Pope Francis is bringing "a sense of mercy, a sense of joy, a sense of accepting people where they are" to the church, Bishop Robert McElroy says.
A robust discussion broke out as U.S. bishops wrestled with how their priorities going forward might reflect those set forth by Pope Francis.
"We as a church are not appropriately meeting the needs of couples in their marital journey, particularly in light of the serious challenges facing couples and families in today's culture."
The U.S. bishops gathered in St. Louis for their spring general assembly heard presentations on the pope's upcoming encyclical on the environment, the U.S. church's ongoing work in promoting traditional marriage and the need to remain vigilant in protecting children from abuse.
On the first day of their meeting Wednesday, there also were reports on the bishops' efforts to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform and their help in rebuilding work in Haiti, which is still recovering from the 2010 earthquake.
As the institution of marriage faces unprecedented challenges, the Catholic church continues to promote and defend marriage as being between one man and one woman, said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco.
As chairman of the bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Cordileone gave bishops at their spring general assembly in St. Louis an update on the U.S. Supreme Court's impending decision whether same-sex marriage should be made legal nationwide as well as related public policy and the church's catechetical efforts.
Bishops should require that all allegations of clergy sexual abuse be reviewed by diocesan review boards and make mandatory parish audits, Francesco Cesareo said.
A few hours before the U.S. bishops' spring general assembly opened Wednesday in St. Louis, the meeting already had begun.
Tweets were trickling out from bishops, media and observers using the hashtag #usccb15. Among their first items to share: a link to the live stream of the proceedings, bishops making their presence known and media types encouraging followers to watch their live coverage.
Threats to religious freedom continue to emerge, making it more urgent for people of faith to take action to defend the full realm of religious practice, said Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore.
Speaking during a webinar Thursday announcing the fourth annual Fortnight for Freedom, Lori called on Catholics to learn about the importance of religious liberty throughout the history of the United States and to actively promote free religious practice during the two-week period beginning June 21.
Between July 2013 and June 2014, the church spent $119 million on costs related to sex abuse allegations and $31 million on protective efforts, the report also shows.
Appreciation: Sr. Mary Ann Walsh was a quiet nun with a keen wit who led a very public life as a journalist and a longtime spokeswoman for the USCCB.