Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Back To the Mainland, At Last

Ending the second-longest vacancy of a US diocese, in one of the more intriguing appointments of the modern era the Pope has named George Murry SJ, currently bishop of St Thomas in the Virgin Islands, as bishop of Youngstown. The Ohio see has been open since the last day of March 2005, when Bishop Thomas Tobin was transferred to Providence in one of Pope John Paul II's deathbed provisions.

A Jesuit of the Maryland Province, Murry -- who turned 58 over Christmas -- is a native of the Philadelphia area, born across the river in Camden. Ordained a priest of the Company in 1979, he earned his Master's and Doctorate in American Cultural History from George Washington University in the capital, and was named an auxiliary bishop of Chicago in 1995. He was transferred to the US Virgin Islands as coadjutor in 1998, succeeding Bishop Elliot Thomas the following year.

Per the provisions of canon law, Murry must be installed in his new charge within two months of this morning's appointment. The diocese of Youngstown counts 230,000 Catholics in the six counties of northeast Ohio.

Home to fewer than 10 parishes and 30,000 Catholics, St Thomas -- the lone suffragan of the nation's capital -- falls vacant for the second time in its diocesan history. The first opening came following the return of the island see's second bishop to a mainland diocese. After two more transfers, said prelate ended up in the red.