New Head of Newark Archdiocese Shocked the Pope Picked Him

By Kelly Heyboer
November 7, 2016

Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, soon to be a cardinal will lead the Archdiocese of Newark, replacing Archbishop John J. Myers it was announced at a press conference at the Cathedral Basilica in Newark, NJ. (Ed Murray | NJ Advance Media for

A month ago, Joseph Tobin learned Pope Francis was promoting him to cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. Two weeks after that, he learned the pope was appointing him head of the Archdiocese of Newark.

"I am not sure that my central nervous system can take much more news," Tobin said as his appointment was announced Monday. "So, you will forgive me the occasional stutter or facial tick."

Signaling a new era for New Jersey Catholics, Pope Francis officially announced Cardinal-designate Tobin as the new head of the Archdiocese of Newark early Monday. NJ Advance Media first reported Friday that church sources said Tobin was slated to get the job.

Church officials made the announcement at a morning press conference at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark before members of the media and several hundred priests, church officials and parishioners.

Standing at a podium at the foot of the altar, Tobin said he accepted his appointment with "both shock and sadness" as he leaves his current job as the archbishop of Indianapolis. The relaxed Detroit native stood with a hand in his pocket as he cracked jokes, answered questions and showed off his ability to speak Spanish in a 45-minute press conference.

He said he was unsure why Pope Francis, his friend of 11 years, chose him for the job.

"Sometimes I think Pope Francis sees a lot more in me than I see in myself," Tobin said.

Echoing the pope, Tobin ended his remarks by asking parishioners to "pray for me" as he takes over the archdiocese.

When asked about Tuesday's presidential election, Tobin said he didn't want to tell people whether to vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump. But he told Catholics to ask themselves a question about their candidates: "Are they calling us together or are they separating us?"

Tobin will take over for Archbishop John J. Myers, who is stepping down after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75 in July.

Myers introduced Tobin. The pair have known each other for several years.

"What an honor the Holy Father has given to the priests, religious and laypeople of this diocese and also the state of New Jersey," Myers said.

Tobin, 64, will be the first cardinal to head the archdiocese's nearly 1.5 million Roman Catholics in Essex, Union, Hudson and Bergen counties. He was appointed a cardinal last month by Pope Francis and will assume that new title Nov. 18.

Tobin is known as a moderate church leader and long-time personal friend of the pope. Tobin and Francis met while sitting side-by-side on a small Vatican committee in 2005 and have remained friends, he said.

Tobin has spoken out about including gay parishioners in the church and expanding the role of women in the faith. He was ordained a Redemptorist priest, an order focused on helping the poor.

Tobin also made national headlines last year when he clashed with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who is now running to be Republican Donald Trump's vice president, over the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state.

Pence wanted to ban Syrian refugees from the state, citing concerns some might be terrorists. But, the governor ultimately decided not to enforce his ban as Tobin's archdiocese helped bring more than 150 refugees to the state.

Tobin's appointment is expected to mark a sharp change from Myers' 15-year tenure in Newark. Myers was known as a conservative archbishop who weathered several controversies while in office, including questions about how he handled accusations of sexual abuse by local priests.

In 2013, the pope appointed Bernard Hebda as Myers' co-archbishop. Though many expected Hebda would eventually take over the Newark archdiocese, he was eventually moved to the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul to help take over after church leadership was accused of mishandling sex abuse claims against priests.

Bishop James Checchio, head of the neighboring Diocese of Metuchen, was among those who welcomed Tobin to New Jersey, calling him a "fitting choice."

"Pope Francis has given a great gift to Newark and to the Province of New Jersey. The welcoming of a cardinal for the first time to New Jersey is an added blessing too, and points to the Holy Father's care for this local church,"Checchio said.

Tobin is expected to be formally installed on Jan. 6 in a ceremony at Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark.








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.