BUFFALO, NY- This is Holy Week, one of the most reverent and busy weeks of the year for Bishop Edward Kmiec, but for him it is also a time of uncertainty.
Bishop Kmiec is waiting for the Vatican to name the next bishop of Buffalo. As required by Church law, Kmiec submitted his letter of resignation to Pope Benedict XVI on his 75th birthday. That was back on June 4th.
"We're seeing in the United States right now that the Holy Father is making appointments beyond a year after the resignation has been submitted but we just, we don't know [how long it will take,]" said Buffalo Diocese spokesman Kevin Keenan.
Keenan says Bishop Kmiec, as well as Archbishops and Cardinals have likely given names of potential successors to the Office of the Congregation of Bishops, but those names are kept secret. "They would then take the list and come up with three names that they would then present to the Holy Father and then he may select one of those. He may say bring me more names or he may simply select someone on his own."
According to Keenan, once the pontiff makes his decision the papal nuncio, the Vatican's ambassador in Washington, will make the very important phone call. "From what I understand he says, 'The Holy Father has it in mind to name you bishop of,' and then he names the diocese. 'Do you accept?' And I don't know that it would be easy to say no to a request from the Holy Father."
Finally, once an announcement is made here in Buffalo, the transition begins which is another somewhat lengthy process. "A committee will be hard at work in the diocese planning the installation of the next bishop and it would usually be two to three months after the announcement is made," said Keenan.
Bishop Kmiec's legacy will most certainly reflect how he served through difficult times including The Journey In Faith and Grace, a reorganization of parishes that began with 277 in 2005 and ended with 177 today. "He's done it in a collaborative spirit. I think he'll be remembered for that," said Keenan.
The Bishop admits this life has been consuming and he's ready to meet his successor. "It'll be nice not to have to be on my toes every day. It'll be quite an adjustment though. I've been a bishop for 30 years," said Bishop Kmiec.
The last Buffalo bishop to write a letter of resignation was Bishop Edward Head back in 1994. It took about 7 months for Pope John Paul II to find a replacement- that was Bishop Henry Mansell. When Mansell became Archbishop of Hartford in December 2003 it took a little more than 8 months to name Bishop Kmiec as his replacement and he was installed two months later.
Kmiec is one of 21 US bishops who could retire this year, including Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, a Buffalo native, who also celebrated his 75th birthday last June.