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Pope Francis appoints Bishop Barron to lead Minnesota diocese

Courtney Mares By Courtney Mares for CNA

Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles and bishops from California, Hawaii and Nevada process to Mass in the crypt of St. Peter's Basilica during their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican Jan. 27, 2020. (CNS photo/Stefano Dal Pozzolo)

Vatican City, Jun 2, 2022 / 04:05 am (CNA).

The Vatican announced Thursday that Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Robert Barron to lead the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.

Barron, who runs the popular Catholic media apostolate Word on Fire, has served as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles since 2015.

He will succeed Bishop John Quinn, who submitted his resignation to the pope after reaching the retirement age of 75 in 2020.

“Friends, I am overjoyed and humbled to learn that Pope Francis has appointed me the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester,” Barron wrote in a statement after his appointment was announced on June 2.

“The bishop of a diocese is, first and foremost, a spiritual father to the priests and people who have been entrusted to his care. My prayer this morning is that the Lord will give me the grace always to be a good father.”

One of the most well-known bishops in the United States, Barron has over 500,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel where he teaches about the faith through talks, interviews, and prayer.

At the last U.S. bishops’ meeting in November, Barron was voted to lead the U.S. bishop’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.

Barron, 62, was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1986. Four years later, he began teaching at the archdiocese’s Mundelein Seminary, where he served as the rector from 2012 to 2015.

He holds a Doctor of Sacred Theology degree from the Institut Catholique de Paris and a master’s degree in Philosophy from the Catholic University of America.

While teaching at Mundelein, he created the Catholicism documentary series, which aired on public television in 2011.

In 2015, Pope Francis appointed Barron as an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, where Barron continued his work with the Word on Fire apostolate.

In recent weeks, Word on Fire has faced claims that the Catholic organization mishandled charges of sexual impropriety by a Word on Fire staffer. Several staff members, including Catholic speakers Jackie and Bobby Angel, announced their departure from Word on Fire amid the controversy in May.

The Catholic Diocese of Winona-Rochester filed for bankruptcy in 2018 while facing more than 100 claims of clerical sex abuse. Quinn said in 2018 that a total of 17 priests in the diocese had been accused of abuse.

Quinn served as the bishop of Winona since 2008 and continued to lead the diocese after the Vatican’s Congregation of Bishops announced that it would become the Diocese of Winona-Rochester in 2018.

The diocese covers more than 12,000 square miles of southern Minnesota and includes 107 Catholic parishes and over 130,000 Catholics.

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  1. The Diocese of Winona-Rochester serves 130,000 Catholics. The Santa Barbara Pastoral Region serves over 1,000,000. Where else might Bishop Barron have been assigned?

    Well, given the long-time scandal of careerism, but now the importance given to the peripheries, perhaps we can look forward to Cinderella-Cardinal Cupich someday being re-assigned to, say, the Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska, where there are about 12,000 Catholics, and no Latin Masses.

  2. As loyal as Bishop Barron is to the pontiff his assignment might be due to attachment to deceased traditions. Actually, the area is beautiful, Minnesota U has a campus in Winona [where my brother lectured], the original Mayo Clinic is in Rochester.

    • With all due respect, Fr. Morello I am so disappointed that Bishop Baron forgot his fellow priests. There are wonderful hard working priests that should have been referred to become Monsignors. I think he is too self serving. It’s very easy to get puffed up!

  3. What are the real reasons behind this appointment? Why Bishop Barron? Is this a promotion, a gesture of confidence in the faithful and evangelically articulate Bishop? Or is this a type of demotion, a sign that the present Vatican administration is not satisfied with his theological message?

  4. Los Angeles seemed to be the place for a cleric like Bishop Barron, the city being the heart of cinematic and modern communication technological talent, where the Bishop could draw on the latest advances of know-how in this field for his worthy Word on Fire project. But the good Bishop has been maligned by both right and left. Since the present Vatican administration seems to be controlled by those more sympathetic to woke leftism, my suspicion is that these Vatican bureaucrats do not favor Bishop Barron’s center/right theology. Hence he was sidelined to a smaller diocese with less ecclesial influence…

  5. I can’t help but see parallels to Venerable Fulton Sheen. A popular televangelist and auxiliary bishop of a major see is suddenly shipped off to a previously obscure diocese named Rochester to be the ordinary. I’ll be curious to see how this turns out in three years.

    • Bishop Sheen’s appointment to my home diocese (hardly obscure) was notable for his advocacy in race relations and his opposition to the war in Vietnam. Bishop Barron is about a decade younger than his predecessor was.

      Look at it this way: Bishop Barron is a gifted writer and filmmaker. He’s been a professor most of his career. He only moved into leadership in 2012 as a seminary rector. He’s been #2/3 in a large diocese, but that’s not the same as being captain of his own ship. Maybe his gifts are better suited to his diocese in Minnesota, which is hardly a backwater.

      Does everything have to have a political undercurrent?

  6. In reading Bishop Barron’s daily Gospel reflection, I note how often he states, “Your life is not about you.” Yet, The Word on Fire ministry sure seems to be all about Bishop Barron. All the videos of important people in Church history feature Bishop Barron prominently. Perhaps, if he had invited other prelates to be part of this series, I might be more inclined to believe him when he says, “Your life is not about you.”

    • Have you ever actually watched any of Bishop Barron’s conversations with prominent thinkers/rationalists/evolutionary professors…etc? His videos are the opposite of self-centered. God bless you and I hope you find it in your heart to see all life as a gift. Bishop Barron’s gifts are helping a great many people in a time when the world is very self-centered and prideful.

  7. There are indeed striking parallels with Bishop Sheen. I recall his publicly welcoming his appointment (as Bishop Barron has) to Rochester N.Y. in the 1960s. The care of souls, he said, was his great concern. Rochester N.Y. was a far cry from New York City. It clearly did not require a man of Sheen’s great gifts. Likewise, Winona-Rochester is a world away from Los Angeles, and does not require an immensely gifted bishop. Now, as in Bishop Sheen’s day, high church appointments are politically charged. Let us hope and pray Bishop Barron’s tenure will not end as Bishop Sheen’s did.

  8. Godly men appointed to high office are well received by the faithful. Yet, others have responsibility but lack fidelity to scripture and church tradition. Each must decide whom he will serve.

    James 1:6-8 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

    James 1:22-25 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

    Blessings to Bishop Barron and appreciation to he who appointed him.

  9. I suspect the appointment, like many others, is a ‘test’ or stepping stone that others who have eventually became archbishops or cardinals went through: first as an auxiliary, then as the bishop of a smaller diocese to see if they can handle being in charge of a small place. Hopefully Bishop Barron can do good work both as bishop and overseeing Word On Fire – maybe a smaller diocese gives him leeway to continue to work on his media projects. But that’s just speculation.

    I’ve always enjoyed my time with Barron when in Chicago and wish him the best in Minnesota.


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