Cardinal Rigali praised the appointment, saying the Denver archbishop's life “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.”
Cardinal Rigali, who has headed the Philadelphia archdiocese since 2003, submitted his resignation last year when he turned 75 and will retire to the diocese of Knoxville, Tenn., where he has been invited to live.
The Pope's appointment comes as the archdiocese struggles to deal effectively with clerical sex abuse allegations.
In March, Cardinal Rigali placed 21 priests on administrative leave following a grand jury report claiming to have credible accusations of misconduct against them. According to the report, some of the priests were still in active ministry at the time.
Since Archbishop Chaput's began leading the Denver archdiocese in 1997, it has launched numerous endeavors, such as the founding of the local St. John Vianney Seminary, which boasts one of the highest seminary enrollment rates in the country.
Archbishop Chaput has also been influential in the success of several Colorado-based organizations, including the nationwide missionary group Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), the international women's group Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women (ENDOW), and the Augustine Institute, a lay Catholic graduate school.
From 2003 to 2006, the archbishop served on the U.S. Commission of International Religious Freedom.
He has also served on numerous U.S. bishops' committees involving marriage and family, pro-life activities, and migration.
Archbishop Chaput was born in 1944, in Concordia, Kansas. He attended school and seminary locally and later joined the St. Augustine Province of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin in 1965.
After studying at St. Fidelis College Seminary in Herman, Pennsylvania and later at the Catholic University in Washington, D.C., he was ordained to the priesthood in 1970.
In 1977, Archbishop Chaput became pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Thornton, Colorado, and vicar provincial for the Capuchin Province of Mid-America.
He was then ordained Bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota in 1988. In 1997, Pope John Paul II appointed him Archbishop of Denver.
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As member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe, Archbishop Chaput is the second Native American to be ordained bishop in the United States, and the first Native American archbishop.
He will be installed on Sept. 8 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.
“I’ve spent the last 23 years of my life as a bishop in the West,” Archbishop Chaput said on Tuesday. “The priests and people of Colorado and South Dakota have formed me with their faith, their generosity, their humor and their love.”
“Leaving a place is easy,” he added.”But leaving the people who have shaped me with their friendship, opened their homes to me, and welcomed me into the happiness and sorrows of their lives – that’s very, very hard.”
“All I can say to them is thank you. My life as a priest has been filled with goodness because they made it so.”