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June USCCB meeting will be virtual; last in-person meeting was 2019

The U.S. bishops’ conference has voted to conduct a virtual meeting in place of its scheduled in-person June plenary assembly. The virtual sessions will be the second online-only meeting held by the bishops, who last held an in-person meeting in November 2019.

Bishop James Wall of Gallup, New Mexico speaks during the Nov. 2020 virtual meting of the USCCB bishops’ conference, before a Zoom background representing the landscape of his Southwestern diocese. Credit: USCCB/youtube.

“I can confirm that the bishops voted to hold their June meeting virtually,” USCCB spokesperson Chieko Noguchi told The Pillar on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, The Pillar reported that the June in-person meeting, which was to take place in Denver, had been cancelled. The USCCB told The Pillar Feb. 12 that the bishops had been asked to vote on a virtual gathering in place of the in-person meeting.

The last in-person plenary assembly of the bishops’ conference was held November 2019, during which Gomez, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, was elected conference president. The conference cancelled entirely its June 2020 meeting, which was scheduled to be held in Detroit, and conducted an abbreviated virtual session in November of last year.

Ordinarily, the bishops meet twice annually: each November in Baltimore, and each June in a different location. The June 2019 meeting had originally been scheduled to take place in Santa Barbara, California, but was moved to Baltimore in the wake of the Theodore McCarrick scandal.

What is a bishops’ conference, anyway? The Pillar explains here.

The agenda of the June 2021 meeting has not yet been set. Much of the November 2020 virtual meeting was occupied by discussions of racism, after the widespread national protests following the death of George Floyd, and of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich criticized a statement released by Gomez on Inauguration Day; the statement raised concern about the agenda of the incoming Biden administration on abortion, religious liberty, and gender ideology.

Cupich lamented unspecified “institutional failures” at the conference, which he pledged to address. The topic is expected to be raised for discussion at the November meeting.

A working group designed to address specific issues related to the Biden administration has reportedly concluded its work; its efforts on a statement on the question of pro-choice politicians receiving Holy Communion have been passed to the conference’s committee on doctrine.