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McManus Installed as Fifth Bishop of Worcester

By Kathleen A. Shaw - Worcester Telegram & Gazette
May 15, 2004

Bishop Robert J. McManus was installed yesterday as fifth bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester in a ceremony filled with the time-honored rituals of the Church of Rome and witnessed by hundreds of the faithful.

Bishop McManus, auxiliary bishop of Providence, heard Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, apostolic nuncio to the United States, read the official letter from Pope John Paul II naming him bishop of Worcester.

The 52-year-old bishop looked toward the Bishop's Chair, swallowed and then walked toward it where he was seated by Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, who is metropolitan for the New England bishops.

While almost 1,000 people gathered inside St. Paul's Cathedral, many more watched the live broadcast on Charter Community Access Channel 3. Bishop Daniel P. Reilly welcomed the television audience.

As the ceremony proceeded inside, some alleged victims of sexual abuse and advocates stood outside the cathedral on the sidewalks.

After being officially installed, Bishop McManus told area Catholics what his priorities are for Worcester as he came among them as "chief shepherd."

He called for a "new evangelization" for all baptized Catholics to reach out and bring back to church those who might have grown slack in practice of their faith.

Bishop McManus said he is keenly aware of the hurt and alienation felt by many local Catholics as a result of the clergy abuse scandal and pledged to work for healing and reconciliation.

"I am painfully aware that more than a few Catholics feel alienated from the church today because of a betrayal of trust by some of its clergy or religious leaders," Bishop McManus said.

With support of clergy, religious and laity, he said he wants to "help to heal the hurt that has kept some Catholics from feeling at home in the church of their youth. This effort at healing and reconciliation must be an essential part of the new evangelization here in the Diocese of Worcester," he said.

The bishop reminded Catholics, whether clergy, religious or laity, that from the day of Baptism until death "we Christians are called to bring the love of God to a world that longs to be touched, to be healed, to be embraced by the God who is love." It can only happen if all participate, he said.

Eight priests were removed from ministry by Bishop Reilly in the last two years after allegations of sexual misconduct were made. The diocese still has more than a dozen civil lawsuits pending before the courts. A report compiled for the bishops National Review Board last February shows more than 45 priests were accused of misconduct since 1950.

Although Catholics interviewed recently acknowledge that their numbers have dropped and other surveys show half the residents of Central Massachusetts have no church affiliation, Catholics still constitute the largest religious group in the area.

The bishop reiterated his plan to encourage more men to consider the priesthood. He has served as rector of the minor seminary for the Providence Diocese for the past six years. "I know firsthand of the generosity of so many young men who, sometimes at great personal sacrifice, respond joyfully to the Lord's call to follow him as his priest," he said. The bishop said he has lived with the seminarians, prayed with them and taught them.

He noted that he chose as his motto "Christus Veritatis Splendor," which means "Christ, the Splendor of Truth," in Latin. Pope John Paul II has said that all people of good will must understand "that at the heart of the moral life is the inseparable relation between freedom and truth," he said.

"In our day and at this crucial juncture in the moral direction of our American society, we need to learn this lesson once again. We live in a society where the very existence of moral truth, of what constitutes basic right and wrong, is being called in question. In many quarters of our American culture, from our university classrooms to the chambers of our legislatures and even to the ordinary person on the street, the question of Pontius Pilate to Jesus at the beginning of the Lord's passion resounds with a haunting familiarity, "What is truth?'" he said.

Bishop McManus holds a licentiate and a doctoral degree in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, which is operated by Jesuits.

Archishop O'Malley, a Franciscan monk, at the conclusion of the Mass brought some welcomed Catholic humor into the proceedings with a joke about a Franciscan and a Jesuit who were walking along the street one day. A young man came up to them and asked how many novenas he had to say to get a BMW. "What's a BMW?" asked the Franciscan. "What's a novena?" asked the Jesuit. Most Catholics know a novena is any devotion that occurs in a series of nine. Many Catholics also own BMWs, which are expensive cars.

Archbishop O'Malley said bishops are "vessels of clay," but he asked Catholics to reflect on the spiritual treasures that they bring.

Bishop McManus was officially greeted by people representing the community at large. They included Mayor Timothy P. Murray of Worcester, the Rev. Dianne Kessler, who heads the Massachusetts Council of Churches, the Rev. Allyson D. Platt, who heads the Worcester County Ecumenical Council, Monsignor Thomas J. Daley, the Rev. Tomasz J. Borkowski, Mr. and Mrs. Emmanuel Sigura, Deacon and Mrs. Francisco Escobar, Barbara A. Spence, Brother Paul Feeney, CFX, Sister Kathryn Geisel, PBVM, Brandan Colvert and Annie Perla.

The Worcester Diocese, which claims more than 300,000 members, was founded in 1950 and cut from the Springfield Diocese. Bishop John J. Wright was named first bishop. He was succeeded by the late Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan, who was succeeded by Bishop Timothy J. Harrington, followed by Bishop Reilly. Bishop Reilly, although a generation older, grew up in the same general section of Providence as Bishop McManus.

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Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
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