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
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.”