VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is pressing his campaign to remake the U.S. church more in his likeness, tapping one of his new cardinals, Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin, to replace the Newark archbishop criticized for mishandling sex abuse cases and spending lavishly on his retirement home.
The Vatican on Monday announced Tobin would replace Archbishop John Myers, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 in July.
Tobin, currently archbishop of Indianapolis, is one of three Americans whom Francis will formally elevate as cardinal Nov. 19.
His new assignment cements evidence of Francis’ high esteem and marks a transition away from an archbishop focused on drawing hard lines about Catholic orthodoxy.
The leadership change also provides a fresh start for an archdiocese that has been battered recently by controversies over Myers’ leadership.
Tobin issued the following statement Monday morning:
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
One of my favorite descriptions of the experience of faith is “a willingness to be surprised by God.” By that standard, the last weeks have been exceptionally “faith-filled.” The first jolt came on October 9, when I learned that Pope Francis had named me to the College of Cardinals. The second tremor arrived on October 22, when I received a phone call from the ambassador of the Holy See to the United States, the papal nuncio, who informed me that Pope Francis had appointed me as the Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.
This assignment was announced publicly today and I will be installed in Newark on January 6, 2017.
Receiving that second shock, I immediately thought of you, the people of this great Archdiocese whose pastoral care was entrusted to me four years ago. I remembered how you welcomed me, offered your support in so many ways, forgave my mistakes and limitations and always assured me of your love and the precious backing of your prayer. The thought of leaving you devastated me. I have had many sleepless nights and shed more than a few tears.
I had always understood my vocation as that of a missionary disciple, one whom Jesus called to be with Him so that He might send me out to preach and heal. Becoming your archbishop, I realized that this missionary also had to become a pastor. The model for all pastoral ministry is Jesus the Good Shepherd, who “knows his own” and his “own know him” (Jn 10, 14). Since October 18, 2012, all of you, the beloved People of God, became “my” people. God created among us bonds of love, mercy, forgiveness and joy. Together we accepted our call to work together to respond in love to God, who loved us first. We are an outward-looking Church, asking where God was opening a door.
Now Pope Francis has asked me to become a missionary disciple and pastor in another local Church. I hope that you will commission me—send me forth with your blessing to preach and heal in the Archdiocese of Newark. I know that I will leave a considerable chunk of my heart here in the Catholic communities of central and southern Indiana. I trust that God will fill that void with overflowing gratitude for the gift of sharing a portion of the pilgrimage with you.
The Archdiocese is not helpless in the face of this change. Just as what happened after the resignation of Archbishop Daniel, the Church will provide stable leadership for the Archdiocese until the new Archbishop is named. I believe you will receive a good pastor and you will not have to wait as long as you did before I was named.
You may know that the Archdiocese had already planned a special celebration on Saturday, December 3, to celebrate the feast of our patron, St. Francis Xavier, and to ask a blessing on a new cardinal. Now, that celebration will also be a moment for us to say good-bye in faith. We will remain united in the communion of saints as well as in the breaking of the bread.
Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.