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Bishop-elect introduced to new Diocese
ALBANY -- For the first time in 37 years, a change at the top of Albany Roman Catholic Diocese.
A Brooklyn priest has been appointed by Pope Francis to succeed outgoing Bishop Howard Hubbard. He was the youngest-elected and is now the longest-serving bishop in America.
Monsignor Edward Scharfenberger admitted it was a little overwhelming to accept leadership in a new place. But in introducing himself to a new congregation, he sounded just as much like an authority as an equal.
"Sometimes the shepherd needs some of the sheep to lead him to other sheep where he needs to go and I'll look to you to show me that," Scharfenberger said.
He only thought he'd be up this way passing through to go to Lake George.
"I admired bishops, certainly whose example I like to follow," Scharfenberger said. "It didn't occur to me I'd be here in this position."
Scharfenberger's election by Pope Francis marks one of the biggest changes to the local Church in decades. It is made, coincidentally, one year to the day after the the worldwide history made by Pope Benedict's resignation.
Speaking of his successor, "he's such a warm, gentle, humble person," said Bishop Hubbard. "He will be for our diocese what Francis has been for the universal Church."
Scharfenberger's new diocese spans 10,000 square miles, compared to less than two hundred in Brooklyn. The outgoing bishop gave Scharfenberger a map of it, and a Mets hat to make him feel at home.
"Bishop Hubbard was the exception to the rule," said Fr. Kenneth Doyle, pastor of Mater Christi parish in Albany. "Bishop Hubbard was the first native Albanian to be bishop here and the pattern has been both here and around the country that the bishop comes from another location."
Already with challenges in mind, a new leader hopes to show the church as a fun place to be, bringing back the young or reverse a downward trend of religious vocations.
"I want to be a healer," Scharfenberger said. "I want to be a listener. I want to be a reconciler."
Scharfenberger knows church buildings have been closing, and believes every effort should be made to keep them open. However, he remarked, "the Church never really closes. The Church is people, not buildings."
When it comes to those who claim they have been abused, "I'm most concerned about people that feel alienated from the Church, people who have been hurt by the Church in some way or maybe some person in the Church that represents the Church that didn't behave the way they should," Scharfenberger said. "We have to ask God's forgiveness for that. We have to ask the people's forgiveness for that."
The "new" bishop will be installed on Thursday, April 10 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany.CBS6 asked Bishop Hubbard what he will do after that time. He said he'll still say Masses in parishes and will be available to the extent that Bishop-elect Scharfenberger may ask. But, he said, he will not be a "shadow in the background."