Recognition of the Laity

With the appointment of the Bishop of Dallas, the Most Reverend Kevin Farrell, as the new head of the Vatican’s newly merged dicastery for laity, family and life, Pope Francis has done two things at once.

First, he has taken an experienced pastor, who was ordained as a member of the Legionaries of Christ; incardinated as a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.; named auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C., then appointed as bishop of the Diocese of Dallas, Texas, and made him the new head of a very important Vatican office.

Bishop Farrell who is Irish-born, but an American bishop, has shown himself to be a fine bishop. He was able in his 10 years as bishop of Dallas to truly acknowledge and embrace the suffering of those who had suffered clerical sexual abuse, and he has shown that he could be a force of reform in this area.

The bishop, in an area with a shortage of diocesan clergy, has demonstrated himself as a leader in evangelization, bringing about the best talents in his diocese of religious, clergy, and lay leaders, and showing himself as a man of peace, of concord, of dialogue and truth.

In his multilingual, multiethnic diocese, he has been a bridge-builder between the Hispanic and Anglo cultures.

Bishop Farrell is a shepherd who “knows the smell of his sheep,” as Our Holy Father, Francis, has encouraged and we as a Church Universal will so benefit form his expertise.

Second, with this merger, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, is acknowledging the fact, commended by Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, that the lay person, those who do not share in the sacrament of Holy Orders, have an important role to play in the Church.

True, it is the unique ministry of the ordained clergy ­– the bishop, the priest and the deacon, to lead the Church as head and shepherd, but the laity have a key role as being leaven in the world, to bring the faith into the world.

With the creation of this office, Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is recognizing the importance and leadership of the laity in the world.

Although the absence of Bishop Farrell in the American hierarchy will be severely felt, especially in the past few weeks, with his leadership after the tragic events in Dallas, this is a tremendous sign of appreciation of the Church in the U.S. by Pope Francis.

At the news conference and in a letter to priests of the diocese and the pastoral center staff, Bishop Farrell thanked the pope for having confidence in him to lead the new office, but said he also welcomed the appointment with mixed emotions.

“Dallas has been my home for 10 years and, from the beginning, I quickly grew to love the beautiful people and the culture here,” he said in the letter. “The strong faith, kindness and generosity of the people in the Diocese of Dallas surpassed all of my expectations.”

We pray that this appointment will continue to be a sign of the growth of the Church and the Evangelization of Peoples.