Toledo Bishop Leonard P. Blair said today during a news conference announcing that he will become an archbishop in Hartford, Conn. that “praised be Jesus Christ,” the same opening words he gave when being introduced as a bishop in Detroit in 1999 and later bishop of Toledo in 2003.
“Our lives are meant to praise Jesus Christ, and it is my fervent hope and prayer that my new ministry will help the church in Hartford to do just that,” Bishop Blair said when addressing those who had gathered in Hartford to hear him speak.
Early today, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford announced that Pope Francis had named Bishop Blair of the Diocese of Toledo to be archbishop there, succeeding the retiring Archbishop Henry J. Mansell.
Near the end of the news conference in Hartford, Bishop Blair, 64, said that people have been calling him “archbishop” since Monday, “and I think they're talking to Archbishop Mansell, not to me.” He said that technically, he remains bishop of Toledo until Dec. 16, the date he will be installed as archbishop.
Maria Zone, the archdiocese's director of communications, said: “We're in for an amazing journey with our new spiritual leader” Bishop Blair, noting that the announcement came on the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which hit the Northeast, including Hartford.
Monsignor John J. McCarthy, the chancellor of the archdiocese, said that Bishop Blair will be the 13th bishop and fifth archbishop of Hartford. Hartford also has the headquarters of the Knights of Columbus, a reporter noted later, and Bishop Blair said that he himself is a Knight of Columbus.
Archbishop Mansell introduced the archbishop-designate by giving a resume of sorts for Bishop Blair, noting his service as a bishop of Detroit, his positions working at the Vatican, and now his 10 years as bishop of Toledo.
“He comes with a whole plethora of experience,” Archbishop Mansell — who was archbishop in Hartford for 10 years — said.
Bishop Blair said he received word of his appointment as archbishop on Oct. 17 when he was in Rome.
The papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, told Bishop Blair, and “the next day at a papal audience I was able to thank Pope Francis in person for the confidence he has placed in me, and I asked for his blessing on the church in both Hartford and Toledo,” Bishop Blair said. He met with the pope in a formal audience, he said later in the news conference, “so I didn't have conversation about particular things.”
Later, in response to a question, Bishp Blair said that the selection process for bishops is not one that has an interview, “and you are not asked if you want to do it, although I was very happy to accept” the archbishop appointment.
Bishop Blair gave a geographic reference that ties Toledo and Hartford together.
“Toledo and Hartford are separated by many miles,” he said, “but those who know their history will remember that a significant part of what is now the Diocese of Toledo was once the Western Reserve of the great State of Connecticut. Although Connecticut ceded sovereignty in the year 1800, there are still echoes of the past. And the name 'Firelands' still appears in parts of northern Ohio as another historical echo of the Connecticut connection.”
Some parts of his adjustment will take time, Bishop Blair said, and he joked, “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say “Hartford” with just the right New England accent.”
Bishop Blair closed his formal remarks by saying he entrusts both his ministry as a bishop and the archdiocese “to the care and intercession of Mary, the Mother of God.” And he asked for prayers, “especially by means of the rosary.”
Bishop Blair's meeting with the media, which was streamed live on the Hartford archdiocese's Web site and broadcast on its radio station, was interrupted by some minor technical problems. Bishop Blair asked, “Does my first act as archbishop have to be an exorcism of the sound system?”
Answering questions from the media in attendance, Bishop Blair spoke about the church recovering from instances of priest abuse and other matters of the church not meeting moral standards. He said Roman Catholicism should “be the church in the way that Christ wants us to be the church,” following the teachings of Jesus.
He recognized that people are hurting, he said, and he admired Pope Francis's describing the church as “a field hospital for the wounded in today's world.” Bishop Blair also said that in the Diocese of Toledo, “my predecessor had to remove some priests” for abuse allegations, and “I had to remove some as well.”