Bishop headed to Vatican, will miss 'beautiful people, culture' of Dallas

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rebecca Kirstin Patton, The Texas Catholic

By David Sedeno

DALLAS (CNS) — The importance
of the vocation of marriage and the family is at the core for the future of not
only the Catholic Church, but of society, Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas
said at a news conference Aug. 17.

Earlier in the day the Vatican
announced that Pope Francis has appointed the bishop to lead a new Vatican
office for the laity, family and life. Creation of the office is a continuation of the pontiff’s quest to
overhaul the Curia for more efficiency and transparency and to
highlight the growing and important role of the laity among the world’s 1.2
billion Catholics.

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

“A bishop can get nothing of
significance done in a diocese without the hard work and cooperation of
pastors, priests, his senior staff and diocesan employees,” he said. “Together,
I believe we have accomplished many goals and put others in motion that have
improved and enhanced service and ministry to the good people we serve.”

Bishop Farrell became the
seventh bishop of the Diocese of Dallas when he was appointed March 6, 2007, by
Pope Benedict XVI and was installed at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of
Guadalupe in downtown Dallas May 1, 2007.

When he became the chief
shepherd of the diocese, there were approximately 947,000 Catholics, compared
to the current 1.3 million, thanks in part to the arrival of immigrants from
across the United States and abroad.

On Sept. 1, the new Dicastery
for the Laity, Family and Life officially begins its work. It merges the
current Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the
Family; the Pontifical Academy for Life will remain as a separate unit but will
report to the new dicastery.

Statutes for the new office,
published in June, said it was being established “for the promotion of the
life and apostolate of the lay faithful, for the pastoral care of the family
and its mission according to God’s plan and for the protection and support of
human life.”

Bishop Farrell was scheduled to
travel to Rome in the coming days to open the office and meet with his new
staff, which will include a secretary and three lay

He will celebrate his 69th
birthday Sept. 2. He will return to Dallas for a few days in September before
relocating permanently to Rome a few weeks later.

Upon Bishop Farrell’s departure,
Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Kelly will lead the diocese until Pope Francis
appoints a successor in the coming months.

During his tenure in Dallas,
Bishop Farrell has
been outspoken on abortion and the death penalty as well as on gun control,
immigration and religious liberty. This year, during the Year of Mercy, he has
spoken about love, mercy and charity.

At the news conference, as part
of the life issue, he reiterated that the Texas bishops have sent Texas Gov.
Greg Abbott a letter requesting clemency for Jeff Wood, who was scheduled for
execution Aug. 24 for his capital murder conviction in the shooting death of a
store clerk in Kerrville in 1996.

Wood, who was not in the store
at the time of the shooting and claimed he did not know a passenger in his
truck was going to rob and kill the attendant, also is said to have an IQ of
about 80, which supporters said should have disqualified him from standing
trial, based on his mental competency.

“We have sympathy for the family
of the victims,” Bishop Farrell told reporters, “but killing someone doesn’t
solve the problem, especially when that person was not even there.”

He also addressed the acrimony
brought on by violence, saying that people must understand commonalities beyond
their differences.

“We need to build bridges, not
walls,” he said.

In Rome, Bishop Farrell will
join his brother, Bishop Brian Farrell, who is secretary of the Pontifical Council for
Promoting Christian Unity.

When asked at the news
conference if maybe his brother had put in a good word for him with the pope,
Bishop Farrell said, “I doubt it.”

It will be the first time the
two brothers have ministered in the same city.

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Sedeno is executive editor of
The Texas Catholic and Revista Catolica, publications of the Diocese of Dallas.

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