Archbishop’s Pastoral Letters Reflect His Teachings


To note: This is part of a set of editorial content celebrating Archbishop William’s 10th birthday. The installation of E. Lori as Archbishop of Baltimore and the 45th anniversary of his priestly ordination. Read all stories here.

When the bishops of the dioceses want to communicate with their faithful, nowadays they have several means. In addition to homilies, many write columns for their diocesan publications. For more formal efforts regarding Catholic teaching and practice, bishops write pastoral letters to their people.

Archbishop William E. Lori has used all of these methods — and more — to ensure Catholics in the Archdiocese of Baltimore know and understand his theology and pastoral priorities.

At the beginning of his priestly career, he hoped to become a professor of sacramental theology. “I got my doctorate, bought my books, prepared my lesson plans,” he said. But then he was appointed priest-secretary and theologian to Washington Cardinal James A. Hickey.

Archbishop William E. Lori greets parishioners during Palm Sunday Mass, April 10, 2022, at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Homeland. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)

Since his appointment as the 16th Archbishop of Baltimore in 2012, Bishop Lori has written a book, two pastoral letters — which carry some level of teaching — and two other pastoral reflections.

“The Joy of Believing: A Practical Guide to the Catholic Faith,” a book published in 2015, was the Archbishop’s follow-up to Pope Francis’ first apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel.” .

In his book, the Archbishop followed the structure of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and explained what the Church believes and how we can best put those beliefs into practice in our daily lives.

Each chapter included five questions for the reader to reflect on. Topics covered include the Creed, Liturgy, Seven Sacraments, Ten Commandments, and Prayer in the Christian Life.

In 2016, Archbishop Lori published his first pastoral letter to Baltimore, “A Brightly Visible Light: Lighting a Path to Missionary Discipleship,” in which he outlined his vision for parish pastoral planning in the light of evangelism. and the call – emphasized by Pope Francis – to make local churches centers to help others become missionaries of Christ.

In the pastoral, the Archbishop noted that the letter grew out of a series of speeches he gave at regional meetings around the Archdiocese.

He said the Pope Francis papacy pushed him over the edge and challenged him to test the quality of his own encounter with Christ.

“Pope Francis asks me to accompany those I serve. One of his famous lines is that bishops must acquire “the smell of sheep” – and that means being with people, walking with people, caring of them, listen to them and ask questions,” he wrote.

“The challenge that Pope Francis has given me as a bishop is even more profound. He challenges me to make evangelization the foundation of all my ministry.

The pastoral went on to define how a focus on missionary discipleship would shape the structure of parishes and parish ministry. Following the model he presented, in the years following the publication of the Pastoral, parishes were grouped into pastorates – a single parish or several parishes under one pastor and leadership team. Some of these pastorates have officially merged into single parishes.

“I hope that our decisions will ensure that parishes are centers of evangelization that connect people to the pastoral, educational, health and social services they need, with special help to live the vocation of marriage and family,” the archbishop wrote.

Five years later, he updated that vision in “A Light Brightly Visible 2.0,” given the circumstances that affected parish life during the coronavirus pandemic. He also announced in the pastoral letter the formation of the Institute for Evangelism, which has reshaped ministry at the archdiocesan level and created Emmaus teams that support parishes in their efforts to make missionary disciples.

In the meantime, he had published two pastoral reflections on racial justice: “The Enduring Power of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Principles of Nonviolence” (2018) and “The Journey to Racial Justice: Repentance, Healing and Action” ( 2019).

In an interview with the Catholic Review ahead of his 10th anniversary as Archbishop of Baltimore, Bishop Lori said he thought the reaction to his two pastoral reflections on racial injustice had been generally positive.

“I think Martin Luther King’s ministry was well received, not only because he supported a great prophetic leader in our culture – a religious and civil leader in our culture – but also because his approach, the approach non-violent, is extremely important for the times we live in, such a polarized and angry and often violent time,” the Archbishop said. “Martin Luther King’s words from over 50 years ago resonate today as much as they did when he said them, maybe even more.

In his 2019 Pastoral Reflection, he recognized “the historic involvement of the Church in a society in which the institution of slavery was deeply entrenched” and the reality of the Church’s direct involvement in the slavery.

“When the State of Maryland was in its infancy, Catholics, including clergy and laity, allowed the mantle of the society in which they lived to replace the fundamental principle of their faith: we are all children of God, all are redeemed by Christ,” the archbishop wrote in the 2019 reflection. openly participated in the institution of slavery.” Previously published research indicates that at least Archbishops Carroll, Marshal, and Eccleston owned slaves, which included arranging for their freedom or sale.

In the 2022 interview, Archbishop Lori said, “In terms of the ‘journey to racial justice,’ I think there was an acknowledgment that the church was trying not only to recognize his teaching, but also to recognize one’s past, and learn from that past. As a result of this, a Racial Justice Task Force was formed and this group expanded and intensified its work after the publication of this pastoral letter. A Racial Justice Coordinating Council, spun off from the task force, will consult with parish and school residents and other experts to implement recommendations on communication, training, advocacy, restorative and social justice and clergy personnel.

Archbishop Lori released two other important reflections.

In July 2018, he posted a reflection, “Celebrating the Marriage of Love and Life:

A reflection on the 50th anniversary of ‘Humanae Vitae.‘”

He noted that Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on marriage and sexuality “confirmed the responsibility of the Catholic Church to proclaim the truth of God even when unpopular.”

He wrote, “As someone who regularly attends our ‘young church,’ I am encouraged by their renewed openness, enthusiasm and commitment to Jesus Christ and His Church and their desire for more authentic relationships. He added that the Church calls us “all: to live and love more faithfully, generously and joyfully.”

In October 2018, after a report by the Grand Jury of Pennsylvania into clergy sexual abuse in that state and revelations that a former Archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, had been removed from office by the Holy See, Bishop Lori writes “Missionary Disciples in Crisis”.

In this reflection, he acknowledged the sin of clergy sexual abuse and highlighted the ways in which the church had attempted to respond to scandals since the US bishops’ adoption of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth. .

“The current situation is painful for a host of reasons. We mourn for survivors of abuse and seek justice, but we are also compelled to watch such a breakdown in which the church body has turned against itself,” he wrote at the time.

For the texts of Archbishop Lori’s pastoral letters and reflections, visit

Email Christopher Gunty at [email protected]

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