By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
In the day’s first important vote, the U.S. bishops this morning elected Bishop George Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, as the secretary of the conference. He is the first African-American bishop to hold a senior leadership post since Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, then the bishop of Belleville, Illinois, served as president from 2001 to 2004.
Murry was elected this morning using electronic voting pades, defeating Bishop Stephen Blaire by a margin of 60 percent to 40. That result, however, was cast into slight doubt by the fact that some of the voting pads malfunctioned, so the bishops voted again in written form. Those ballots have yet to be tabulated.
Murry, 59, is a Jesuit and a former auxiliary bishop in Chicago as well as a former bishop of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. He currently serves as chair of the conference’s Committee on Priorities and Plans, which has emerged as a powerful steering committee for work on what the bishops have identified as their five central priorities:
•tFaith formation/sacramental practice
•tLife and dignity of the human person
•tCultural diversity in the church
•tVocations to the priesthood and consecrated life
In very broad strokes, Murry is considered a theological and political moderate. He was elected as conference secretary last year to complete the term of Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, who was elected vice-president of the conference. Assuming his election is confirmed by the written ballots, Murry will now have a full three-year term as secretary.