BUFFALO, N.Y. — Bishop Richard Malone officially assumed leadership over western New York’s Roman Catholics on Friday, speaking during his installation Mass of the need for “building up the community of faith and correcting the compass of our culture to a more Godly course.”
Malone, 66, spent eight years as bishop in Portland, Maine, before Pope Benedict XVI selected him in May to succeed retiring Buffalo Bishop Edward Kmiec.
Mayor Byron Brown and religious leaders from numerous other faiths lined up during the Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral to shake Malone’s hand and wish him well.
“I’m humbly grateful to our Holy Father … for the trust he has placed in me,” Malone said.
Malone will stay active in Portland as apostolic administrator while the Vatican searches for a new bishop there. The appointment will allow Malone to continue to lead the church’s fight to defeat a Nov. 6 referendum on legalizing gay marriage in Maine. Same-sex marriage became legal in New York last year.
During his address to the invitation-only gathering Friday, Malone promised to heed the call of the “new evangelization,” a movement in the church to build enthusiasm for the faith.
“What must go from my life and yours if our discipleship, our witness, our mission as church is to be truly effective, drawing people to Christ or back to Christ, building up the community of faith and correcting the compass of our culture to a more Godly course?” he asked. “Of course, we’re never alone on this journey because it’s God’s project.”
In Maine, Malone oversaw a restructuring of the diocese that reduced the number of parishes from about 135 to 65 to reflect a declining number of worshippers. Buffalo has seen a similar reorganization over the past eight years, going from about 275 parishes to 164.
“It won’t take you long to discover that your new bishop has a sort of holy obsession with the mission of evangelization and faith formation,” Malone said during a Mass for priests on the eve of his installation. “That, as we used to say, is where it is at.”
Malone’s tenure as priest hasn’t been without controversy. His appointment in 2000 as auxiliary bishop of Boston’s south region exposed him to questions from critics later on when the archdiocese became embroiled in a clergy sexual abuse scandal and church leaders were accused of shuffling abusive priests from parish to parish. Malone has said his position as auxiliary bishop did not put him in a position to make placement decisions.
Malone was ordained a priest at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston in 1972.