Vermont Catholics can use a web portal to propose candidates for their next bishop as search process passes one-year mark

As the search process for Burlington’s new bishop passes the one-year mark, Catholics in the Diocese of Burlington, which includes the entire state of Vermont, can recommend candidates for their new bishop via a computer link to the pope’s representative in Washington.

Last year on Nov. 6, the Vatican announced that Burlington’s Bishop Salvatore Ronald Matano was appointed bishop of Rochester, N.Y. When Bishop Matano was re-assigned, the search for his successor began. The search process will continue until the Vatican appoints a new bishop. In the meantime, Apostolic Administrator Msgr. John J. McDermott has been administering the diocese.

U.S. Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo M. Viganò, who advises the Vatican on bishop selection for the American Catholic Church, conducts confidential searches for new bishops. He speaks primarily to other bishops and to select lay people, most of whom are identified by the bishops.

Church law, however, encourages all Catholics to express their views on Church matters that concern them, and this includes who their new bishop may be.

According to Plymouth couple Bill and Anne Cherico, who are members of Catholic Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful®: “We feel that laity input on the selection of a new bishop would ultimately give greater credibility to that appointment. Also, the time frame in the selection process has been far too long with no explanation to the parishioners of the diocese on the reason for the delay.”

As the selection process for a new Burlington bishop continues, lay Catholic men and women can use an Internet link Voice of the Faithful® has developed, www.votf.org/bishop, to provide input directly to the apostolic nuncio via his email address.

The VOTF web portal allows Catholics in a diocese to record their concerns and recommendations in three key areas: 1.) outstanding needs and opportunities in the diocese; 2.) candidates’ ideal qualities and qualifications; and 3.) priests who would be excellent candidates for their bishop.

The portal brings into the 21st century a lay-consultative process as old as the Church itself. In the early Church, all members of a diocese, clergy and laity, elected their bishops, and only in 1917, did Church law reserve the appointment of bishops, with few exceptions, to the pope.

Archbishop Viganò has assured VOTF that all input reaching him from individual Catholics via the web portal will be reviewed and that “serious observations may well be incorporated in the developed confidential process.”

Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

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