Pope Names Indiana Archbishop to Lead Newark Archdiocese

By Monsy Alvarado And Mary Jo Layton
The Record
November 7, 2016

Cardinal-elect Joseph W. Tobin during a press conference Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark.

The Roman Catholic spiritual leader who was picked by the Vatican to lead the Archdiocese of Newark is a friend of Pope Francis and embodies many of the pontiff’s values, said a pastoral minister who talked on Monday about a ushering in spirit of “joy and transparency.”

Observers say that Joseph Tobin, the archbishop of Indianapolis and soon to be named a cardinal, could hardly be more different from the man he will replace, Archbishop John J. Myers, a staunchly conservative prelate whose tenure has been punctuated with scandal.

Catholic Church experts speculated that Monday’s announcement by the Vatican that Tobin would succeed Myers was another sign of Pope Francis’ moderate makeover of the church.

Tobin, introduced at a press conference on Monday at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, said he doesn’t know why the pope picked him to lead the Newark Archdiocese, but said it may be because he’s worked in multicultural communities.

“Sometimes I think that Pope Francis sees a lot more in me than I see in myself,” said Tobin, who was born and raised in Detroit.

“This is an important appointment…maybe Newark... has some characteristics of my hometown, and I’m comfortable in that sort of environment,” he said.

Myers is a champion of strict Catholic doctrine, who has come under fire for sinking more than a half-million dollars of archdiocese funds into expanding his spacious Hunterdon County retirement home. Tobin, in contrast, is committed to ministering to the poor, and eschews the “princely” life for a bishop.

Tobin will join the College of Cardinals when he is elevated to the exalted rank later this month. Cardinals are tasked with picking the next pope and usually preside over archdioceses in the nation’s largest and most important cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

It will be the first time that a cardinal would lead the Newark Archdiocese, and the first time that there will be cardinals on either side of the Hudson River. Tobin said that New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan called him Monday morning to welcome him

“It’s extraordinary,” said Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit writer for the National Catholic Reporter. “The pope is selecting him as a person, because he likes Tobin, not simply because he’s the archbishop of Indianapolis.

Reese said for the pope to designate Tobin as a cardinal while he led Indianapolis was “extraordinary,” and that his transfer to another archdiocese as a cardinal is unprecedented.

“We have never had a case in the United States of a cardinal being moved from one archdiocese to another,” he said.

Tobin will begin his new assignment on Jan. 6.

The 64-year-old Tobin, who has known Pope Francis for more than a decade and speaks several languages, rose rapidly in the church. He was appointed archbishop in Indianapolis four years ago.

Tobin said during Monday’s news conference that he grew up in a multicultural neighborhood of southwest Detroit and was a little jealous of classmates who spoke different languages at home.

“My service of the church obliged me to live many years in cultures different from the Irish-American ambient of my family,” he said. “So I’m excited to lead an archdiocese where the Eucharist is celebrated each Sunday in 20 languages.”

Tobin speaks Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese.

He said he didn’t plan to offer a strategy on how he would lead the diocese yet, but instead talked about principles that would guide his ministry. He also identified “joy, transparency, and freedom” as qualities he believed the archdiocese needed and which he intended to promote.

“I intend to be in regular and effective communication with people of this archdiocese, city and state,” he said. “I will promote policies that recognize that we preach the Gospel not only with words but with actions.”

After delivering prepared remarks, Tobin answered questions, including a few in Spanish. He spoke briefly about his sense of humor, meetings with Pope Francis, his childhood growing up in a home of 13 children and some of the work he did leading the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

When asked about what message he had for parishioners and others who are affected by claims of priest sexual abuse, he said that although he didn’t know the archdiocese’s history on that issue, he said it was “not only a physical violation, but an unspeakable violation of trust.”

Since 2002, he said, the church has implemented safeguards to make it safer for children.

The appointment is a sign that Francis is eager to reassure the Catholics in the Newark archdiocese after years of tumult during Myers’ leadership, priests in the archdiocese 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 his conservative interpretation of Catholic doctrine often has been at odds with the pope’s efforts to welcome gay Catholics into the church, to elevate the work of religious women, and Francis’ condemnation of bishops and priests who lead lush lifestyles on the donations of parishioners.

Under his tenure in Newark he is alleged to have returning a priest who had been convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage boy to active ministry. He came under intense criticism for using more than $500,000 in archdiocesan funds to vastly expand the large retirement house in the rolling hills of rural western New Jersey.

In 2013, Pope Francis named Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda as Myers’ assistant bishop and likely successor three years before Myers’ mandatory retirement after criticism grew over the prelate’s leadership.

A beloved figure in the church, Hebda lived in a small room at Seton Hall University in South Orange, rejecting the lavish surroundings of the archdiocese in Newark. His supporters said his appointment improved morale among parish priests and were heartened by the likely prospect of Hebda taking over.

Earlier this year, the pope appointed Hebda to lead of the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, where mismanagement of clergy sexual-abuse cases led to resignations of church officials.

Tobin has commented on people seeing similarities between him and the pope in terms of building bridges and welcoming refugees and immigrants. Last year, Tobin defied Gov. Mike Pence’s ban on resettling Syrian refugees in Indiana.

In 2007, Tobin was in Argentina for a period, including in Buenos Aires which then was led by Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, who later became Pope Francis. He said he considers the pope his teacher.

The Archdiocese of Newark serves 1.2 million Roman Catholics in Bergen, Essex, Union and Hudson counties, while the Indianapolis archdiocese serves 39 counties in the central and southern parts of the state. Tobin said that 11 percent of the population in those counties is Catholic.

Rev. James Teti, pastor of the Church of the Annunciation in Paramus, attended the press conference and said that Tobin’s multilingual skills and his experiences in Indianapolis make him a “fine fit” for the archdiocese.

“He’s got a very outgoing style and is good with people and that will serve him well just to engage with the people of the Archdiocese, the priests,” said Teti, who oversees the training of deacons for the archdiocese.

Robert Hoatson, of the New Jersey advocacy group Road to Recovery, which helps victims of sex abuse, held two white placards outside the Basilica before the press conference which read “GIVE MANSION TO SEX VICTIMS” and “15 YRS OF ABUSE.” Hoatson, a former priest and critic of Myers, said he was hopeful with Tobin’s appointment.

“It’s clear that Pope Francis is sending a message, he wants bishops to be pastoral, to be compassionate, to be merciful,” he said.









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