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With a Challenge to 'Warm Hearts and Heal Wounds,' Louisville's Kurtz to Lead U.S. Bishops

Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz is the new president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Kurtz is among group of new leaders elected today in Baltimore, as the bishops adjust to changing priorities under Pope Francis.

It is the first such gathering for the American bishops since Francis was elected and said the church was too focused on divisive social issues.

Kurtz says the conference will continue to articulate its positions on matters such as abortion, gay marriage and immigration reform, but bishops should also heed the pope’s call to be more pastoral.

"How can we warm hearts and heal wounds?  I remember 14 years ago when I became a bishop.  I knew in my heart that the most important time I spent was my 12 years as a pastor,"  Kurtz said at a press conference. 

Kurtz takes over as dozens of dioceses sue the Obama administration over a requirement for health insurance that covers contraceptives.     He says despite their differences, the church can have a productive relationship with the administration and the other branches of government.

Kurtz will serve a three-year term as president.