For the first time in 17 years, the Catholic Diocese of Arlington has a new bishop.
Pope Francis on Oct. 4 appointed Bishop Michael Burbidge to become the fourth bishop of Arlington. He will be installed Dec. 6 and succeed Bishop Paul Loverde, who has led the diocese since 1999.
To develop a vision for the Arlington diocese, Burbidge said he would listen, travel throughout the diocese and bring the joy of the gospel to its parishes and missions.
“We must imitate the compassion of Jesus, especially in our outreach to the poor and those in most need, which this diocese is known for,” he said. “We must celebrate and defend and protect the sacredness of all human life and the dignity of each and every human person, without exception.”
Burbidge, 59, has spent the last decade as Bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh in North Carolina and said serving there had brought him great joy
Born in Philadelphia on June 16, 1957, the second son of Francis and Shirley Burbidge, the new bishop went to Catholic grade schools and in 1975 earned his diploma from Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, Pa.
Bishop Burbidge later attended St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and John Cardinal Krol in 1984 ordained a him a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The bishop holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s in theology from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, plus a master’s in education administration from Villanova University and a doctorate in education from Immaculata College.
Burbidge pledged his loyalty and faithful obedience to the Pope. The announcement occurred on the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, and Burbidge said he was reminded to strive daily to achieve the saint’s simplicity, humility and charity.
“In imitation of St. Francis, and especially in these unsettling times, we must also be instruments of peace and help to alleviate all forms of hatred and violence and division,” he said.
The new bishop called the Diocese of Arlington faithful and vibrant and said in his acceptance letter to the Pope that he would tirelessly work to build upon the strong foundation provided by his three predecessors.
Burbidge called Bishop Loverde a “treasured friend” and said he would depend on the outgoing bishop’s support, prayers and wisdom.
Loverde, 76, said he was confident parishioners would find Burbidge approachable, welcoming, perceptive and attentive.
“He teaches faith with integrity, with joy, with clarity,” Loverde said. “You will find within him great pastoral care and warmth.”
Asked how he would help victims of abuse by clergy members, Burbidge said each such meeting would be an “opportunity to convey our deep apologies and regrets for any such actions . . . I assure the victims and their families that I will continue this great work.”
The diocese, with 468,000 registered Catholics and about 160,000 unregistered ones, faces challenges of ongoing growth, Loverde said.
Burbidge allowed he still had strong allegiances to the professional sports teams in Philadelphia, but was ready to hop on the Washington Nationals’ bandwagon.
His coat of arms reflects his history and beliefs: a Celtic cross to honor his Irish heritage, a fleur de lis to honor the Blessed Mother, the sword of St. Michael, the crown of St. Charles Borromeo and the star from the shield of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
While not specifying which candidates people should vote for in the upcoming election, church leaders will encourage their flock to do homework and read more than headlines and blogs to learn about the office seekers, he said.
“We very much say it’s essential that we bring our faith into the public arena,” Burbidge said.