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In 1917 the bishops of the United States formed the National Catholic War Council to enable U.S. Catholics to contribute funds and commit personnel to provide spiritual care and recreation for servicemen during World War I. In 1919 Pope Benedict XV urged the hierarchy to join him in working for peace and social justice. In response, the bishops organized the National Catholic Welfare Council in 1919 and set up the first Administrative Committee of seven members to handle the Council's business between plenary meetings. At that time a staffed headquarters was established in Washington and a general secretary was appointed.
The word "Conference" soon replaced "Council" in the organization's title, showing the consultative nature of the organization. At the same time, in 1922 the National Catholic Welfare Conference was created to address such concerns as education, immigration and social action.
This model continued until 1966 when the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) and the United States Catholic Conference (USCC) were established. The NCCB would focus on Church affairs in this country, fulfilling the Second Vatican Council's mandate that bishops "jointly exercise their pastoral office" (Decree on the Bishops' Pastoral Office in the Church, #38). The NCCB operated through bishops committees, many of which had full-time staff secretariats. Alternatively, the USCC addressed issuesof the Church within society, and its committees included bishops, clergy, religious and lay persons.
On July 1, 2001 the NCCB and the USCC were combined to form the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
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