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USCCB press conference streams live from Arlington

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Bishop Michael F. Burbidge is used to heading into the diocesan production studio, leaning into the microphone and sharing his thoughts about the news of the day with others. But this time, he wasn’t speaking with Billy Atwell, diocesan chief communications officer, for the “Walk Humbly Podcast,” but with his fellow bishops to members of the media during a livestreamed press conference following the first day of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops General Assembly fall meeting — in cyberspace. 

The bishops usually meet in person twice a year to discuss the business of the day in the fall and spring. One meeting is in Baltimore, while the location of the remaining meeting rotates. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the spring assembly was canceled. The fall meeting, held during the afternoons of Nov. 16-17, was the conference’s first ever all-virtual meeting. 

Journalists tuned in to the Nov. 16 press conference via Zoom. Bishop Burbidge, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Communications, and Chieko Noguchi, USCCB director of public affairs, spoke from the diocesan studio in Arlington. Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, president of the USCCB, and Military Archbishop Timothy Broglio were at the USCCB headquarters in Washington. Houma-Thibodaux Bishop Shelton J. Fabre joined the panel from Louisiana. 

Atwell said he was glad Arlington was able to assist the bishops conference. “Coordinating all the bishops of the country in a virtual way was an enormous challenge for the staff of the USCCB. The generosity of the faithful to the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal in our diocese made possible the construction of a studio in our chancery that we use to film videos, messages and Bishop Burbidge’s Walk Humbly podcast. So, we were perfectly situated to help the USCCB by serving as a ‘broadcast’ location for their plenary session press conference,” he said. “Keeping the news media updated with what’s happening in the church, as well as addressing their questions, is a priority for Bishop Burbidge.”

Many of the 35 members of the media asked about the McCarrick report and the conference’s ongoing efforts to combat racism. Alissa Rubio of “This Month in Ministry” asked Bishop Burbidge about the importance of communications during the pandemic. He praised church leaders for their ability to adapt and stay connected to parishioners in a time of social distancing, especially by livestreaming Masses to people from their own parishes. “It’s what Pope Francis talks about — accompanying,” he said. “In times of need, in times of trial, we have to walk with one another and it's beautiful to see how we utilize social media to do so.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020