The Catholic bishops of the U.S. announced that at the behest of Pope Francis they will meet for a week-long retreat in Chicago in January.
The unprecedented move reflects the depth of the crisis they are facing with the sexual abuse scandal and the long-standing divisions within their ranks over the broader direction of American Catholicism.
The pope is even sending an elderly and revered Franciscan priest, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, who holds the title of Preacher of the Papal Household, to lead the retreat — just as he does each year at Lent for the pontiff and the Roman Curia.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement thanking Francis for sending Cantalamessa, who is 84 and rarely travels abroad, “to serve as the retreat director as we come together to pray on the intense matters before us.”
DiNardo is currently in Rome along with other top leaders of the U.S. church, as well as more than 260 other bishops from around the world, for a monthlong meeting of global church leaders and several dozen young adults to discuss Catholicism’s outreach to youth.
The discussions at this meeting, called a synod, are a hallmark of the Jesuit pope’s preference for seeking reconciliation and solutions through common reflection and frank dialogues.