New Arlington bishop to continue devotion to Holy Name of Jesus

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington VA CNA File photo CNA Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Va.

The new Bishop of Arlington, Virginia says he wants to accompany his flock as much as possible, teaching and administering the sacraments.

"And that would be my highest priority, to teach the truth in love, and to give them the sacraments which will sustain them. And so with God's word and with the sacraments, that's how we grow in holiness," Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, the new Bishop of Arlington, told CNA Tuesday at a press conference announcing his appointment.

Bishop Burbidge was tapped by Pope Francis to become the new Bishop of Arlington, Va., the Vatican announced on Tuesday morning. He will replace Bishop Paul Loverde, 76, who is retiring after 17 years as bishop there. Bishops must submit a letter of resignation to the Pope at age 75, according to Canon Law. Bishop Burbidge will be installed as Arlington's bishop at a Dec. 6 Mass.

Bishop Burbidge comes from Raleigh after spending 10 years there. Before that time he was an auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia and the rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary there, after serving as an Honorary Prelate to Pope St. John Paul II.

He saw a 40 percent growth in the number of Catholics in Raleigh in the last decade, as well as the construction of a new diocesan Cathedral of the Holy Name of Jesus, which will be dedicated in 2017. Bishop Burbidge recently wrote a pastoral letter to Catholics in the diocese encouraging devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, and told CNA that he plans to continue to encourage this devotion in Arlington.

He admitted that as his first reaction to the news of his appointment, he was "stunned."

"There is a very significant consultative process with other bishops, and the congregation of the bishops. The only thing is, the candidate doesn't know he's being discussed," he explained.

"So when you get the phone call, it is just to relay the Holy Father has appointed you. There's no 'can we dialogue about this?' in the life of a priest, the life of a bishop, just to say 'yes' to whatever the Church asks of them."

When asked how he would lead the faithful closer to Christ, he insisted that a bishop must "be with" his people.

"And so my highest priority is to, like Bishop Loverde, to be out as much as possible in the parishes, in the schools and the campuses, celebrating the sacraments, teaching and preaching. I love to teach. I love to preach," he said.

He has been strongly influenced by the witness of both Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who appointed him as Bishop of Raleigh, and Pope Francis, who appointed him in Arlington.

"I look to both of them," he said, noting his admiration for Benedict's "great intellect" and his reputation "to teach so clearly."

"And I think that's something I would always try to do, we have the truth but we need to convey it in a way that people can grasp and understand without watering that down or anything like that," he said.

"Pope Francis is leading us by example also, and I think one of his greatest messages is that, what I was talking about earlier, is that we have to begin to dialogue differently. And begin to listen to one another, especially those that are disenchanted or people who have wandered away."

Raleigh is a neighboring diocese to Charlotte, N.C., where riots erupted a few weeks ago after a young black man was killed by a police officer in a confrontation. Protests and demonstrations have taken place in other U.S. cities, highlighting racial tension and pointing to claims of pervasive police violence and distrust.

Bishop Burbidge noted that where such unrest and tension is so widespread, "you bring people together in prayer."

"In other words, all this is all around us. And we're not going to solve all these problems," he admitted. "But we can do something. We can get together, as men and women of faith and good will, even if that faith is not shared by all."

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