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The inspiring story of Archbishop Kurtz and his younger brother with Down’s syndrome

New US bishops’ conference president Archbishop Joseph Kurtz cared for his brother for 12 years

By on Thursday, 21 November 2013

Archbishop Kurtz is the newly elected president of the US bishops' conference (PA)

Archbishop Kurtz is the newly elected president of the US bishops' conference (PA)

Commentators analysing the appointment of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz as president of the US bishop’ conference have emphasised that he is the best candidate to lead the US Church because his approach acccords with the pastoral vision of Pope Francis.

The strongest illustration of this point is the relationship Archbishop Kurtz shared with his younger brother, Georgie, who had Down’s syndrome. Following the death of their mother, Archbishop Kurtz brought his brother to live in his parish rectory and then to the diocesan chancery when he was named Bishop of Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1999. Georgie lived with his older brother for 12 years until he died in 2002.

This is a very moving piece written by Archbishop Kurtz about his younger brother.

He writes: “Recently, after celebrating a Mass for our dear mother, I must have looked a little down to him. He gave me a pat on the back and said: ‘Don’t worry. Mom is in heaven. You have me.’ Giving and receiving are intertwined. We never do one exclusively.

“In the case of my relating to my brother, it is not a cliché to say I have received much more than I have given.”

I have a younger sister with Down’s syndrome. Archbishop Kurtz puts it better than I ever could.

Pope Francis makes headlines when he embraces a disabled member of a crowd for a few moments. Archbishop Kurtz embraced his younger brother for as long as he needed it: for the remainder of his life on earth.

His loving devotion to his brother makes Archbishop Kurtz a powerful choice for speaking up in defence of the weak, ill and vulnerable as president of the US bishops’ conference.