Archbishop Gintaras Linas GruÅ¡as, an American-born prelate who returned to the native Lithuania of his immigrant parents where he heads the Archdiocese of Vilnius, was elected the new president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE).
He was elected for a five-year term at the CCEE plenary assembly, held September 23-26 in Rome.
The 60-year-old GruÅ¡as succeeds Italian Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, 78, who retired last year as Archbishop of Genoa and was not eligible for re-election.
The CCEE, which brings together 33 presidents of national episcopal conferences from all over Europe, celebrated its 50th anniversary at the recent plenary.
Sons of Lithuanian immigrants to the United States
GruÅ¡as was born in Washington, DC on September 23, 1961.
His parents immigrated to the United States to escape the Communist regime in Lithuania. They eventually settled in California.
The future priest and bishop studied mathematics and computer science at UCLA. After graduation, he joined IBM, where he worked for five years as a technical consultant.
GruÅ¡as did a year of pre-seminary at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, where he studied philosophy.
He then went to Rome and obtained a degree in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum), the same institution where he obtained a doctorate in canon law in 2001.
GruÅ¡as was ordained a priest in 1994 and incardinated in the Archdiocese of Vilnius. He was General Secretary of the Lithuanian Bishops’ Conference from 1994 to 1997, then Rector of the Vilnius Seminary from 2001 to 2003.
Benedict XVI appointed him Bishop of the Armed Forces of Lithuania in 2010 and Pope Francis appointed him Archbishop of Vilnius three years later.
Bishop GruÅ¡as has been President of the Lithuanian Bishops’ Conference since 2014.
He is also a member of the Congregation for the Clergy and of the Dicastery for Communication of the Holy See.
In his new role as CCEE President, he will be assisted by two newly elected Vice-Presidents.
The first is Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, who is also President of COMECE (Commission of Episcopal Conferences of the European Union).
The other is Bishop LÃ¡szlÃ³ NÃ©met, president of the Episcopal Conference of Saints Cyril and Methodius, which brings together the bishops of Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and North Macedonia.
33 presidents of European episcopal conferences
CCEE was created in 1971 in the wake of Vatican II.
Article 1 of its statutes describes the council as “an organism of communion between the Episcopal Conferences of Europe which has as its aim the promotion and the protection of the good of the Church“.
Distinct from COMECE, limited to European Union (EU) countries and whose mission is to create links with EU bodies, CCEE brings together the presidents of episcopal conferences from 33 countries. In total, it has 39 members.
Besides the 27 countries of the EU, its members represent Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Russia, Scandinavia, Saints Cyril and Methodius, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and Great Britain.
“Our mission urges us to walk together towards the future of a continent born of a destiny of beauty and civilization, of goodness spread and consolidated in hearts and traditions,” CCEE said in a September 26 message. concluding the plenary assembly.
“Jesus is the real hope of Europe because he is the truth, and only the truth will set us free”, declared the Euro-bishops.