As Mass attendance in Philly declines, Archbishop Chaput’s successor must be more pastoral than polarizing | Opinion

The Philadelphia Inquirer

September 26, 2019

By Kathleen Sprows Cummings

On Thursday, Charles J. Chaput, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia, turned 75, a milestone that marks the beginning of the end of his eight-year tenure. Under church law, bishops must offer to resign upon reaching that birthday. Pope Francis will either accept it or ask him to continue until a successor is named.

What this means is that Philadelphia, the ninth-largest diocese in the United States, may soon have a new archbishop.

This change in leadership comes during some very dark days for Philadelphia Catholics, although perhaps not the darkest in their history.

In 1844, riots in the Kensington and Southwark neighborhoods resulted in the destruction of two Catholic churches and 30 Catholic homes, the violence committed by Americans who viewed Catholicism as an irredeemably foreign religion. The story of what happened since has for so long been a narrative of triumph, punctuated by events like Cardinal Denis Dougherty’s 1935 purchase of a 10,000 square foot mansion on City Avenue, or Philadelphia’s warm embrace of Pope John Paul II in 1979.

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