In Miami, The Homecoming
This scribe was preparing to return to breather mode today... as tends to happen, though, the phone started ringing... and with it came word from two church sources that, as soon as tomorrow, the Pope is expected to send Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando [left] home, appointing the 59 year-old prelate as Archbishop of Miami and accepting the retirement of Archbishop John Favalora [right] eight months before the incumbent reaches the age of 75.Since the above brief went out, word's come that the sound systems in the chancery courtyard are already set up for the traditional Appointment Day presser, and the presumptive nominee was said to be en route from Orlando in the usual advance smuggling-in.
As you've known for some time, given both Favalora's health and a "perfect storm" of challenges for the 900,000-member archdiocese, the Miami file has been moving for months. While word first appeared on the pages of a coadjutor appointment in August, over recent weeks, with Wenski emerged as the choice, it appears Favalora saw fit to step aside immediately as his former auxiliary already had all the knowledge he needed of the place, that the considerable plate of fiscal and administrative difficulties could begin to be handled in a long-term manner with minimal delay and, indeed, as one well-briefed op put it, Wenski's "not really a coadjutor kind of guy."
While Wenski has garnered plaudits for his critique of matters ranging from President Obama's commencement appearance at Notre Dame and recent weeks' media coverage of the scandals, the reported nominee likewise has a well-burnished rep as a "conference man," having led the US bishops' efforts on social justice and international policy. Ordained a Miami auxiliary by Favalora in 1997 and head of the Orlando church since 2003, Wenski would leave the Disney diocese in the early stages of both a $150 million capital campaign and an extensive renovation of St James Cathedral.
Fluent in Haitian Creole -- and said to "speak, think, curse and pray" in "strongly Cuban-accented" Spanish -- it all just goes to underscore that the choice was, essentially, a no-brainer, and that the native son was the only man for the job.
Numerous calls seeking the ritual "no comment" from the archdiocese's Communications Office went unreturned through the afternoon.
As ever, more to come.
SVILUPPO: In advance of Roman noon, a couple background notes on a Miami transition:
First, it's beyond doubt that -- being possessed of significant administrative skill, linguistic fluency to its core constituencies, an especial ability to hit the ground running amid high-octane challenges and a public-square savvy already well-honed and ready for "prime time" -- Wenski had topped the shortlists for the Miami nod from the first moment the coadjutor reports began to surface nearly a year ago.
Only reinforcing this, it was even credibly rumored from several quarters over the last six weeks that the reported nominee was first asked to accept appointment as coadjutor, but declined the prospect of returning first as understudy... an aspect which could help explain the foreseen scenario of his outright appointment as metropolitan archbishop eight months before Favalora reaches the retirement age.
That said, it's likewise worth noting that -- as with practically every other major B16 appointee across the board -- Wenski will come to his hometown's archbishopric with a notably more public persona than his mentor; at least one South Florida journalist rejoiced on hearing tonight's news, and many others far beyond are likely feeling the same way.
While the native Miamian had earlier been buzzed about as a top candidate for Detroit, the choice for a significantly amped-up profile for the top church post in the nation's fourth-largest state is but the latest testimony to Rome's awareness of and blessing on the ascent of the church in the South, and with it, just the latest effort to provide the diverse, energized, confident Southeastern bloc with leadership reflecting its ever more emergent Catholic presence. (By the numbers, the Miami church grew by some 200,000 members -- roughly a third -- over the course of Favalora's 16-year tenure at its helm.)
And lastly, with the expected appointment, Benedict XVI will have named nine of the heads of the nation's 25 largest local churches, and 15 of these shores' 33 archbishops.
Next up on the latter card: Seattle and Oklahoma City, both of which have ordinaries serving well past the retirement age... and both files "motorcaded past" so LA and Miami might be finished first.
PHOTO: Valeta Orlando/The Florida Catholic