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United States Catholic Bishops to Hold Fall General Assembly

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Bishops' fall general assembly in Baltimore will be shorter than usual and focus more on the inner workings of the Church than on larger societal issues.

The Nov. 14-16 meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, originally scheduled to last until Nov. 17, will include a discussion on religious liberty that could touch on a wide range of topics. But the main business of the gathering will be on liturgical, financial and organizational matters.

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, elected to head the USCCB for a three-year term last November, will open the meeting with his first presidential address. If tradition holds, the talk will present a "state of the U.S. church" message and a look at the challenges Archbishop Dolan foresees for the coming year.

It could also be the first USCCB meeting for Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, recently appointed as the new apostolic nuncio to the United States, who has said he hoped to arrive in the U.S. in time for the assembly.

Looking back on one of their biggest challenges of the past 18 months, the Bishops will vote on whether to make their former Task Force on Health Care into a permanent Subcommittee on Health Care Issues under the Committee on Doctrine.

The subcommittee would address such issues as "guidance in implementing the Bishops' 'Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,' non-Catholic hospitals in Catholic health care systems, for-profit Catholic health care, canonical status of Catholic health care facilities, conscience protection and health care reform," according to a USCCB news release.

Members of the subcommittee would represent the committees on doctrine, canon law and church governance, pro-life activities, and domestic justice and human development and could include other Bishops or consultants, the release said.

Several liturgical matters are scheduled to come before the Bishops for a vote. They will decide whether to include two new optional memorials, for Blessed Marianne Cope and Blessed John Paul II, in the proper of saints calendar for the United States, and whether to approve a new translation of the Rite for Blessing the Oil of Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick, and for Consecrating the Chrism.

Also on the Bishops' agenda are a variety of reports on issues of interest both within and outside the conference. They include:

-- An update by Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington on the process of incorporating Anglican groups into the U.S. Catholic Church under Pope Benedict XVI's 2009 apostolic constitution "Anglicanorum coetibus."

-- A report by Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas, chairman of the Committee on National Collections, on new guidelines for administering USCCB collections in Dioceses.

-- Information from Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, on the work of Project Rachel, a post-abortion healing initiative.

-- A report by the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth and its Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

The Bishops also will vote on the 2012 conference budget and elect a new secretary-elect, chairmen-elect of five committees, board members of Catholic Relief Services and a chairman for the Committee on International Justice and Peace.

Bishop Burbidge left today for Committee Meetings to prepare for the General Assembly. “I respectfully request the prayers of the faithful for my brother Bishops and me throughout our time together,” he said. “Please ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in our discussions and decisions, and please be assured of a remembrance in my daily prayers.”

Live streaming of the General assembly starts on November 14 at 9 a.m. at the USCCB website.