SCRANTON, JULY 25, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is the statement of the newly appointed bishop of Scranton, Monsignor Joseph F. Martino, formerly the auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, at a news conference in Scranton.
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On Thursday, July 17th, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the papal Nuncio in the United States, telephoned me and informed me that Pope John Paul II had named me to be the new bishop of Scranton. As you can imagine, that was an extraordinary moment for me. On the one hand, I was very happy to be given a new opportunity to serve Jesus Christ and His Church. Simultaneously, however, I was very conscious of my limitations. Even now, I am filled with joy to be named the bishop of Scranton and equally aware of how utterly dependent I must be on the grace and love of Jesus Christ.
I am very grateful to His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, for appointing me to be the next bishop of Scranton. For a long time, I have been a student of the life and work of this Pope. His example of personal holiness, his compelling teachings, and his loving zeal for souls have been and will remain my inspiration.
Permit me to give public thanks to Bishop James C. Timlin, the present bBishop of Scranton, who has been the chief shepherd of this Diocese for almost twenty years. He is a good and faithful servant who deserves our praise for his zealous leadership of the Diocese of Scranton. I also want to acknowledge the Auxiliary Bishop of Scranton, Bishop John M. Dougherty, a dedicated and generous man. In my consciousness of my limitations, I am deeply consoled by the fact that I will have these two holy Bishops near me to counsel and assist me.
Since I am not well known here in Scranton, I am certain that the clergy and laity of this Diocese and even the wider community will understandably have many questions for me. In the weeks and months ahead I hope to be less of a stranger, but allow me to make one point now. I am a man who is grateful for the gift of human life. I am deeply grateful to God for giving me a Christian identity and precious vocation to be a priest and bishop. For these reasons, when I was named a bishop in 1996, I chose as my episcopal motto “Jesus, the Way, Truth and Life.” I believe the words of this motto with all my heart and soul, and this belief will guide me in all that I am called to do as bishop of Scranton.
This is a challenging time to be a bishop, but it is also a challenging time to be a priest. In my first statement to the clergy and people of Scranton, I want to make it very clear that my first priority will be the priests of this Diocese. I greet them now as a father and brother, in imitation of Jesus Christ, our Eternal High Priest. With the priests, in a particular way, I look forward to proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, celebrating the Church’s nourishing Sacraments, and shepherding God’s people.
I want to extend a warm word of greeting and esteem to the permanent deacons and their wives, to the seminarians, to the men and women religious of the Diocese, and to the laity, both young and old, single and married. Every Catholic has a particular vocation, whether it is Holy Orders, religious life, Matrimony, or the generous single life. I promise to do all in my power as your bishop, through the grace given to me in Holy Orders, to support all vocations in our common calling to holiness and mission.
At this time, I also want to extend my hand in fellowship to all the Christian churches and ecclesial communities in the eleven counties which comprise the Diocese of Scranton. To the members of the local Jewish community, our elder brothers in the faith, I say a warm hello. My best wishes also go to the local Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu communities. All men and women of faith must work together to bring hope to our troubled world.
A central concern of mine is the sanctity and God-given dignity of all human life. I look forward to working with the civic leaders and all women and men of good will to foster the well-being and progress of human life, as God intends.
In closing, permit me to express my deepest gratitude to Bishop Timlin, to Bishop Dougherty, and to everyone else in the Diocese of Scranton who have welcomed me so warmly. I have been given the joy of a new home and a new family. In such circumstances, the newness of home and family can often be awkward, but that has not been my experience. Your kind welcome to me has touched me deeply.
At the same time, I would not be candid if I did not state openly that I will miss the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, the Auxiliary Bishops, and the clergy and laity of the Archdiocese have been very kind to me and provided me countless opportunities to grow in love and holiness. Saint John Neumann and Saint Katharine Drexel guided me there and they will intercede for me here.
Most of my family lives in the metropolitan Philadelphia area. I am very happy that in Scranton I will not be very far from them. My dear mother Rose, and my sister and best friend, Eleanor, live only about a two-hour drive from here. I will look forward to regular visits with them, my aunts and uncle, my many cousins, and friends in and near the City of Brotherly Love. I bear very much in my heart today my late father, Joseph, who in heaven is no doubt smiling over this occasion.
Lastly, I return to Jesus Christ. May all praise and glory be His! Like Saint Peter, for whom the Cathedral in Scranton is named, I have come in my life to say so often: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we have come to know that you are the Holy One of God (John 6, 68-69).” I entrust all my listeners to Jesus, who is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. And I entrust myself to your prayers. May the peace of Jesus Christ be with you always!