Meet the U.S. Catholic bishops’ new pro-life chair – Catholic World Report

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“We, as the Catholic Church — to anyone of any denomination — we will be there for you,” the 65-year-old bishop added.

Meet the U.S. Catholic bishops’ new pro-life chair – Catholic World Report
Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall plenary assembly in Baltimore, Nov. 16, 2022. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Baltimore, Md., Nov 20, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

The new pro-life chair for the U.S. Catholic bishops wants pregnant women who are struggling or feeling scared to know that they are not alone.

“I would like to say and, in such a heartfelt way, for them to know that they are not alone,” Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, told CNA hours after being elected to his new position Nov. 16.

“We, as the Catholic Church — to anyone of any denomination — we will be there for you,” the 65-year-old bishop added.

“We are willing to accompany you and provide you the support that you need,” he said, listing everything from prayers and counseling to financial help and medical assistance. “We are there for you every step of the way. So please don’t be afraid.”

A longtime advocate for the unborn, Burbidge was chosen as chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities during the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual fall assembly in Baltimore. The surprise election took place after Burbidge’s predecessor, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, was elected as the bishops’ new vice president.

Born in 1957 in Philadelphia, Burbidge entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary after high school and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1984. He later became an honorary prelate to Pope John Paul II, beginning in 1998, and was appointed the rector of his former seminary in 1999.

Before coming to Arlington in 2016, he served as an auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia starting in 2002 and as the bishop of Raleigh, North Carolina, beginning in 2006.

His election as pro-life chair came as a surprise, Burbidge revealed to CNA, emphasizing that he feels “very honored.”

The focus of his new position will be the “joy of the Gospel,” or “reaffirming the joy that so many mothers and fathers have in bringing a child into the world,” he said.

“That’s the Gospel of Life, to share that joy of life itself, the tremendous gift that it is,” he explained. “The joy of being — all of us — created in the image and likeness of God and to see each other that way.”

He called for building a culture of life where abortion is unthinkable.

While he acknowledged what he called the “harsh reality in which we’re living,” with misinformation and extreme proposed laws, he also stressed that the Catholic Church holds the truth — the truth that “all life is sacred, it comes from God.”

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in a ruling that frees states to decide abortion policy, Burbidge said that the priorities of the pro-life committee will remain consistent, with a focus on advocacy, witness, and service.

“I think what we have learned in the post-Dobbs decision is that we still have a lot of work to do,” he said, referring to the decision that overturned Roe. “We’re celebrating victory in the sense of Roe vs. Wade being overturned, but the work is just beginning.”

That work includes, he said, engaging public officials, bringing the faith into the public arena, and energizing the Catholic faithful.

He called the overturning of Roe a “tremendous victory.”

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to, I think, remember and honor all those who have gone before us, maybe who are only seeing this from heaven, who for years and years and years, when abortion first became legalized, began to pray the rosary outside of abortion clinics, to participate in the national March [for Life],” he added. “And to see that God never allows our efforts to be in vain.”

Burbidge recalled being in high school when Roe v. Wade became the law of the land, in 1973.

“I remember, even at a young age, just being traumatized. And certainly, in going to a Catholic high school, we were made aware of what was at stake,” he said. “I could never fathom that … in our country, we’re legalizing the taking of innocent lives.”

He added, “I never tired of doing my little part, like we all try to do, to say this … is not right. This cannot be.”

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