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Good news from Washington today as the Catholic Diocese of Richmond has a new bishop — Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout from the Archdiocese of Washington.  From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

In a statement, Monsignor Mark Lane, diocesan administrator, welcomed the news.

“Today’s announcement couldn’t come at a more perfect time for us in the Diocese of Richmond. As we begin the Advent season, a time of great excitement and hope for the coming of Christ, we are also filled with abundant joy and happiness that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has named a new Chief Shepherd so quickly to guide us as we begin a new year and chapter in the life of our diocese.

“I look forward to working with Bishop-designate Knestout and assisting him as he begins his work to serve Christ, the faithful and to build up the household of faith in our diocese as we prepare to celebrate our 200th Anniversary.” [Read the full statement]

Knestout has the reputation of being a bit of a disciplinarian or “fixer” — meaning that when something went wrong in the Archdiocese of Washington, it was Knestout that was sent in to smooth things over.

What it means for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond is that Knestout will most likely continue the work of his predecessor — the late Bishop DiLorenzo.  DiLorenzo’s strengths as a moral theologian were noted in his light but decisive touch, and DiLorenzo’s absolute faith in Catholic institutions — schools, clinics, parishes — fit very snugly with Pope Francis’ vision of the church in Evangelii Gaudium.

If Knestout’s reputation in the Archdiocese of Washington is any indicator, then Richmond may have just received an arguably young, vital, and committed defender of Catholic institutions in a public square that is growing increasingly cold to religious pluralism.

The Catholic Diocese of Richmond will celebrate a Mass of Installation on Friday, January 12, 2018, at 2 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond.  Knestout joins newly-minted Bishop Michael Burbidge (formerly from North Carolina) in the Diocese of Arlington as one of Virginia’s two Catholic bishops, who joins others in their high praise of Knestout’s leadership ability:

I offer my sincere congratulations and prayerful best wishes to Bishop Barry C. Knestout on having been appointed by the Holy Father as the 13th Bishop of the Diocese of Richmond.  Having known Bishop Knestout for many years, I have personally witnessed his pastoral zeal and administrative skills.  All who know him will attest to his faithfulness and love of Our Lord Jesus and His Church. I look forward to working closely and collaboratively with him as a brother bishop in the Virginia Catholic Conference. The Virginia Catholic Conference will benefit greatly from Bishop Knestout’s wisdom and expertise, and together we will strive to provide leadership that will amplify the Catholic faith to the public square.

The Virginia Catholic bishops collaborate on a number of things within the Commonwealth, including the direction of the Virginia Catholic Conference headed up by the Jeff Caruso — arguably an anchor in the rough seas of the Virginia General Assembly.

Naturally, there is going to be the temptation of many Catholics in the Diocese of Richmond — is Knestout a liberal or a conservative?  Traditionalist or progressive?  The answer, of course, is that Knestout is a Catholic — and much like his predecessor (and perhaps unlike the late Bishop Walter Sullivan), will execute his duties faithfully as most all bishops do… eschewing the politics that seems to infect just about everything in America today.

It will be a difficult task.  But for the 250,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Richmond, Knestout will have plenty of folks willing to both cheer him on and lend their hand in the task.