Tuesday, July 19, 2011

From the Prairie to the Atlantic Coast. The New Bishops Stateside

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After Scola goes to Milan, now Chaput is going to Philadelphia. Step by step, the appointments of Benedict XVI are remodeling the leadership of the foremost countries of worldwide Catholicism. An interview with the newly elect

by Sandro Magister

ROME, July 19, 2011 – The appointment, made public today, of Charles J. Chaput as the new archbishop of Philadelphia, is a further step forward in the journey undertaken by Benedict XVI to remodel according to his own standards the leadership of the Catholic Church in the United States, as he has already done in other countries.

Chaput, 67, born to a farming family in Kansas, a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi tribe, a Franciscan of the Capuchin order, has been the bishop of Denver, Colorado since 1997. And before that he was the bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota. His arrival at the head of one of the oldest and most prestigious dioceses of the Atlantic coast of the United States is a novelty even from the geographical point of view.

That Chaput was a candidate for an important episcopal see had been in the air for some time. But even as late as the end of last June, his expected destination was another, Chicago, as coadjutor with right of succession to the archbishop in office, Cardinal Francis E. George, a former president of the episcopal conference of the United States.

Until June 30, for Philadelphia – in the place of Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, near retirement age – the leading candidate at the Vatican congregation for bishops was the current bishop of Louisville, Joseph E. Kurtz.

Nonetheless, Chaput was second on the list. And after him came the bishop of Bridgeport, William E. Lori, and the bishop of Atlanta, Wilton D. Gregory.

Apart from the last one, also a past president of the episcopal conference and classified among the lukewarm progressives, the other two were, like Chaput, "affirmatively orthodox," very decisive in asserting the presence of the Catholic Church in society, without compromise or dilution.

But at the last moment, the congregation for bishops opted for Chaput instead of Kurtz, preferring to promote the former to Philadelphia immediately instead of waiting for Cardinal George to leave Chicago free for him, in a couple of years.

On Saturday, July 2, in an audience with Benedict XVI, the prefect of the congregation, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, therefore proposed the appointment of Chaput, which the pope gladly approved.

With Chaput in Philadelphia, a see traditionally honored with the cardinal's hat, the upper echelon of the episcopate of the United States is thus more and more solidly occupied by persons in close harmony with pope Joseph Ratzinger, and known and respected by him.

It should be enough to mention, among these, the archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, and the archbishop of Los Angeles, José H. Gómez, the latter linked with Chaput by a close friendship.

Since last autumn, Dolan has also been president of the episcopal conference. And for his election, in the final ballot, the votes previously received by Chaput himself were decisive.

After the public proclamation of his appointment, on July 19, the new archbishop of Philadelphia granted his first interview to www.chiesa, which has featured his writings and speeches in the past.

The interview is presented below. At a certain point, Chaput refers to the last lines of a novel by Thornton Wilder, "The Bridge of San Luis Rey," which won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1928.

They spoken by the abbess of a convent in Lima, Peru, and tie together the threads of the entire story (that of the collapse of a suspension bridge and the death of a few people, and the successive investigation by a Franciscan friar in search of an answer for why they died):

"There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning".
Read the interview here:

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