Institute of Guadalupan Studies.
Archbishop Kurtz said the gathering “is uniting us in the New Evangelization.”
He explained that “if we do not have a personal encounter with Christ, we have nothing to share.”
Referencing a video message from Pope Francis to conference participants, he said the Pontiff is instructing the faithful to “go out,” and “the first thing we need to do is get to know each other.”
The meeting in Mexico City is a chance to meet as “one America,” he explained, pointing out that Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI did not speak of North America and South America, but of “the Americas.”
Pope Francis is continuing this message, the archbishop said, by teaching us that “we are one family” and inviting us to “unite in becoming disciples and missionaries.”
These are simply two sides to the same coin, Archbishop Kurtz said, “to be a missionary, but first to be a disciple.”