ST. LOUIS, Missouri, APRIL 21, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Robert Carlson to head the archdiocese of St. Louis, succeeding Archbishop Raymond Burke, who was named prefect of the Apostolic Signature last summer.
The nomination was announced today by the Vatican press office. In a statement on the St. Louis archdiocesan Web site, the archbishop-elect, 64, affirmed, “I am blessed by this appointment and excited to come to know this local Church with all of its priests, religious, deacons, and faith filled people.”
He continued: “On Jan. 11 of this year, I celebrated my 25th anniversary as a bishop. For ten years, I was an auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. I’ve served 11 years first as coadjutor and then ordinate of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and since February of 2004, I have served as bishop of Saginaw, Michigan.
“When I first learned that I would be the new archbishop, I went to the Web site and was impressed by your clear and straightforward mission statement: ‘[…] called by our Lord Jesus Christ to be his Church and to live his Gospel with joy.’ In these challenging times, it is a powerful expression of faith.”
In St. Louis, Bishop Carlson will serve some 566,000 Catholics, with 737 priests, 248 permanent deacons and 2,176 religious.
The Minneapolis born prelate, celebrating his 39th year of priestly ordination, recalled: “I have had the opportunity to visit the archdiocese of Saint Louis on several occasions: First, in 1979 when I became a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher at your beautiful cathedral; in 1999, when I brought two busloads of young people for the visit of Pope John Paul II; and two or three times when I had seminarians from the diocese of Sioux Falls at Kenrick-Glennon seminary and for a short time when I served on the board of directors.”
He expressed the intent to visit many of the St. Louis parishes, “so that I can learn how to best serve you and to build bridges to those who no longer worship with us.”
He added that he plans to “support Catholic education, serve my brother priests, foster vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, serve those in need and work closely with the ecumenical and civic community.”
Bishop Robert Hermann, who has been serving as administrator of the archdiocese since last summer, said that Bishop Carlson is “a very energetic, articulate, warm and gifted pastor and administrator.”
He continued, “He thinks and works with the Church he loves, and will continue to build upon the legacy of his predecessors here in St. Louis,” which include Archbishop John May and Cardinal Justin Rigali.
Benedict XVI also appointed Bishop Robert Cunningham, 65, of Ogdensburg, New York, as bishop of Syracuse, succeeding Bishop James Moynihan who resigned upon reaching the age limit.
Born in Buffalo, New York, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1969. He received a degree in canon law from the Catholic University of America, with which he served as judge in the marriage tribunal and vice-chancellor in the diocese of Buffalo.
He currently serves on the U.S. bishops’ conference committees for priorities and plans, for the protection of children and young people, and for Native American Catholics.
At the news of his appointment, Bishop Cunningham stated: “Sent by Pope Benedict XVI, I come to teach and preach the Word of God; to love you with wholehearted affection and to serve your needs especially as a minister of the Eucharist and reconciliation. I hope to be a source of unity for the diocese.”
He will be installed on May 26 at the cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
The diocese of Syracuse in northern New York has approximately 352,000 Catholics, served by 310 priests, 85 permanent deacons and 536 religious.