Good morning, may the Blessings and Peace of this Joyous Christmas Octave be yours! As the newly appointed Apostolic Administrator, it is a privilege for me to greet all the Catholic faithful who make up the Diocese of Cleveland! I am humbled to have been asked by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to shepherd the flock of Northeast Ohio during this time of transition, until he names a new bishop for Cleveland. Grateful to Pope Francis for this opportunity to exercise episcopal ministry in service of the local Church here, I am likewise grateful to the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Holy Father’s personal representative here in the United States, for his graciousness and thoughtful assistance.
What a joy to offer Christmas Greetings to everyone in the rural, suburban and urban areas of the 8 Counties of Northeast Ohio that make up the Diocese of Cleveland: Wayne, Ashland, Medina, Summit, Lorain, Geauga, Lake, and Cuyahoga, Counties. Please know how happy I am to greet you, all of the priests, deacons, seminarians, consecrated men and women religious, and numerous lay faithful. Likewise, all of you gathered here on Cathedral Square, so many of the staff who work for the Diocese, those watching this streamed live, and all our friends from the media who are covering this press conference.
This morning, I join all of you in extending a word of deep gratitude to Bishop Richard Lennon for the faithful, dedicated and generous ministry he exercised here for over ten years. Speaking with Bishop Lennon, it became clear to me that presenting his request for early retirement to the Holy Father was both a humble and courageous act, one that speaks volumes to his love for the local Church and his desire that the people of God receive the pastoral care they need. Please know Bishop Lennon that you can count on our prayers and support in the days, months and years ahead. May the Lord abundantly bless you with serenity, grace and peace of mind, heart and soul.
We also owe our sincere thanks to retired auxiliary Bishop Roger Gries, who has worked so hard to help Bishop Lennon by representing him at so many of the events and Masses in recent weeks and months. At almost 80 years old, Bishop Roger just keeps on giving! Thank you so very much Bishop Roger!
Our appreciation is likewise extended to Abbot Gary Hoover of the Benedictine community of St. Andrew Abbey, Father Don Oleksiak and Father Michael Gurnick, for also assisting Bishop Lennon by celebrating so many Liturgies and other events throughout the diocese. You have been most generous, and please be sure, this Apostolic Administrator will continue to depend on your great generosity!
Already made to feel most welcome here, I thank all those who were instrumental in preparing for today, in particular Father Don Oleksiak, who has provided much needed information, counsel and prudent recommendations.
My family always celebrated Christmas to the full! So it is most fitting that the Lord has invited me to begin this ministry among you at Christmas time! It is so good, even if it will only be for a time, to be part of this family of faith! Some have asked, “Bishop, do you have any connections to the Diocese of Cleveland?” As a matter of fact, I have a familial connection! One of the members of this family of faith, John Cardinal Krol, a priest son and former Auxiliary Bishop, who became the Archbishop of Philadelphia, ordained me a priest. So, I guess you could say I have a direct spiritual connection to you through him! We are members of the same spiritual family.
Coming to you as I do from Northwest Ohio, as the Bishop of the wonderful flock of the Diocese of Toledo, my knowledge of Northeast Ohio is, I must confess, rather limited. I am aware however that the greater Cleveland area has experienced much that is positive over the last few years: the Cavs tremendous NBA Championship victory, the Indians magnificent run to the seventh game of the World Series, the fact that Cleveland was at the center of attention at the beginning of the presidential election cycle. And just recently, what everybody’s buzzing about, the “Christmas miracle” of the Browns’ first win in over a year! How appropriate that someone gave me one of these for Christmas!
Yours is a vibrant diocese, full of good and faithful people with fine parishes and schools, served by a dedicated and loving clergy, religious communities and lay workforce. This diocese, home to nearly 700 hundred-thousand Catholics, has a rich history. A history that includes the fourth Bishop of Cleveland, John Patrick Farrelly, serving as Apostolic Administrator of Toledo until the time of the appointment of its first Bishop, Joseph Schrembs. Apparently the Holy Spirit had in mind that the current Bishop of Toledo would return the favor until the time of the appointment of your new bishop!