Saturday, January 03, 2009

In BC, Miller Time

Long in the making, the rise of Vancouver as Canadian Catholicism's Western hub took another upward leap yesterday as a well-traveled Vatican vet formally ascended to the booming local church's top post.

After 15 months as coadjutor in next year's Olympic city, Archbishop Michael Miller CSB (right) immediately succeeded Archbishop Raymond Roussin SM as the latter's retirement was accepted by the Pope. Head of the Vancouver church since 2004, Roussin, 69, sought the early transition after courageously going public in August 2005 with his battle against clinical depression; while the archbishop's treatment has largely been successful, he said yesterday that the illness' effects left him "unable" to continue in the post.

An Ottawa-born member of the Basilian Fathers, Miller was serving as president of Houston's University of St Thomas on his 2003 appointment as second-in-command at the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education. The rank of archbishop included with it, the post was the 62 year old's third Roman tour of duty -- from 1992-97, he worked at the English desk of the Secretariat of State, and prior to that earned his licentiate and doctorate in theology at the Gregorian in the late '70s. Originally a student of things Latin American, along the way his work on the region earned him a Master's from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Fluent in four languages and able to read an additional two, Miller became an American citizen during his UST presidency whilst retaining his Canadian passport. 

Described as gracious, energetic and sharp, the ninth metropolitan of the BC mecca inherits a church much like its southern neighbor of Seattle (where Archbishop Alex Brunett reaches the retirement age of 75 later this month). Fuelled by a wildly diverse, energetic immigration led by a significant Asian influx, the Vancouver fold has nearly doubled in size over the last two decades, now standing within striking distance of a half-million Catholics as the city's explosion as a cultural and commercial hotspot burgeons onward.

With Miller's ascent on his community's patronal feast, the Basilians can now boast the leaders of two of Anglophone Canada's five largest dioceses -- the community's former general Ron Fabbro was named to southwest Ontario's 625,000-member London diocese in 2002 -- and the head of the nation's lone Catholic TV network. It's likewise worth noting that the first and (at least, for now) only red hat ever to go to the Canadian West belonged to a member of the TO-based order: the "Gentle Eminence" of Winnipeg George Bernard Flahiff, who was elevated to the College of Cardinals in 1969.

As a new metropolitan archbishop, Miller will return to Rome once more, this time to receive his pallium on 29 June's solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul alongside his peers appointed over the preceding year from across the globe.

PHOTO: Franco Origlia/Getty Images