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Published: Tuesday, 1/6/2009

Archbishop appointed to Detroit diocese

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Associated Press Cardinal Adam Maida, left, congratulates his successor, Bishop Allen H. Vigneron, who was named archbishop of the Detroit diocese. The appointment was announced yesterday. Associated Press Cardinal Adam Maida, left, congratulates his successor, Bishop Allen H. Vigneron, who was named archbishop of the Detroit diocese. The appointment was announced yesterday.
PAUL SANCYA / AP Enlarge

DETROIT - Pope Benedict XVI announced yesterday the retirement of Cardinal Adam Maida and the appointment of his successor, Bishop Allen Henry Vigneron, as archbishop of Detroit.

The new position marks a homecoming for Archbishop-elect Vigneron, 60, a native of Mount Clemens, Mich., who has been bishop of Oakland, Calif., since 2003. He will become the 10th bishop of Detroit and the first who was born in the six-county archdiocese.

The Detroit archdiocese includes Monroe County, which borders Toledo, as well as Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Lapeer, and St. Clair counties.

The archbishop-elect acknowledged the economic downturn in Detroit, the center of the struggling U.S. auto industry, and pledged to provide spiritual guidance to the 1.4 million Catholics in the archdiocese.

"I recognize that this challenge for our civic community is - as all societal problems are - a pastoral challenge as well," he said. "To that challenge, I want to bring all the riches of grace which the Holy Spirit has bestowed on the church."

Archbishop-elect Vigneron (pronounced vih-NYEER-on) graduated from Sacred Heart Seminary High School and College in Detroit, where he and Cardinal Maida held their news conference yesterday morning.

After earning a bachelor's degree with majors in philosophy and classical languages, Archbishop-elect Vigneron enrolled at the Pontifical Gregorian University at the North American College in Rome and received a bachelor's degree in sacred theology in 1974.

He received his master's and doctoral degrees in philosophy from the Catholic University of America in Washington.

Ordained a priest on July 26, 1975, Archbishop-elect Vigneron was named auxiliary bishop of Detroit on June 12, 1996.

"On this first day of my appointment as archbishop, my thoughts and prayers are particularly focused on the priests, the deacons and seminarians, the religious, and the lay faithful I will serve here," he said. "Because I am a son of this archdiocese, they have long been dear to me. Now that I have become the spiritual father of this local church, they are even dearer."

He has served on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' committee on doctrine and the subcommittee on the catechism, and serves as trustee of the National Catholic Bioethics Center; St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park, Calif., and the Catholic University of America.

Cardinal Maida, 78, a native of East Vandergrift, Pa., has been head of the Detroit archdiocese since June, 1990.

Pope John Paul II elevated him from archbishop to cardinal in November, 1994.

Cardinal Maida submitted his resignation when he turned 75 in March, 2005, as required by canon law.

Newly named Pope Benedict asked him to continue serving as archbishop of Detroit until accepting his resignation yesterday.

The cardinal will serve as apostolic administrator of the Detroit archdiocese during this month's transition.

Bishop Leonard Blair of the Toledo diocese studied at the North American College in Rome at the same time as Bishop Vigneron, and the two served simultaneously in Detroit, where Bishop Blair was auxiliary bishop from 1999 until his appointment to Toledo in 2003.

Archbishop-elect Vigneron will be installed as archbishop of Detroit in a service at 2 p.m. Jan. 28 at Detroit's Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.

Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, outreach director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, was critical of Archbishop-elect Vigneron's handling of the clerical sexual abuse crisis when he was bishop of Oakland.

"Vigneron fits the mold of recent papal appointees who tend to be extraordinarily conservative yet very media savvy," Ms. Dorris said in a statement. "In public sometimes he says refreshing things, but in private he largely acts in the same secretive, hurtful ways, especially regarding clergy sex crimes and coverups."

Contact David Yonke at:

dyonke@theblade.com

or 419-724-6154.



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