West Virginia's 76,000 Catholics will have a new bishop today. Bishop-elect Michael J. Bransfield succeeds retiring Bishop Bernard W. Schmitt.
The new bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston will be ordained today at the Cathedral of St. Joseph at 2 p.m. before a crowd of 400 invited guests.
The bishop-elect expressed his admiration for West Virginia’s new Catholic and pro-life Democratic governor, Joe Manchin.
The Philadelphia native was ordained to the priesthood in 1971 and holds master's degree in philosophy from The Catholic University of America. Prior to being named a bishop, he had served as the rector of the basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
In an Associated Press interview yesterday, the bishop-elect said that he has yet to define his vision for the diocese and that he would take some time to get to know the people first.
He told the AP that he expects to travel regularly across the state and live part time at a pastoral center in Charleston, which he hopes could help unify the diocese. He also expressed his admiration for West Virginia’s new Catholic and pro-life Democratic governor, Joe Manchin.
The 61-year-old bishop-elect told the AP that he admired his predecessor’s actions during last year’s presidential campaign, condemning abortion and urging citizens to vote for a pro-life candidate. He said he would have done something similar had he been bishop then.
However, he added that he generally hopes to avoid politics. "I don't see it as my job to jump in unless there is some great cause or scandal," he was quoted as saying.