Pope Benedict names 13th bishop for Archdiocese

For more about Archbishop Chaput, click here.

By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

On Tuesday, July 19, after months of speculation, it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Cardinal Justin Rigali, and Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput O.F.M, Cap., will be his successor.

Archbishop Chaput, 66, will be formally installed on Sept. 8, the feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

Speaking at a 10 a.m. press conference at the Archdiocesan Office Center, the Archbishop-designate told the assembled press and guests, “What you see is pretty much what you get.” {{more}}

Forestalling an obvious question, Archbishop Chaput said, “I don’t know why the Holy Father sent me here. But I do trust his heart, and I believe in his judgment. I know other bishops would have been smarter than I am, or more talented, or more connected with Philadelphia’s past. I know that Cardinal Rigali is one of the great churchmen of my life. He has served the Church with enormous dedication and in ways I will never be able to duplicate.

“But I do promise that no bishop will love the people and priests of this local Church more than I will. No bishop will give more of himself than I will give. And no bishop will try to work harder to help persons who have been hurt by the sins of the past, or work harder to strengthen and encourage our priests and renew the hearts of our people.”

The Archbishop-designate also recalled a previous visit to Philadelphia six years ago when Cardinal Rigali asked him to speak to the priests of the Archdiocese.

“In my comments I remember using a remark from the scientist Niels Bohr, who said ‘prediction is difficult – especially about the future.’ I thought it was a pretty clever line six years ago. Today I just find it a bit sobering.”

Many of the questions from the media centered on the current turmoil in the Church of Philadelphia caused by the child abuse crisis and how he would respond to it.

Archbishop Chaput said he has not yet read the Philadelphia Grand Jury reports, but he intends to do so.

“It would be unfair and foolish to comment on things I do not yet know about,” he said. He has already had discussions with Cardinal Rigali and the bishops but needs to get to meet the priests and the people. “No bishop can solve any issues on his own,” he said. “I intend to listen to everybody in the Church on the issue of sexual abuse by the clergy. I need to talk to the victims and their families. Everybody should have a voice. Give me time, and I’ll be able to answer questions.”

On the question of statutes of limitation on child abuse cases as it was addressed by the Church in Denver, Archbishop Chaput said, “The bishops of Colorado supported elimination of the statute of limitations, so long as it is fair and everyone is treated the same way.”

It should not be limited to the Church, the law should “treat everyone the same, without exception,” he said.

On the question of more lay involvement in the Church, he pointed to the Archdiocese of Denver where he established a diocesan pastoral council composed mostly of laity.

“I look for a wonderful relationship with the laity because I was baptized before I was ordained,” he said.

Whatever his accomplishments, “God does it, I don’t,” he said. “Pentecost was the birth of the Church,” but “I don’t think salvation history ended with Pentecost. Part of being Catholic is being evangelists.”

In answer to a lighter question, Archbishop Chaput, who is of Native-American ancestry, said he has two Native-American names, one from the Potawatomi meaning “he who makes the leaves rustle like the wind,” and the other from Lakota, meaning “Good Eagle.”

The latter was apt, because earlier in the press conference Catholic high school students presented him with a Philadelphia Eagles shirt and a Phillies baseball cap. They also gave him a basket of Philly munchies with a promise of a cheesesteak when he is installed.

He also volunteered the correct pronunciation of his name is “SHAP-yoo” but he prefers to just be called “Archbishop Charles.”

In his introductory remarks, Cardinal Rigali called this “a new moment in the life of this local Church and so a time of great grace.”

Of his successor the Cardinal said, “His ministry is marked by an evident joy in his priesthood, a fearless proclamation of the Gospel and a clear commitment to Jesus Christ and His Church.”

Of his own ministry, Cardinal Rigali said, “It is a formidable task to be a bishop. I have tried through my ministry to be faithful to the ideal of Episcopal ministry. If I offended anyone in any way, I am deeply sorry. I apologize for any weakness on my part in representing Christ and His Church worthily and effectively.”

Cardinal Rigali also said the Holy Father has appointed him to serve as administrator of the Archdiocese until Archbishop Chaput’s installation and then begin his retirement in the Diocese of Knoxville where he has been invited to live.

Cardinal Rigali was celebrant and homilist at a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul with Archbishop Chaput, the auxiliary bishops and priests as concelebrants shortly after the announcement. It was also a first chance for the people of Philadelphia to see their new Archbishop.

Permanent Deacon Joseph Cella of Our Lady of Consolation Parish in Philadelphia, who participated in the Mass said, “I find him to be very outgoing, very friendly and with a little bit of light humor in him. The Mass of the Holy Spirit will give him the grace and strength he will need to carry us forward.”

“I know what he has done for Denver, the seminary is full,” said Tony McWilliams, of St. Peter’s in Merchantville, N.J. “People who hate the Church will hate him. I think he will be good for the Church in Philadelphia.”

“It’s wonderful. I’m sad for the Archdiocese of Denver but happy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” said Kristin Martin, who is from Denver but now lives in Arlington and was attending a convention in the city. “Their loss is Philadelphia’s gain. Archbishop Chaput is a very humble, pastoral bishop.”

“From what I have seen and heard, I think he is going to do very well under the circumstances our diocese is going through,” commented Bill Verna of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Secane.

At the same time as the acceptance of Cardinal Rigali’s resignation by Pope Benedict and Archbishop Chaput’s appointment to Philadelphia was announced, it was announced the Pope also accepted the resignation of Bishop J. Kevin Boland of Savannah, Ga., and the appointment of Conventual Franciscan Father Gregory Hartmayer of Lithia Springs, Ga., as his replacement.