Newark Gets a Farm-Raised Midwestern Bishop

Peoria´s John Myers Moving East, and into a Big Assignment

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NEWARK, New Jersey, JULY 26, 2001 ( The next archbishop of the seventh-largest U.S. diocese showed a bit of wit when he arrived to what will soon be his new assignment.

«It occurred to me that Peoria and Newark have some things in common,» said Bishop John J. Myers, referring to the Illinois diocese he has led since 1990. «For example, both are west of the Hudson River and east of the Mississippi.»

The line drew laughs from the clergy and reporters at his first news conference just hours after the Vatican announced that John Paul II was naming him to lead the Archdiocese of Newark, across the Hudson River from New York City.

He will move from the rural Peoria Diocese, with 240,000 Catholics, to an ethically diverse, densely populated archdiocese of 1.3 million faithful. He will succeed Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who moved to the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., in November.

At the press conference, Bishop Myers did not shy away from pointed questions.

Asked about his widely quoted position that it is «morally illicit» for Catholics to vote for pro-abortion politicians, and that Catholics who run on pro-abortion platforms «separate» themselves from the Church, the bishop did not back down.

«I certainly have not changed my positions,» the Newark Star-Ledger newspaper quoted him saying. «I will certainly continue to speak out on the issues. It certainly, I think, is the responsibility of the pastor to point out the dangers for anyone who starts to dissociate himself or herself from the faith of the Church.»

He also voiced support for John Paul II´s appeal to U.S. President George W. Bush on Monday to prohibit the use of human embryos for stem cell research, and he closed the door on women priests or married priests, saying both issues were «a settled matter.»

Bishop Myers also stood firm in opposing any dissent from those teachings, saying he would challenge any Catholic who publicly dissents.

«I cannot tell any one person what he or she believes,» the bishop said. But, he added, «I have the responsibility of all pastors and bishops of the Church to say what the faith of the Church is. And this is the faith of the Church.»

Bishop Myers said he would focus on building up the spiritual lives of the priests and the laity, and that vocation recruiting would be a priority.

The archbishop-designate spoke of the importance of working on behalf of the poor. And he spoke a few phrases in Spanish — he was warmly welcomed outside by a spirited group of about 100 Hispanics — adding that he would try to improve his language skills for the ethnically diverse archdiocese, the Star-Ledger reported.

John Joseph Myers grew up on a farm in rural central Illinois, the oldest of seven children. His mother died in December, and his father still lives in the house his grandfather built.

In 1966 was ordained a priest of the Peoria Diocese. In 1967 Father Myers received a graduate degree in theology at the Gregorian University in Rome, and in 1977 a doctorate in canon law from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

He was serving as vicar general and chancellor of Peoria when he was named coadjutor bishop in July 1987. He became bishop of Peoria upon the resignation of Bishop Edward W. O´Rourke on Jan. 23, 1990.

His official installation in Newark is expected to be in late September or early October. He will be close to another Illinois native — New York´s Cardinal Edward Egan.

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