BALTIMORE (WJZ) — America’s Catholic bishops have a new leader, even as they adjust to having a new pope.

Alex DeMetrick reports the challenge is a balancing act between old causes and new priorities being set by the Vatican.

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Archbishop Joseph Kurtz is literally just settling into his new job. The American Conference of Bishops meeting in Baltimore elected him their president, while all are still adjusting to their new pope–and Pope Francis’ message that the church focus more on mercy rather than divisive social issues.

“One of the many challenges is really what our Holy Father has said over and over again: how can we warm hearts and heal wounds?” Kurtz said.

But this is a body that has pushed hard in the past on social issues. It has preached against same-sex marriage nationally and in Maryland, and stressed again just Tuesday that its position on abortion is non-negotiable.

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It also remains a vigorous opponent of birth control, especially as mandated by the president’s health care plan, but it differs from other social conservatives on immigration reform, supporting changes to a path toward citizenship.

“We have spoken about immigration, dignity of the human person, sanctity of marriage, a robust religious freedom. Some of those are responses to movements going on in our culture,” Kurtz said.

The challenge now is syncing those responses with movements going on in the church’s own culture.

Besides his three-year post as president of the Bishops’ Conference, Kurtz will also continue serving as Archbishop in Louisville, Ky.

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