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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted at 12:27 p.m., Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Hawai'i bishop DiLorenzo transferred to Virginia

Hawai'i Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo gave the "shaka" sign as he was introduced today as the new leader of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Va. At right is Bishop Walter F. Sullivan, who retired in September.

Associated Press

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

A change of leadership is coming for Hawai'i's 215,000 Catholics with today's announcement that their bishop, the Most Rev. Francis X. DiLorenzo, has been transferred.

DiLorenzo, who headed the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu for almost 11 years, will become bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Va., effective May 24.

Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, apostolic nuncio to the United States, announced the appointment.

DiLorenzo flew to Richmond Monday and was unavailable for comment this morning. Patrick Downes, spokesman for the Honolulu diocese, said an interim replacement for the bishop has not yet been named.

The Most Rev. Francis X. DiLorenzo has headed the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu for nearly 11 years.

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The Rev. Tom Gross, one of two vicars general serving in the No. 2 administrative role in the Honolulu diocese, said he does not expect a hurried decision about an interim replacement after DiLorenzo returns on Saturday because the bishop will remain in Honolulu for more than six weeks.

Gross said the bishop only learned of the transfer a week ago.

"We're all very surprised and shocked, as he is," Gross said. "My experience at working with him is he's a very capable administrator and very consultative."

The Rev. Joseph Grimaldi, the other vicar general, echoed those sentiments.

"I feel there's a great void in the diocese with his going," Grimaldi said.

"Some people might see him in black and white... people might think there is no flexibility in certain issues. And that is true to some extent; in moral issues there is no flexibility.

"But he has a good sense of the pastoral. He's able to deal with people in a nice way."

The bishop is expected back in Honolulu Saturday and will serve as bishop until his departure May 24, Grimaldi said. An interim administrator will be appointed by the nuncio, in consultation with DiLorenzo and the archbishop of San Francisco.

DiLorenzo succeeds Bishop Walter F. Sullivan, who headed the Richmond diocese for 29 years before his retirement in September. Cardinal William Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore, has been serving as apostolic administrator for the Richmond diocese since then.

DiLorenzo, 61, was appointed apostolic administrator Oct. 12, 1993, and was named bishop a year later.

His thorniest experience during his tenure here has been the furor over allegations of sexual abuse among priests. Two years ago, a national scandal erupted over clergy sex-abuse.

The investigation in the Islands, delving back to the 1960s, led the diocese to report that it had substantiated molestation allegations against five Catholic priests. The cases reportedly involved at least eight children.

In January, an audit faulted the diocese for, among other criticisms, lagging in developing an outreach program for victims and "clear standards of behavior" for priests and other church officials in regular contact with minors.

But DiLorenzo's administration was praised for establishing a policy on alleged sexual misconduct within the church in 1990 and for forming a standing committee to advise the bishop on misconduct allegations.

"He was ahead of his time," Downes said of the bishop. "He had removed four men from the active ministry soon after he got here. That would have been in early â90s, before all this happened. And when it did blow up, other cases came to light."

"For the last 10 years, he's had some real strengths," the Rev. Clyde Guerreiro, a Sacred Hearts order priest, said today. "The summary for the job description for bishop is 'Teach, sanctify and govern.' His strong point was definitely governance."

"As a result, after 10 years, I think the church of Hawai'i is in a good place to grow," Guerreiro said.

Guerreiro said he'd like to see DiLorenzo's successor bring in "a strong emphasis on liturgy, which is what we do best and most as Catholics.

"I'd like to see a re-emphasis on Catholic education, (especially) adult education," he added. "Those things very important for our next stage of growth."

"I think (the bishop's) main concern is service to the people: Are the people being served?" said the Rev. Chris Cartwrighti, director of the Jesuit-run Newman Center at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and pastor of the centerâs Holy Spirit Parish.

Downes said DiLorenzo was fond of his "Welcoming Parish" program in which he directed parishes to evaluate themselves and then met with them to discuss their goals.

"He felt strongly about mingling with the people," he added.

Downes also listed among the bishop's achievements the convening of Synod 2000, the first diocesan gathering of its kind in almost 50 years. Delegates from parishes helped develop resolutions to promote youth ministry, religious education, family life support programs, vocations for priesthood and other church aims.

Thoughts about the future direction of the diocese came from an outspoken member of a group to help survivors of sexual abuse by priests. Eugene Saulibio, Hawai'i representative for SNAP (Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests), commended DiLorenzo for his "zero tolerance policy and swift removal of perpetrators," but added that the bishop "fell short in personally reaching out to victims of abuse by priests.

"I hope his replacement will be more open to personally meeting with victims to help them heal," Saulibio said.

Francis Xavier DiLorenzo was born April 15, 1942, in Philadelphia. He attended St. Callistus School, St. Thomas More High School, and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, and was ordained May 18, 1968.

He served in the Philadelphia Archdiocese in pastoral and education assignments, including associate professor at Immaculata College and Vice Rector and later Rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

DiLorenzo took graduate studies at the University of St. Thomas in Rome where he earned a doctorate in sacred theology in 1975.

He was named titular bishop of Tigia and auxiliary bishop of Scranton, January 26, 1988. He was appointed apostolic administrator of Honolulu October 12, 1993 and Bishop of Honolulu October 4, 1994.

Established in 1820, the Diocese of Richmond encompasses all of the southern part of Virginia, including the eastern shore, some three-fifths of the state. It has a Catholic population of 213,528 in a total population of 4,727,638.

Advertiser staff writer Mary Kaye Ritz contributed to this report. Reach Vicki Viotti at vviotti@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8053.