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Thoughts on a historic gathering

Young people lift their arms in prayer as Catholic musician Matt Maher performs July 3 during the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America" in Orlando, Fla. Leaders from dioceses and various Catholic organizations gathered for the July 1-4 convocation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The first century of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has concluded with its organization of an unprecedented and powerful gathering of Catholics in Orlando, Florida.

With the somewhat ungainly title of "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America," it was nine years in the making. It brought together more than 3,100 people, mainly laity but also more than 150 bishops and 500 priests and deacons. It felt a bit like a class reunion for highly engaged Catholics, or as one observer put it, a World Youth Day for adults.

For four days of speeches, panels, Masses and much conversation, the convocation became a tangible expression of church unity and missionary zeal. There were many highlights, from the opening speech by Hosffman Ospino to the closing homily by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president.

A tour de force was the final address by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States. He called the gathering "a new Catholic moment, a privileged time to be renewed for the mission of evangelization in this country."

Weaving together references to nearly every plenary talk, the archbishop showed that he had not just attended every session, but had listened as well.

The nuncio called the convocation a "journeying together" that strengthened "our common bonds."

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