SPRINGFIELD — The Rev. William Byrne, appointed by Pope Francis on Wednesday as the 10th bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, says it is an “understatement to say the church is living in challenging times.”
Speaking to reporters at his introduction at St. Michael’s Cathedral, Byrne, 55, asked the faithful to look toward a “season of hope,” despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and stressed, in particular, the importance of ongoing efforts to address what he called the church’s “systematic failure to protect our most vulnerable.”
“Many of our people have drifted from their faith and many of our parishes and schools are struggling in the midst of the pandemic. But some of our greatest challenges come from within,” Byrne said. “The shameful history of abuse within the church represents a systematic failure to protect our most vulnerable members, especially our children. It must be acknowledged going forward continuously. Each day we must recommit ourselves to doing the ongoing work of making sure this can never happen again.”
A Virginia native, Byrne is a graduate of Holy Cross College in Worcester. He has been a pastor in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. and was introduced as the diocese’s 10th bishop by Worcester Bishop Robert J. McManus, who has served apostolic administrator for Springfield since Aug. 25.
With his installation on Dec. 14, Byrne will succeed Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, who was named Archbishop of St. Louis nearly two months ago.
Byrne takes the reins of a diocese still reeling from revelations in recent years that children were allegedly sexually abused by a number of its priests and two bishops.
The bishop-elect said he is looking forward to receiving the recommendations from the task force the diocese formed in the past year to improve its handling of claims of clergy sex abuse and outreach to survivors.
“Above all, we must never forget the victims if we are ever to heal at all,” Byrne said.
He also referred to the coronavirus pandemic as an “ordeal” that has caused separations, but said “we must not lose hope.”
He added, “This should not be a time of despair, but a time to believe. and from the sacraments, but we must not lose hope,” Byrne said. “This ordeal should not lessen our resolve, but should increase our dependence on the only one who saves and that is Jesus Christ. Through this growing reliance on him and him alone we, too, will gain strength.”
“This should not be a time of despair, but a time to believe. Hate loses, love wins — always,” Byrne said. “Let us not get back to normal, let’s get back to better.”
The 56-year-old Byrne grew up, the youngest of eight children, in the suburb of McClean, Virginia, has one sister who is a member of a religious order and has served for the past five years as pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac, Maryland, whose campus includes a Catholic elementary school.
He has described as growing up in large…
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