- The Washington Times - Monday, May 24, 2004

RICHMOND — The Rev. Francis Xavier DiLorenzo was installed yesterday as the 12th bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond, vowing to make traditional values of the church his top priority.

Bishop DiLorenzo, 61, was led to the cathedra, the bishop’s official throne, by Cardinal William Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore, and Archbishop Gabrielle Montalvo, the representative of the pope. Cardinal Keeler handed Bishop DiLorenzo the pastoral staff and Bishop DiLorenzo placed the miter — the official headdress of a bishop — on his own head.

More than 700 parishioners and religious leaders from across the state filled Richmond’s Cathedral of the Sacred Heart for the ceremony. Eleven diocesan bishops from as far away as Las Vegas and Haiti also attended, along with the archbishops of Washington and Philadelphia and Virginia Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.

Bishop DiLorenzo has pledged to bring conservatism back to a diocese that has been led for the past 30 years by the more liberal-minded Bishop Walter Sullivan, a staunch antiwar cleric who also was one of the first church leaders in the country to officially reach out to the homosexual community.

Bishop Sullivan retired last year when he reached 75, the normal retirement age.

In a homily punctuated with humor, Bishop DiLorenzo joked that he had no plan for leading the diocese other than to meet as many parishioners as he can to determine their needs.

“This is a lovely ceremony, but this is really just a cross-section of the diocese,” he said. “This isn’t just an office job. … The plan is to leave where I’m sitting and go out and talk to you.”

Bishop DiLorenzo said he would base his leadership upon a 2002 statement of faith developed by ministries across the state that pointed to a return to traditional values.

“What you said is important to you is right on target with our Scriptures,” he said.

Bishop DiLorenzo’s conservative social views are in line with those of many other Catholic bishops across the country, some of whom have stirred debate by suggesting that Catholic lawmakers who support abortion rights should be denied Communion. Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis has said he would not give Communion to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry because the senator from Massachusetts backs abortion rights.

Bishop DiLorenzo told reporters on Friday that he wouldn’t deny Mr. Kerry the sacrament before talking with him first. “I don’t have a clue as to who John Kerry actually is,” he said.

Bishop DiLorenzo added, however, that people who support abortion rights run counter to a basic tenet of Catholic teaching, and may not be “completely in union with the pope.”

Before coming to Richmond, Bishop DiLorenzo served for 10 years as bishop of the Honolulu diocese, and elements of his Hawaiian experience were evident in yesterday’s ceremony. Some parishioners and clerics wore leis around their necks, and birds of paradise and other tropical flowers adorned the dais.

While accepting well-wishes from community and leaders of other religious faiths, Bishop DiLorenzo made a hand gesture called a “shaka” that is popular in Hawaii and seen in surfer movies.

Bishop DiLorenzo’s new diocese has jurisdiction over 143 parishes and stretches for 400 miles from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Cumberland Gap in the far southwestern corner of the state. The diocese estimates the region has about 80,000 Catholic households.

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