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Vatican announces local bishop’s replacement

Aaron Steiner | Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Vatican announced Saturday morning that Bishop Kevin Rhoades, currently bishop of the Harrisburg, Pa., diocese, will replace Bishop John D’Arcy as the Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, which includes Notre Dame. Rhoades visited Notre Dame Saturday, concelebrating a Vigil mass with D’Arcy in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

Rhoades will take over for D’Arcy, who is now 77 years old, on Jan. 13.

In the past, D’Arcy has said his role for the universities in his diocese is that of a “teacher.” University President Fr. John Jenkins and other administrators have in the past described the relationship between the local ordinary and the University as a “friendship.”

D’Arcy and University administrators, however, have clashed in the past, most recently over President Barack Obama’s appearance at the 2009 Commencement ceremony, where he gave the primary address and received an honorary degree.

While meeting the press Saturday, Rhoades — who was one of some 80 bishops who wrote to Jenkins last spring to condemn Obama’s appearance — acknowledged those past tensions but said those particular disagreements are “in the past,” saying he hoped to have a “close personal and pastoral relationship” with Notre Dame.

Jenkins praised Rhoades in a statement released Saturday afternoon.

“We are confident that the ministry of Bishop Rhoades will be a blessing for Notre Dame and the diocese,” Jenkins wrote. “We look forward both to his apostolate and to our friendship for many years to come.”

Rhoades said during mass that his visit Saturday was the second time he’d been to Notre Dame.

“I came here three years ago, to Notre Dame, for the Penn State–Notre Dame football game,” Rhoades said. “After the game, I came here and celebrated mass at this Basilica, so that brings back very fond memories.”

“I never would have imagined the next time I would be here I would be coming as the bishop-designate in this diocese,” he added.

Rhoades acknowledged the Center for Ethics & Culture conference taking place over weekend on campus, citing it as example of the contributions Notre Dame can make to the church. He said a review of the conference schedule “revealed the depths of study and reflection that you’ve been engaged in.”

D’Arcy said during his homily Saturday that the pope’s selection of Rhoades for the Fort Wayne-South Bend post demonstrates the importance of the local diocese.

“It shows the Holy Father, and his advisors, see the importance of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in all its aspects, to send a [bishop] already with five years experience, from diocese larger than [Fort Wayne-South Bend],” D’Arcy said.