Monday, March 02, 2009

Monday Morning, Monday Morin -- Biloxi Gets a Bishop

For the third time in the last seven weeks, the nation's longest diocesan vacancy has been settled.

This morning, Pope Benedict appointed Auxiliary Bishop Roger Morin of New Orleans as bishop of Biloxi.

At the helm of the Southern Mississippi church of 68,000 -- which took $70 million of damage in 2005's Hurricane Katrina -- the 67 year-old succeeds a fellow New Orleanean, Thomas Rodi, who was named archbishop of Mobile last April and has since done double-duty as apostolic administrator of his former charge.

The head of the US bishops' Catholic Campaign for Human Development -- which garnered elevated scrutiny in recent months over its longstanding, now-ended relationship with the community group ACORN -- the Massachusetts native visited the Crescent City in 1967 at the invitation of then-Archbishop Philip Hannan. Spending that summer working with the city's poor, he returned the following year and never left, being ordained for the NOLA church three years later.

With a master's in urban studies and a background in community affairs -- he spent 1978-81 on loan to City Hall as a special assistant to the then-mayor, working for $1 a year -- Morin led the planning for Pope John Paul II's 1987 visit to the city and the 1993 bicentennial of the archdiocese. Named vicar-general on Rodi's appointment to Biloxi in 2001 and an auxiliary to Archbishop Alfred Hughes in 2003, the appointee oversaw the operations of the New Orleans church through the "hundred-year" chaos of Katrina, leading its rebuilding, aid and consolidation efforts since.

Now the Gulf Coast's metropolitan, Rodi will install Morin in Biloxi's Cathedral of the Navitity on 27 April. In a statement this morning, the archbishop praised his new suffragan for "foster[ing] the revival" of the New Orleans church post-Katrina "with faith and perseverance."

Morin's "dedication and talents" were a gift to the Mississippi church, Rodi said, adding his assurance that the diocese was being placed in "wonderful" hands.

The number of Stateside vacancies again fallen to six, now atop the pile is St Louis, from which Archbishop Raymond Burke was transferred to Rome last June 27th. On a related note to this morning's move, the Crescent City likewise awaits a change of command -- Hughes reached the retirement age of 75 in December 2007.

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Likewise this morning, in a one-sentence release the Holy See announced that the Pope had "dispensed" Fr Gerhard Wagner from his January appointment as auxiliary bishop of the Austrian diocese of Linz.

While the timing is coincidental, the career pastor's statements linking the occurrence of Katrina to New Orleans' sinfulness and deeming the Harry Potter series of books as "satanism" sparked a global firestorm that garnered a protest from the Austrian bishops and earned the appointee a vote of no confidence from the diocesan leadership.

Citing the controversy's damage, Wagner publicly requested that his appointment be "rescinded" in mid-February.

Diocese of Biloxi