New bishop unlikely to be named quickly after Wuerl leaves
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Pittsburgh will probably wait months for a new bishop after Archbishop-elect Donald Wuerl leaves June 22.
"It will probably be at least six to nine months," said Rocco Palmo, U.S. correspondent for the British Catholic newspaper The Tablet, who tracks bishop appointments on his blog at www.whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com.
Because Pope Benedict XVI has a short track record, and his nuncio in the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, just started that job, it's impossible to predict who might be in line, Mr. Palmo said.
"A lot of church watchers are still trying to figure out who this nuncio is and what qualities he's looking for. The previous lists [of those in line for promotion] are all out the window," he said.
Once Bishop Wuerl leaves, a small group of priests called the Board of Consultors will elect a priest to run the diocese until a new bishop is named. An obvious choice would be Auxiliary Bishop Paul Bradley, who already holds key administrative reins.
But "it could be another priest," said the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the diocese.
Before he leaves, Bishop Wuerl will write a report with his own recommendations, and send it to Archbishop Sambi, said the Rev. Thomas Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University and an expert on the U.S. hierarchy.
"He can suggest names to the nuncio, and I'm sure he will do so," Father Reese said.
Archbishop Sambi will consult other bishops, as well as some priests and laity here. Then he will list three names, in order of his preference, giving his reasons. All are likely to already be bishops, Father Reese said.
That report will go to the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops. Its cardinals, who include several Americans, will discuss the nuncio's report, and tell him to rewrite it if they don't like the names. They will then make their own report to the pope, sending him three names in order of their own preference, Father Reese said.
Pope Benedict makes the final decision. He is believed to be more involved in choosing bishops than Pope John Paul II was, which will likely decrease the influence of Philadelphia's Cardinal Justin Rigali in choosing someone for Pittsburgh.
Several names are generating speculation. All are well-known and generally well-liked here.
They include auxiliary Bishop Bradley; Archabbot Douglas Nowicki of St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, who worked for a long time in this diocese; and Bishop David Zubik of Green Bay, Wis., who was a popular auxiliary bishop here until he was sent to Green Bay just 21/2 years ago.
Naming someone with roots here is more likely than it was under John Paul, Mr. Palmo said.
"More and more we've seen native sons named to lead their dioceses," he said, but it hasn't been a consistent choice.
First Published May 17, 2006 12:00 am