Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, addresses journalists at the annual Catholic Media Conference June 18. (CNS photo/Jim Stipe, courtesy Catholic Relief Services)
Archbishop Kurtz: Synod can be “a catalyst” for renewal | Jim Graves | CWR
USCCB president Archbishop Joseph Kurtz will represent the US at the upcoming Synod of Bishops. The urgent challenges facing families—and how the Church can serve families better—will be the synod’s top priorities, he says.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, 67, of Louisville, Kentucky, is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). From October 5-19, 2014, he will be in Rome to participate in the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”
Born in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, he is the son of a coal miner and the youngest of five children. Growing up, he was close to his brother George, now deceased, who had Down syndrome. As a young man, while in prayer in a chapel, Kurtz began to believe he was called to the priesthood. Like one of his favorite saints, St. Dominic, the thought of becoming an “athlete for Christ” appealed to him more than having a career. He entered the seminary.
He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1972. In 1999, he was named bishop of Knoxville, Tennessee. He came to Louisville in 2007. He has been active with the USCCB, serving as its chairman of the Committee on Marriage and Family Life, and has been a prominent defender of Church teaching on traditional marriage and the family.
He recently spoke with CWR about the upcoming synod.
CWR: What is a synod and why is there a need for this one?
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz: The word “synod” means gathering; in this instance, a gathering of bishops. Flowing from the Second Vatican Council, every four years or so we have an ordinary synod. This one is an extraordinary synod, which will include bishops who serve as delegates, heads of religious communities, observers—including non-Catholics and married couples—and periti [Latin for “experts,” theologians who advise bishops].
For this particular synod, the Holy Father did something unique, calling for a synod with two parts. The first will be an extraordinary synod this October. The second will be an ordinary synod in October 2015, like the synod on evangelization held in 2012. Ordinary synods have a larger group of delegates; this one is extraordinary because the format is different and it is made up of presidents of episcopal conferences throughout the world.
The Holy Father called this synod because he sees a special urgency to discuss the challenges to the family. We will gather for a prayerful conversation and make recommendations to the Holy Father to use in his governance of the Church.
In the past, the pope has issued apostolic exhortations as a result of the synods, prompted by its propositions. In 2013, for example, Pope Francis issued Evangelii Gaudium, which flowed from the synod on evangelization held in 2012.
CWR: How is a synod’s agenda developed?