Archbishop Kurtz reflects on papal visit

Pope Francis talks with Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, during a meeting with U.S. bishops in the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington Sept. 23. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis talks with Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, during a meeting with U.S. bishops in the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington Sept. 23. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz is in Rome now as one of the 270 voting members of the world Synod of Bishops on the family.

As president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he is one of several delegates from the U.S. In that same role, he had the honor of accompanying Pope Francis on his three-city tour of the nation in late September.

Though spending time in the Holy Father’s presence isn’t new for the archbishop, he said such opportunities come with “a great sense of honor.”

Archbishop Kurtz reflected on the visit in his Chancery office last week, following the five-day trip, which gave the archbishop little downtime. Each day, after accompanying Pope Francis to nearly every venue in Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia, the archbishop spent his evenings, often until about 10 p.m., giving media briefings and answering questions.

But on the whole, the archbishop said the visit brought with it a sense of renewal.

“When our Holy Father talks about seeing the person first and accompanying them, it’s not a new concept,” noted Archbishop Kurtz.
“It’s what I admired in priests when I was ordained in 1972.

“I see our Holy Father as calling us back to that, not just in his words, but in his manner with people. I think he’s
admired because he does very simple things.”

In this way, Pope Francis is like Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, noted Archbishop Kurtz, saying “Resist temptations to be overly intellectual and argue. Walk with the person. Life is not easy; people struggle. People need to be commended for how they try to love others.”

As the opening of the synod approached last week, the archbishop noted that the pope came to the U.S. for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. The pontiff’s presence was a gift to the families who gathered there to discuss and pray for the future of families, the archbishop said.

Families are also a gift, one that must be preserved for future generations, the archbishop said, noting that pope Francis spoke about this during his visit to Havana, Cuba.

“People growing up today deserve to live in a family … a family that is faithful to one another.”

No family is perfect, Archbishop  Kurtz added. “Every family needs someone to accompany them. That is so important  in the church and our vocation.”

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