Saturday, November 21, 2009

For Antigonish, "Dunn Deal"

In big, much-anticipated news from Points North, this morning Pope Benedict sent Auxiliary Bishop Brian Dunn of Sault Ste. Marie back to his native Atlantic Canada to head Nova Scotia's scandal-rocked diocese of Antigonish.

As foreseen over recent weeks, the Holy See fast-tracked an appointment to the 130,000-member church following the mid-September arrest of Bishop Raymond Lahey on charges of possessing child pornography, after which the 69 year-old prelate quickly resigned the post. Lahey's shocking fall came just one month after the diocese inked a CAN$15 million settlement on its clergy sex-abuse claims. (The case was temporarily shelved earlier this month, after Lahey's lawyers sought further disclosure of evidence.)

Ordained an auxiliary of the southern border diocese just 13 months ago, this morning's choice comes widely acclaimed both for skills of mind and heart. After two decades ministering in tandem as a parish priest and diocesan official in his native Newfoundland, the Ottawa-trained canonist (and Notre Dame-trained liturgist) was named to the faculty of St Peter's Seminary in London, serving as a professor of the canons and dean of students until his appointment as bishop.

In recent weeks, as Dunn's name floated to the top of the buzzmill for the difficult assignment, friends praised the possibility, with many saying they themselves "had come up with the idea."

The 54 year-old appointee "is an eminently sensible man," one said. "While empathetic, he is no-nonsense. While a careful listener, who considers positions thoughtfully, he is no ditherer and no pushover."

Per custom above the 49th, no Appointment Day presser was held, but the diocese's interim head released a letter asking prayers "that the Holy Spirit grant [Dunn] the grace required for the episcopal ministry that has been entrusted to him.

"I know you will welcome him and be supportive of him," Archbishop Tony Mancini of Halifax wrote.

While no installation date has been announced, the canons require an incoming ordinary to take possession of his charge within two months... and given the circumstances, it'll probably be a tad sooner.

The Antigonish move was the swan song of the now-former nuncio to Ottawa, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, who met with Pope Benedict yesterday to receive his marching orders before arriving in Paris to begin his mission as the Vatican's man in France.

SVILUPPO: Via CBC, the appointee's first public comments:
The promotion will be challenging, he said.

"My first response was a response of gratitude, but at the same time, I really realized that there will be difficulties in the whole assisting people to be healed," said Dunn.

"And so there were some hesitations — do I have enough experience? Am I able to be with people in their difficulties? So there were some hestitations," he said.

"But ultimately, I have a sense of the church, I have a sense of a call, I have a sense of faith that I believe will be helpful to this appointment."
At this point, it's worth noting that one of Dunn's co-consecrators at his ordination last year was the prelate he's been chosen to replace.