.- The U.S. bishops must work to “renew the appeal of the Church,” which has wounds, like Christ did, said Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan in his first presidential address to the bishops' conference.
“Christ and his Church are one,” said Archbishop Dolan.
“Perhaps, brethren, our most pressing pastoral challenge today is to reclaim that truth.”
Archbishop Dolan gave his first presidential address to the United States bishops at their three-day fall General Assembly in Baltimore on Nov. 14.
In the address, he emphasized the “sacred duty” of the bishops to shepherd the Church and encouraged them to lead their flocks to embrace “Jesus in and through His Church.”
Archbishop Dolan pointed to “chilling statistics” that show fewer and fewer Catholics believe that Jesus and the Church are one.
He said he is concerned at the growing number of people drifting away from the Church and warned that the problem must be taken seriously.
The U.S. bishops must “reclaim the role of fishermen” as they carry out the work of the New Evangelization, inviting the world to see Christ and his Church as one, he said.
The archbishop explained that the mission of the New Evangelization requires an authentic turn to the Lord.
“Jesus prefers prophets, not programs; saints, not solutions,” he said.
He recalled the exhortation of Pope John Paul II, “Love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives.”
Archbishop Dolan also spoke of the sins of Church members.
“Since we are a spiritual family, we should hardly be surprised that the Church has troubles,” he said.
He acknowledged that in a world fixated on the sinfulness of Church members, temptations might come to run and hide from sin. But the bishops must fight this temptation and instead lead the faithful in acknowledging their sinfulness and recognizing their great need for the Church, he said.
The archbishop explained that the Church has wounds, just as Christ did, and must show them as Christ did on the first Easter night.
Despite the threats to the Church, Archbishop Dolan also noted that glimmers of hope can be seen in young people, new converts and Catholic immigrants.
He encouraged the U.S. bishops to reach out to these and all people, strengthening “the Catholic conviction that Christ and His Church are one.”
To do this, he explained, they must lead people into an encounter with the person of Jesus.
Archbishop Dolan noted that the world sees the Church as an outdated organization, but the bishops must work to show the truth that “the Church invites the world to a fresh, original place.”
The Church must not be viewed as a mere “system of organizational energy and support,” he said.
“The Church is Jesus – teaching, healing, saving, serving, inviting.”