- The Washington Times - Monday, November 12, 2001

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is likely to elect its first black president during a four-day meeting that begins today.
Diversity also will be the focus, and the group will renew the church's fight against abortion, while proposing a day of prayer for peace as the war in Afghanistan continues.
Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of Texas is finishing his three-year term as head of the group, which serves as the church's national voice on social, political and religious issues.
Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Ill., now the organization's vice president, is expected to succeed him.
Conference vice presidents traditionally are elected president. The vote is scheduled for tomorrow.
The Roman Catholic Church in the United States is 78 percent white, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, and black Catholics have long sought recognition from church leaders.
Estimates of the number of black Catholics range from 2 million to 3.5 million, out of 63.7 million Catholics nationwide.
They welcome the expected election of Bishop Gregory as a sign their voices will be heard.
The bishops also are concerned about serving the growing number of Asian Catholic immigrants. Bishop Fiorenza, from Galveston-Houston, estimates 2.6 percent of U.S. Catholics are Asian or Pacific Islanders.
The conference leaders are expected to issue a statement urging Catholics to welcome their Asian brethren and be attentive to their spiritual needs.
A Chicago native, Bishop Gregory, 53, was ordained a priest in 1973 and later earned a doctorate in sacred liturgy from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome.
He became a bishop in 1983, serving for 10 years as auxiliary bishop under Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in Chicago.
Bishop Gregory was installed as the Belleville bishop seven years ago, becoming the spiritual leader for 105,000 Catholics in a diocese that covers roughly the southern third of Illinois.
The bishops also will propose designating Jan. 1 as a National Day of Prayer for Peace as the war on terrorism continues. The bishops have urged U.S. leaders to avoid punishing innocent civilians in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
"Our military response must be guided by the traditional moral limits on the use of force," Bishop Fiorenza said in a statement after the U.S. air strikes began on Oct. 7.
"Military action is always regrettable, but it may be necessary to protect the innocent or to defend the common good."
The bishops plan to renew their fight against abortion, human-embryonic research and physician-assisted suicide.
Bishop Fiorenza has applauded last week's directive from Attorney General John Ashcroft that doctors who use federally controlled drugs to help terminally ill patients die will face suspension or revocation of their licenses.
A federal judge has granted a temporary restraining order barring the directive.

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