Bishop Weingand of Sacramento Retires; Bishop Soto succeeds Him
December 1, 2008
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Bishop William K. Weigand of Sacramento, Calif. He will be succeeded by Bishop Jaime Soto, who has been coadjutor of the diocese since Oct. 11, 2007, and is one of 26 active Hispanic Catholic bishops in the United States.
A coadjutor automatically becomes the head of the diocese upon the retirement or death of its bishop. The announcement was made in Washington Nov. 29 by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
At the end of a two-hour Mass of thanksgiving Nov. 30, which drew more than 1,200 people to the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Sacramento, Bishop Weigand handed his crosier to Bishop Soto, 52, whose episcopal motto is Gozo y Esperanza (Joy and Hope).
In his homily, Bishop Weigand told the congregation it had been "an honor and a privilege" to be their bishop. He told his successor: "You are inheriting a very special flock."
Bishop Soto was scheduled to celebrate two Masses at the cathedral Dec. 7, one in English and one in Spanish, to celebrate his succession.
Head of the Sacramento Diocese since January 1994, Bishop Weigand is 71 years old, four years younger than the age at which canon law requires a bishop to turn in his resignation.
In April 2005 he had a liver transplant. His own liver was damaged by primary sclerosing cholangitis, an uncommon, progressive liver disease that causes scarring near the liver, which affects the organ's function. He first was diagnosed with the disease 27 years ago. In November 2004 doctors decided a transplant was necessary.
Despite his illness, Bishop Weigand has routinely put in six-day weeks during his tenure as head of the diocese. But when his coadjutor was named last year, he said was pleased to have assistance in shepherding "this vast 20-county diocese."
The diocese has a Catholic population of more than 550,000. Its 20 counties cover more than 42,000 square miles of Northern California, from the San Francisco Bay to the Oregon border. It has 103 parishes and 42 mission churches.
In his Oct. 4 "Feed My Lambs" column in the Sacramento diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Herald, Bishop Weigand wrote, "God has blessed me and the diocese amazingly during the period of my illness, recovery and these subsequent three and a half-plus years of pastoral service (since the transplant). ... But it is now time for me to step aside."
His column was published after he had turned in his resignation to the pope in September.
The bishop wrote that he feels God is now calling him "to a more contemplative life and ministry and added that he is "a bit weary."
"My heart has been longing to be free to spend more time simply with the Lord," he said, "(and) to be in prayer, to savor the precious moments of the day, and of 'being' rather than 'doing'; to admire the sunrise and enjoy the sunset; to 'smell the roses' and be amazed by God's fingerprints in nature; to take time to notice both the beauty and the pain in the details of people's lives."
He said he will continue to live in Sacramento and will assist Bishop Soto and the priests of the diocese "from time to time." But first he planned to travel, to visit family members and former co-workers, and to spend some time camping and fishing.
During his tenure in Sacramento, Bishop Weigand made ongoing pastoral visits to the parishes and missions in the diocese to help him be in touch with the diverse needs of pastors and parishioners.
In 2003 Bishop Weigand made national headlines when he said any Catholic politician who supports abortion should "abstain from receiving Communion until he has a change of heart, criticizing in particular then-California Gov. Gray Davis. The bishop said his main intent was to instruct local Catholics with clarity on a serious moral teaching of their faith.
In October 2004 the bishop convened the first diocesan synod in 75 years. In 2005, he oversaw a diocesan agreement of $35 million to settle 33 claims of clergy sexual abuse, 25 of which involved allegations against two priests. Many of the cases dated to the late 1960s and early '70s.
Bishop Weigand apologized on behalf of the church, saying abuse was "totally contrary to the mission of the church and the call of a priest or any other worker in the church."
Bishop Soto, a native of Inglewood, Calif., was ordained a priest of the Orange Diocese in 1982. In 1986 he was appointed associate director of Catholic Charities of Orange and in 1989 became vicar for the Hispanic community.
Ordained an auxiliary bishop for Orange in May 2000, Bishop Soto has served on the U.S. bishops' Committee on the Church in Latin America and on the board of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., known as CLINIC.
In November of this year during the U.S. bishops' annual fall meeting, Bishop Soto was elected chairman-elect of the bishops' Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church. He will become chairman for a three-year term in November 2009.
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