B'klyn Gets New Bishop

By Merle English
October 3, 2003

Taking the helm of the diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio called for change in the Catholic Church while describing it as a "mother and teacher" that nurtures, guides and protects.

Addressing 2,000 invited guests, including members of his family, who filled the pews of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn for his installation Friday, DiMarzio delivered a homily full of allusions to the reports of sexual abuse by priests that have wracked the church.

"I see the Church as a mother, not as an institution," said DiMarzio, who has a background in social work and had headed the Diocese of Camden, N.J., since 1999. "The church is a family," he said. "In the family of the church, the bishop many times has to take the role of father. His role is to protect the flock from harm. And in his solicitude for their well-being, sometimes a disciplinary response is necesssary."

Suggesting the leadership style he will bring to the diocese with the nation's largest and most ethnically diverse Catholic population, DiMarzio said being a disciplinarian "is not my favorite task."

"Although I carry a shepherd's staff," he said, "it is not meant to be a disciplinary rod, but rather a sign of the service I owe to God's people. I would rather see the role of the bishop as mirroring the maternal aspects of what the church is all about."

Speaking more directly, the bishop said, "The church, as mother, must show its care for all victims of sexual abuse, especially those young ones who have suffered at the hands of representatives of the church."

As St. Francis of Assisi was called to reform the church of his day, "the task of all of us," DiMarzio said, "is to reform the church. History and the fathers of the church have taught us that the church must always be reformed. We are never a finished product."

DiMarzio succeeds Bishop Thomas Daily, who had headed the diocese since 1990. Daily submitted his mandatory resignation when he turned 75 last year. He has been accused of covering up sexual abuse by priests when he was an administrator in the Archdiocese of Boston in the 1970s and '80s.

Daily, who plans to continue working as a priest in the diocese, said DiMarzio "has manifested great leadership and effective ministry. He's a friend of the poor and disadvantaged. The diocese will be blessed with his ministry."Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York, and the Rev. Gabriel Montalvo, papal nuncio to the United States, presided over the two-hour Mass. The celebration was a colorful event filled that included a half-hour procession of bishops, archbishops, cardinals, laity, and interfaith clergy, as well as the classical music performed by choral and handbell choirs.

In recognition of the various peoples in the diocese, DiMarzio extended greetings in 18 languages, ending with fluent Italian, the language of his own heritage.

"I look forward with anticipation and enthusiasm to working with you," he said. He also welcomed members of the Islamic and Jewish communities, saying, "I extend my hand in peace to you."

Edna Jordan, a retired hospital technician and parishioner of Our Lady of Victory Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant who sings on the diocese's Vicariate Choir, said, "We're praying he'll be one to lead the flock in the right direction."


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