Newark archbishop to name successor on Monday

By Mary Jo Layton
RecordBY MARY JO LAYTONSTAFF WRITER | THE RECORDNewark Archbishop John J. Myers is expected to name as his successor Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin, an historic appointment of a leader who has close ties to Pope Francis, is a staunch supporter of social justice and has called for a greater role for womenchurch.
November 5, 2016

Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin discusses his elevation to cardinal by Pope Francis during a news conference in Indianapolis, Monday, Oct. 10, 2016.

Newark Archbishop John J. Myers is expected to name as his successor Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin, an historic appointment of a leader who has close ties to Pope Francis, is a staunch supporter of social justice and has called for a greater role for women in the church.

Tobin, the oldest of 13 children, was already due to become a cardinal in two weeks, which would make him the first cleric of that exalted rank in the 163-year history of the archdiocese, serving 1.2 million Roman Catholics in Bergen, Essex, Union and Hudson counties.

Cardinals usually preside over the nation’s largest and most important cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Myers’ predecessor, Theodore McCarrick, served as archbishop, and was elevated to cardinal after being reassigned to Washington D.C.

Myers is expected to make the announcement, which a noted Catholic blogger called “a watershed moment signaling a new era” at a press conference in Newark Monday morning.

Archdiocese spokesman Jim Goodness would not confirm the nature of the event, but two sources on Saturday did so, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because church protocol requires that the Vatican make the announcement first, then the archdiocese.

The 64-year-old archbishop, who has known Pope Francis for more than a decade and speaks several languages, rapidly rose in the church. He was appointed archbishop in Indianapolis just four years ago, a position church leaders usually hold for years before becoming a cardinal, officials said.

Tobin, who defied Gov. Mike Pence’s ban on resettling Syrian refugees in Indiana in December, was one of three Americans to be named cardinals last month.

“I am shocked beyond words by the decision of the Holy Father,’’ he posted on Twitter last month. “Please pray for me.’’ He signed the post as Joe Tobin.

In December, Pence said he would not enforce his call to ban Syrian refugees one day after Tobin announced a Syrian family has arrived in Indianapolis. Since then, about 150 Syrians have resettled in Indiana. Pence said he wanted to ban Syrians because it’s possible that terrorists could slip in.

Local priests praised Tobin as a leader akin to Francis, ensuring immigrants have a growing voice in the church, that gays and lesbians feel welcome and that the church focuses on inclusion as much as doctrine.

Given the hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the Newark archdiocese, Tobin is a welcome choice, described as a humble man not enthralled with the wealth and pageantry of the church, priests said.

In fact, he went to an Indianapolis gym for his workout less than 24 hours after the pope’s announcement making him cardinal, and was greeted with congratulations and hugs from his fellow weightlifters, according to a news account on his official website.

“He’s a man who wants to serve his people, serve the gospel - this is such a Francis move,’’ said one Bergen County priest.

The appointment is a sign that Francis is eager to have a soothing presence after years of tumult that resulted from Myers’ leadership, priests said. Myers was appointed in 2001 and reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 in July.

Myers won the praise of conservatives in the church for lamenting the increasing secular culture that he said "undermined'' the family and diminished the role faith plays in shaping public policy.

But he was faulted for lax handling of cases of clerical sexual misconduct, adding a lavish addition to a retirement home valued at $800,000 in Hunterdon County, and demoralizing some priests and laity throughout the archdiocese.

In 2013, Pope Francis picked Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda, a 54-year-old canon lawyer with more than a decade of experience at the Vatican, to serve as Myers’ co-bishop three years before mandatory retirement after criticism grew over Myers’ leadership.

A beloved figure in the church, Hebda lived in a small room at Seton Hall University in South Orange, instead of the lavish surroundings of the archdiocese in Newark. The appointment improved morale among parish priests who had felt alienated by Myers and welcomed what was seen as the likely prospect of Hebda taking over.

But earlier this year, Hebda was appointed leader of the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in Minnesota, where mismanagement of clergy sexual-abuse cases led to resignations of church officials.

Tobin would also be the first Newark archbishop to serve as a member of a holy order, the Redemptorists. The order focuses on administering to the poor.

In an interview last month published on the Indianapolis Archdiocese website, Tobin commented on people seeing similarities between him and the pope in terms of building bridges and welcoming refugees and immigrants. In 2007, Tobin was in Argentina for a period, including in Buenos Aires which was led by Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis.

“I think it’s the connection of a teacher and his disciple,’’ Tobin said. “When I’ve seen him a handful of times over the last four years, I always thank him for teaching me how to be a bishop.’’



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