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New Bishop Has Unique Style, But Says He'll Make Changes Slowly

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Steve Zind
/
VPR
Christopher Coyne was officially installed today as the Tenth Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington. About 120,000 Vermonters are Catholic, but far fewer attend church. Coyne says one of his primary aims is to get them back in the pews.

Christopher Coyne was officially installed today as the Tenth Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington. Representatives of the church joined Vermont Catholics for the ceremony at Saint Joseph Co-Cathedral.

The Mass of Installation is a carefully orchestrated event, much of it scripted and solemn. But the occasion is not without opportunities for levity, which Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley took advantage of in his introductory welcome to the new Bishop.

“Welcome to Burlington, welcome back to New England, it’s a joy to have you here,” O’Malley said. “We understand Pope Francis realizes how much you like to ski and he got that telephone call from your mom…”

Coyne has been serving as Bishop since arriving in Vermont, but with the Rite of Installation, performed by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who serves as Apostolic Nuncio, the pope’s representative to the United States, Coyne formally assumed the post.

“Are you willing to serve the people of this diocese in the tradition of the apostolic faith in the church?” Vigano asked.

"As a wise pastor once said to me, don't change anything but your socks for the first year. Build on what's good there, and if there's something that needs to be corrected, take your time and use a lot of wisdom." - Bishop Christopher Coyne

“With faith in our lord Jesus Christ and with the love of God in my heart I do accept the pastoral care of the people of God in the Diocese of Burlington. I resolve to serve faithfully the spiritual needs of this local church,” Coyne responded, to applause.

Coyne greeted a procession of representatives of the church, and lay Catholic fraternal organizations. At one point he joked he didn’t have his camera to take a selfie with them.

Coyne’s accessibility, use of social media and style are very different from his predecessor, but speaking before the ceremony he suggested he would go slowly in making any changes.

“As a wise pastor once said to me, don’t change anything but your socks for the first year,” Coynes said. “Build on what’s good there, and if there’s something that needs to be corrected, take your time and use a lot of wisdom.”

The 56-year-old Coyne will lead a diocese financially diminished in recent years by settlements in priest sex abuse cases. The church also finds itself on the other side of a majority of Vermonters on some social issues like same-sex marriage. 

About 120,000 Vermonters are Catholic, but far fewer attend church and Coyne says one of his primary aims is to get them back in the pews.

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