Bishop Dennis Sullivan’s installation as the Bishop of the Diocese of Camden came as Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would be stepping down as the leader of the Catholic Church. As Bishop Sullivan tells NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider, he’s still recovering from the shocking announcement. When he heard the news, Sullivan says his first reaction was to get confirmation that his new post was actually his.
“I wanted to make sure that Pope Benedict had signed the document authorizing me to be the Bishop of Camden because I hadn’t seen it,” recalled Sullivan. “But thanks be to god, he had signed the document.”
Like most Catholics, Sullivan says he’s still shocked by the Pope’s resignation, something that hasn’t occurred in nearly 600 years. Speculation about who will succeed Benedict XVI is on the minds of Catholics around the world. New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s name has been mentioned as a possible candidate, but Sullivan says the decision will be left to the electors to identify who God has chosen.
“God has selected the pope and now the cardinal electors will have to figure who God has selected as the next Bishop of Rome.”
As the former New York Archdiocese auxiliary bishop, Sullivan’s number one priority is getting to know the Diocese in Camden. He’s already began the process last Sunday when he visited one of the parishes.
“I celebrated mass and spoke to people after mass. So that’s what I’ll be doing for the next months as I get to know the diocese and the people of the diocese,” said Sullivan. “Certainly, [I will] first focus on the priests because they are my principle cooperators in the work that’s been given to me, and through them, getting to know the challenges that the diocese faces. I’ll be asking them that question actually and speaking to the principle staff who are in the diocese in the chancellery in Camden, interviewing the staff and asking them about what they would see as the challenges that the Camden Diocese is facing and how I might help in meeting those challenges.”
When asked about the challenges facing the Catholic Church in recent years, in particular the sexual abuse cases around the world, Sullivan says that Catholic bishops in the U.S. have responded in an unprecedented way.
“The victims of that tragedy are indeed victims of that terrible experience and certainly we need always to reach out to the victims and to understand their suffering which I believe never goes away. But at the same time, I think that Catholics can be proud of the response of the bishops of the Untied States through the ‘Dallas Charter,’ said Sullivan. “If you know anything about what the bishops did, it was done out-of-house by the John Jay College in New York and the institute there that analyzed the issue and assisted the bishops in dealing with the issue and in making that an issue that will go away hopefully.”