‘A Man Of Prayer … And A Compassionate Heart’
Published: October 1, 2009
Looking like a proud father, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory addresses the congregation on the day he ordains his new auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Bishop Luis Zarama. (Photo by Michael Alexander)
In this question and answer interview, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory describes the role of an auxiliary bishop, the process of seeking one, and the ministry in which Bishop Luis R. Zarama will serve the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
How did Bishop Zarama come to your attention early in your tenure? How did he become one of your vicars general?
Archbishop Gregory: Bishop Zarama was among a number of excellent pastors that I met in those first months as the Archbishop who impressed me with their skill, their devotion to their parishioners, and their capacity to serve in my ministry as Archbishop of Atlanta.
What particular gifts does he bring to the role of bishop?
Archbishop Gregory: He is a man of prayer, good common sense, and a compassionate heart. He was very happy as a pastor (and told me several times that it was a sacrifice for him to leave the ministry that he had come to love deeply). He loves the Archdiocese, which has become a home for him. He has made an excellent transition from being a man newly arrived from Colombia to being a priest of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
What is the process for seeking an auxiliary bishop?
Archbishop Gregory: A diocesan bishop must petition the Holy Father to begin the process of having an Auxiliary Bishop appointed. I had to describe the pastoral needs of the Archdiocese and explain why I felt that the demands of this local Church needed episcopal assistance. So one must first ask permission to begin the process. I consulted every priest in the Archdiocese to help me surface the names of worthy candidates. I had to propose several candidates in order to provide the Holy See with a terna (a list of three worthy candidates).
How unusual is it at this time in church history for a diocese to be given an auxiliary bishop when it hasn’t previously had one other than due to the health of the ordinary?
Archbishop Gregory: It is most appropriate for the Archdiocese of Atlanta to have an Auxiliary. We have more than 850,000 Catholics and many more ceremonies, meetings and duties than one man can possibly fulfill all by himself.
What will be Bishop Zarama’s role? Will he have an emphasis of ministry to Hispanics, such as an Hispanic vicariate?
Archbishop Gregory: Bishop Zarama will share with me the episcopal service of the entire Archdiocese. Obviously, his Hispanic heritage will be a special sign of joy for our Hispanic community, but we will share all of the pastoral services of this local Church.
Will he continue to serve as a vicar general?
Archbishop Gregory: He will continue to serve as one of the two vicars general. His special area of attention will include the offices and agencies that report to him: Vocations, personnel issues, Religious Education, coordination of the Deans and issues of pastoral conflict resolution, as well as the Tribunal. Msgr. Joseph Corbett will continue to function as vicar general and Moderator of the Curia.
What is the difference theologically between being ordained a bishop and a priest? If ordained already as a priest, what is the new grace received as a bishop?
Archbishop Gregory: The Sacrament of Holy Orders has three degrees of ministry and Sacramental Office (Deacon, Priest, Bishop). Each share of the Sacrament requires being ordained into form of ministry. Theologians have long debated the sacramental difference that distinguishes a deacon from a priest and a priest from a bishop. The Church, however, from Apostolic times has always maintained the distinction of the three offices of this single Sacrament. Each ordination brings the candidate a specific grace and Sacramental character to exercise the office conferred.
Are three bishops required to ordain a bishop?
Archbishop Gregory: The Church requires at least three bishops to confer the Sacrament on a new bishop, although all of the concelebrating bishops impose hands and offer the sacramental consecratory formula that confers the Sacrament, thus each concelebrating bishop shares in the bestowal of the Sacrament on the new bishop.
Is this the first time you have ordained a bishop?
Archbishop Gregory: Bishop Zarama will be the first bishop that I will have ordained.
He has related that he received his pectoral cross from you. How and on what occasion did you receive it from Pope John Paul II?
Archbishop Gregory: Pope John Paul II presented me (along with all of the Synod delegates) with a pectoral cross for participating in the Synod in 2001, which was on the Ministry of the Bishop. I gave that pectoral cross as a gift to Bishop Zarama.