The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops today elected Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville as its next president. Kurtz is strongly pro-life and was behind a pro-life blessing for unborn children the Vatican adopted in March 2012.
Kurtz, 67, has served as the conference vice president of the bishops’ conference since 2010 and he was elected today at the conference’s fall assembly in Baltimore to a three-year term. The bishops’ conference president is integral to the pro-life outreach of the nation’s Cathoolic bishops, who engage in numerous pro-life educational and legislative projects.
Archbishop Kurtz served as Bishop of Knoxville from 1999-2007 and was a priest in the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania for 27 years before that. Kurtz had the role of director of the diocese’s Catholic Charities affiliate from 1988 to 1998 and was an executive director of the diocese’s Catholic Social Agency and Family Life Bureau.
From a pro-life perspective, he is on the board of directors of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and he previously served as chair of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage and Family Life.
But Kurtz iz probably most well-known for a prayer called “The Blessing of the Child in the Womb,” which was drafted by the U.S. bishops’ conference and later adopted by the Vatican.
Although the document doesn’t take on abortion directly, it provides a means for Catholics to advance respect for children before birth.
During the discussion of the document, Archbishop Kurtz called the blessing “a very tangible way to witness pastorally and sacramentally to the life of the unborn child.”
He presented the blessing as a way for churches to bless the unborn children of expecting couples or mothers and to provide spiritual support for the baby.
The new “Order for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb” will be available to Catholic leaders in English and Spanish and will appear in future editions of the church’s Book of Blessings.
“May almighty God, who has created new life now bless the child in your womb,” the blessing reads.
“The Lord has brought you the joy of motherhood: may He now bless you with a safe and healthy pregnancy. You thank the Lord today for the gift of your child: may He bring you and your child one day to share in the unending joys of heaven,” it continues.
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The document provides an optional blessing for churches.
It says: “May God bless this parish community as it welcomes the gift of new life and joyfully accepts the responsibility of sharing in the spiritual formation of this child (or children).”
The blessing was prepared to support parents awaiting the birth of their child, to encourage parish prayers for and recognition of the precious gift of the child in the womb, and to foster respect for human life within society. It can be offered within the context of the Mass as well as outside of Mass.