13 November 2013, The Tablet

US bishops vote Louisville's Kurtz as conference president

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky was elected the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) yesterday.

Archbishop Kurtz, who had served as vice-president of the conference for the past three years, was elected on the first ballot with 125 votes, 53 per cent of the total, at the bishops’ annual assembly in Baltimore.

In recent years, the bishops have needed three ballots to select a president, so the selection of Kurtz on the first ballot was seen as an overwhelming vote of confidence.

Archbishop Kurtz was born in 1946 in Pennsylvania. Ordained in 1972, he holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work. As a young priest, he directed social justice ministries in the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania. In 1999, he was named bishop of Knoxville, Tennessee and in 2007, he was promoted to the Archdiocese of Louisville.

From the remaining nine candidates, the bishops then elected Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston as Vice-President of the USCCB. After two ballots when no one attained a majority, the third ballot consisted of only the top two candidates. Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput received 87 votes, but DiNardo secured 147. Three years ago Archbishop Chaput lost to Archbishop Kurtz in the election for vice-president by an almost identical margin.

Addressing the conference, outgoing president Cardinal Timothy Dolan told the bishops it was vital to lobby political leaders to make the protection of “at-risk Christians a foreign policy priority.”

Before the vote, the apostolic nuncio to the US told the bishops to put pastoral responsibilities before ideology. “The Holy Father wants bishops in tune with their people,” Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano said. Recounting a meeting he had with Pope Francis in June, he said the Pope “made a special point of saying that he wants ‘pastoral’ bishops, not bishops who profess or follow a particular ideology.”

The US-based National Catholic Reporter said his message was seen as an “implicit rebuke to the conservative-tinged activism of the bishops’ conference in recent years”.

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