As we look ahead to the appointment of a new bishop for the Diocese of Saginaw, please join me as we pray that in this time of transition that the Holy Spirit will guide Pope Francis, and all those involved in the selection of a new bishop for our diocese, as he discerns who will serve as the 7th Bishop of Saginaw.
How a Bishop is Appointed
Although the pope appoints each bishop, the process of recommending a future bishop generally begins at a diocesan level. Before recommendations reach the pope, candidates are screened by the apostolic nuncio, who is the Holy Father’s representative to a country, and the Congregation for Bishops, which proposes bishops for all over the world. This process can take several months, even years. The process varies slightly between appointing a priest to be a new bishop and a current bishop, often serving as an auxiliary bishop in a larger diocese, being transferred to another diocese.
STAGE 1: RECOMMENDATIONS ARE GATHERED
A bishop may submit to the archbishop of his province the names of priests he thinks would make good bishops. The Diocese of Saginaw is part of a province of seven dioceses of Michigan, with the Archdiocese in Detroit, led by Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron. At the annual provincial meeting, the archbishop shares the names, back- ground and qualifications of the suggested priests; then the bishops vote upon the names to be submitted to the apostolic nuncio.
STAGE 2: THE APOSTOLIC NUNCIO REVIEWS CANDIDATES
The apostolic nuncio, currently Archbishop Christophe Pierre, gathers information about each potential candidate, including reports from the bishops of the province, questioning 20 to 30 people who know each candidate. A report is requested from the current bishop or the administrator of a diocese on the conditions and needs of the diocese. Other references are collected, including some in which the one consulted remains anonymous. Noting his own preference, the apostolic nuncio recommends three candidates to the Congregation of Bishops. Although his recommendations carry great weight, the preferences of the apostolic nuncio are not necessarily followed.
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STAGE 3: THE CONGREGATION FOR BISHOPS
The Congregation for Bishops is a department of the Roman Curia (the group of Vatican offices that assist the pope). If a priest is appointed to become a bishop, the entire congregation is involved. If a current bishop is promoted or transferred, a smaller group may oversee the process. The congregation discusses and votes on the appointment. They may follow the nuncio’s recommendation, choose another candidate from the list or ask for a new set of three candidates.
STAGE 4: THE POPE DECIDES ON A CANDIDATE
The cardinal who is the head of the Congregation for Bishops presents the recommendation of the Congregation to the pope. The Holy Father will respond with his decision after a few days. The Congregation then notifies the nuncio, who asks the candidate if he accepts this appointment.