Whether you’ve been waiting three decades or just three weeks for this, the “mountaintop” is at hand. 

From 4pm Rome (10am US ET), the livefeed of a Public Consistory like no other – from the Altar of the Chair in St Peter’s, an unusually sparse rite for the elevation of 13 new Cardinals… and with it, a watershed for American Catholicism as Washington’s Archbishop Wilton Gregory receives his red hat: 

Due to the pandemic, the customary packed house of global pilgrims and full-on turnout of the 200-member College have been severely whittled to a crowd of roughly 100. And indeed, for the first time since 1998, a voting pick won’t be present for the conferral of the biretta and ring – both this intake’s Asian designates (Brunei’s Cornelius Sim and the Filipino José Advincula) have been forced to stay home in light of travel restrictions. Though the insignia will be sent to them and received in local ceremonies, they will have full membership in the Pope’s “Senate” when their names are read out by the Pope alongside the others at the liturgy’s start.Among other concessions in the name of safety, the traditional evening “courtesy calls” to the new class will not take place, nor will the sign of peace among the cardinals after the new picks are invested.*  *  *SVILUPPO: Having chosen Jesus’ warning against ambition in St Mark’s Gospel and its exhortation to be “servant of all,” as the reading for today’s rites, in his homily, Francis urged the new intake to avoid any sense of “a worldly spirit” and – citing the title that comes with the rank – the temptation to become “secular eminences”: 

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Fearing “Attack” On “Fundamental Values,” The Bishops Warn Biden’s White House

As the US bishops face a moment unseen in most of their lifetimes – the nation’s election of a Catholic to the Presidency – the issue of Joe Biden’s faith emerged by surprise at today’s public close of the USCCB plenary, as the bench’s leadership suddenly moved to draw a line in the sand with the incoming Democratic administration over its support of legal abortion.

Five days since the President-elect received a congratulatory phone call from the Pope – during which the two discussed the common causes of “caring for the marginalized and the poor, addressing the crisis of climate change, and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees” – while Archbishop José Gomez made a passing nod of hope that Biden’s “faith commitments will move him to support some good policies,” the conference president quickly pivoted to underscore that the new White House “will support policies that attack some fundamental values we hold dear as Catholics… [which] undermine our ‘preeminent priority’ of the elimination of abortion.”

Announcing a working group led by the USCCB vice-president, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, and rounded out by several key committee chairs, Gomez said that “when politicians who profess the Catholic faith support” abortion and a concept of religious freedom that allows enforcement of protections for civil rights, “there are additional problems. 

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On Day Two, The “Viruses” Take Center Stage

Set to begin at 1pm Eastern, this final day of a virtual – and heavily curtailed – USCCB Plenary will be underpinned by what’ve arguably been the two key threads of American life in 2020: the bench’s free-form discussions on COVID-19’s impact on the nation’s largest religious body, and the shape of the church’s witness against racism.

To be sure, these aren’t debates leading up to a vote, simply pastoral talks to compare notes on best practices and possible areas of improvement. In that light, these conversations tend to be even more revealing of the mind of the body than exchanges over specific policy questions.

Yet again, here’s the livefeed….

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