BALTIMORE — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has elected Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., as its next president, giving national prominence to a prelate with significant experience in Catholic social services.
Archbishop Kurtz, 67, has served as the conference vice president since 2010. He was elected conference president at the conference’s fall assembly in Baltimore the morning of Nov. 12. He will serve a three-year term.
The bishops’ conference president plays a significant role in coordinating and leading charitable and social work and education, while providing a public face for the Catholic Church in the U.S.
Archbishop Kurtz served as bishop of Knoxville, Tenn., from 1999-2007. He was a priest of the Diocese of Allentown, Pa., for 27 years, with a special focus in social services, diocesan administration and parish ministry. He served as the director of the diocese’s Catholic Charities affiliate from 1988 to 1998 and was an executive director of the diocese’s Catholic Social Agency and Family Life Bureau.
He is the vice chancellor of the board of the Catholic Extension Society and an adviser to the Catholic Social Workers National Association, the Archdiocese of Louisville website says. He is on the board of directors of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and on the advisory board to the cause for the canonization of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
The archbishop has previously served as chair of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage and Family Life.
He recently co-authored a booklet on the vocation of Christian parenthood and Christian parents’ relationship with their parish. The booklet focuses on a prayer called “The Blessing of the Child in the Womb,” which was drafted by the U.S. bishops’ conference.
Archbishop Kurtz was born in Mahanoy City, Pa., in 1946. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in divinity from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He holds a master’s degree in social work from the Marywood School of Social Work in Scranton, Pa.
The election of Archbishop Kurtz marks a return to the customary practice of electing the conference vice president to the presidency. In 2010, the U.S. bishops broke with this tradition by choosing then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York as their conference head instead of the conference’s vice president at the time, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz.
The bishops’ conference elected Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston as its vice president, also on Nov. 12.