At USCCB, Archbishop Gomez urges proclamation of Christ, who defeated death

Screen Shot 2020 11 16 at 25907 PM Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles speaks at the USCCB Fall General Assembly, Nov. 16, 2020.

In his first presidential address to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles on Monday described a need for "heroic Christianity".

"We need to continue to form and empower missionary disciples, as Pope Francis calls us to do," said Gomez in a pre-recorded address to the virtual meeting Nov. 16.

"This is our mission in this moment," he said. "To continue to bring healing and hope to the people of our time."

Gomez, who was elected president at the November 2019 meeting, had not yet presided over a general assembly. The spring 2020 assembly was canceled, and the fall assembly is being held online.

Gomez called on the bishops to "respond to the urgent evangelical challenges posed by this pandemic," and, in particular, to "bear witness to the transcendent destiny of the human person."

"In this hour in our country, our neighbors need the Church more than ever. Now is the hour for Christian witness," he said.

 "As we know, people's faith in God has been shaken," said Gomez. "At the heart of their fears are fundamental questions about divine Providence and the goodness of God. This is far more than a public health emergency. Everywhere, we see spreading the fear of illness and death."

This prevalent fear is evidence that "the core message of the Gospel--Christ's love for every person, the power of His cross, the promise of His resurrection--is fading from our neighbor's hearts," said the archbishop. 

"Brothers, in this time of death, we hold the Word of life," he said. "We come in the name of the God whose love is stronger than death."

Gomez said that the Church should follow "the courageous example of Blessed Michael McGivney" and "weep now with those who are weeping." McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, was beatified Oct. 31 in Hartford.

"We need to tell our neighbors the good news that we have a Redeemer. Who died, so that we might live. Who passed through the valley of the shadow of death, so that we should fear no evil, not even death," he said.

The Church must proclaim the "truth that human history is salvation history," and that "God has a beautiful plan for every human heart. For every nation. And for all creation," said Gomez.

"We need to give people hope. That in all things, even suffering and death, God is working for the good of those who love him," he added.

And despite the "challenging year" for both the Church and for the rest of the world, Gomez reminded the bishops that a "beautiful moment" had recently been celebrated: the beatification of Michael McGivney.

Bl. McGivney, said Gomez, can serve as "a model and intercessor for our own ministries."

"He was a pastor in a time of moral confusion and social unrest. Just as we are," said Gomez, noting that McGivney was ordained a priest about a decade after the Civil War.

"Like us, he was a priest called to minister in a pandemic. In fact, he gave his life during the flu pandemic of 1890, one of more than 1 million who died worldwide," he said.

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When McGivney was ordained, Gomez explained, "it was a time marked by racist violence, anti-immigrant intolerance, widespread poverty, and growing social problems," and there was rampant anti-Catholicism in society.

"Father McGivney met these injustices by living the Gospel," said Gomez. "Love was not an abstraction or a 'cause' for him. The widow and the orphan, the father with no job; the prisoner on death row. Blessed Michael McGivney knew their faces and knew their names."

Since the last assembly, the world has seen months of social unrest, a pandemic, a presidential election, and the release of the long-awaited Vatican investigation into the activities of former cardinal Theodore McCrrick. At the start of his speech, Gomez requested that his brother bishops to "pause to remember all our brothers and sisters who are victim-survivors of clergy sexual abuse."

"In light of the Holy See's report on Theodore McCarrick, we again want to express our deep sorrow and pray that they might find healing and hope," he said. "Let us also renew our commitment today to protecting children and vulnerable adults and to eliminating this scourge of abuse from the Church."

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