Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Newark’s Roman Catholic archbishop on Tuesday introduced the cleric appointed by the Vatican to assist him and denied that the move was related to criticism over his handling of a sexually abusive priest.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda, recently of Gaylord, was named coadjutor archbishop for 72-year-old Archbishop John Myers, who is to retire in mid-2016 as head of the Newark Archdiocese. A coadjutor automatically succeeds the current archbishop upon retirement, transfer or death, according to a statement by the archdiocese. Myers said Tuesday he intends “to be here until I’m 75.”
On Tuesday, Myers said he had requested a coadjutor “some time ago” because the archdiocese is undertaking several major projects and he and two other bishops are in their 70s. Hebda is 54. When asked when he made the request, Myers declined to specify.
It is very rare for an existing bishop to be made a coadjutor bishop, which is essentially a demotion; usually coadjutors are priests who are promoted to bishops to then take over for the incumbents. But clearly Hebda took the job knowing that within a few years he would be made archbishop of an important — and troubled — archdiocese serving nearly 1.5 million parishioners. He is known as something of a superstar in the U.S. church, having solid academic credentials and Vatican experience.
Asked about the three-year wait, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the naming of a coadjutor bishop signals to the flock that the governance of the diocese will continue after Myers retires.