An invitation to excellence: New USCCB president on unity, the Eucharist and holiness
BALTIMORE (OSV News) — The U.S. bishops wrapped up their annual fall assembly in Baltimore today, and with its adjournment came a turnover in conference leadership. Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City was elected secretary; Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore was elected vice president, and Archbishop Timothy Broglio for the Military Services was elected president. OSV News spoke with Archbishop Broglio as he prepared to begin his three-year term. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
OSV News: What are your concerns and priorities as you face the next three years, particularly when it comes to fostering unity in the Church?
Archbishop Timothy Broglio: That is a primary concern, and I would like to build on the good work that Archbishop Gomez has begun and has fostered. I’d like to try to imitate some of the ability that he’s had to encourage dialogue, but at the same time to bring us together. And I think we’re at a different place than we were just even a year ago, and I would like to see that unity continue. I think one thing that we’ve been able to do at this meeting is try to have a more dialogical organization to the assembly. And I think that’s been very helpful. I’ve heard from a lot of bishops that it’s very positive. So, we’ll try to see if that can continue.
OSV News: In what ways do you think the Eucharistic revival can help contribute to ecclesial unity?
Archbishop Broglio: Of course, the Eucharist is the sacrament of unity, and I’m very excited about the possibilities. This whole preparation for the National Eucharistic Congress — the whole idea of a procession coming from the four corners of the United States — these are all things that will produce unity. I don’t want to use too many military analogies but, you know, there’s importance in marching together. You share a certain experience, and we are a pilgrim people.
OSV News: What would you say about Eucharistic devotions among the faithful? Do they help deepen our Eucharistic life beyond the Mass? How can we foster love for the Mass outside of the Mass?
Archbishop Broglio: One of the important things is Eucharistic adoration. I’ve noticed that particularly in my work. I happen to be the archbishop of the youngest archdiocese in the United States because my people for the most part are between 18 and 38. Eucharistic devotions are very, very popular with that age group. If we can get them together, they’re delighted to be able to spend time with Our Lord in the Eucharist. I think if that spreads, that’s a very positive thing. And I think it will contribute also to unity, because we are unified when we are in the presence of the Lord — we recognize that he loves all of us and calls all of us.
OSV News: Another aspect of the divisions in the Church today are these unfortunate labels of left and right. How can we transcend these labels?
Archbishop Broglio: I think the problem with labels is that there’s a tendency to put people in camps, and when we do that, then we don’t even listen to the good that an individual who supposedly comes from the other “camp” has to say, and that’s very unfortunate. I think this has also polarized our political community in the United States because there is an inability to listen to the other. And when you’ve lost that, then you’ve also lost the respect for that other individual. Those are two things that we as bishops have to cultivate: the ability to listen and also the importance of respect for the other as one created in the image and likeness of God. And that’s the real tragedy, if we can’t bring that realization about. It’s alright to disagree, but the disagreement should stick to the issues, not calling the other person names, or dismissing him or her because of a disagreement. That’s a real tragedy.
OSV News: This meeting — with Archbishop Gomez’s closing presidential address and also even agenda items like assent to three canonization causes — has highlighted the centrality of holiness. What could you say to the faithful about keeping their eyes on that primary goal?
Archbishop Broglio: That’s what it is all about. One of the most important things to remember, particularly in the age in which we live, is that we have to keep our sights fixed on the fullness of life which comes at the end of the time. And if major decisions, and perhaps even sometimes smaller decisions, are made in the optic of eternity, that changes how we live and how we act. And, of course, these individuals that we heard about today are all splendid examples of that ability to fix your eyes on Jesus Christ and follow him. And we need more of them. I’ve been taking to military installations the prayer cards produced by the USCCB subcommittee for African American affairs [promoting the causes of the six Black Catholic causes for canonization]. People have never heard about these figures. And I think that we have to do better publicity about these people who lived and were among us and did magnificent things. If you don’t invite people to excellence, then they’re going to dwell in the mediocre. We have to present the invitation to excellence.
OSV News: In the press conference following your election, and in subsequent media coverage, you have been described as being “anti-Francis.” Would you like to add anything to your response?
Archbishop Broglio: I think Pope Francis would be surprised by that. I’m sure he’s certainly seen this in the summary that they give him every morning, and I’m sure he’s as perplexed as I am. But I think I’m going to have a chance to see him in 10 days and hopefully we can laugh about this.
OSV News: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the Catholic people throughout the country?
Archbishop Broglio: To certainly pray for me. But I think, too, let’s see what we can do together for the Church in the United States. And, of course, that obviously depends on my brother bishops in their individual dioceses, but I think together, we should be able to do something nationally as well.
Michael R. Heinlein is editor of OSV’s Simply Catholic. Follow him on Twitter @HeinleinMichael.