Local Pastor Reacts to News of Apostolic Visitation

"This is a serious step the Holy Father has taken..."

Brendan Keany
October 04, 2019 - 12:10 pm

AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

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BUFFALO (WBEN) - On Thursday, it was announced that the Holy See authorized an apostolic visitation for Buffalo's Catholic Diocese.

"An apostolic visitation is an expression of the Pope's concern for a local church - a local church is a diocese," said Monsignor Robert Zapfel of St. Leo the Great in Amherst. "Word has reached the Vatican and the Holy Father that there are concerns happening here in or local church, in our diocese, so he has taken the very unusual step of assigning an apostolic visitation...to look at the concerns that have been expressed with regard to the local church, the Diocese of Buffalo."

This visitation will take place in the near future, led by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, and DiMarzio will submit his findings to the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church in Vatican City. It might raise red flags to some that a fact finding mission would be conducted by someone on the same level as Bishop Richard Malone, but Zapfel says that won't be an issue because DiMarzio's presence is representative of the Holy See.

"The mandate, the ability for Bishop DiMarzio to come into Buffalo is from Rome, and so, when he comes in, he comes with the authority of the Holy See of the Vatican," he said. "This is a very important, very unusual, very serious step and very serious expression of the Holy Father's concern for the Diocese of Buffalo."

However, some local advocates and critics of Malone aren't entirely sure what this visitation will yield.

James Faluszczak has long called for Malone's resignation, and he has always been critical and sometimes cynical of the Catholic Church investigating itself when it comes to these types of matters. However, he believes this announcement may mean something a little bit different.

"This could be more serious; I'm not going to say this is the status quo because I do think this is going to result in his removal - I'd be surprised if it didn't," said Faluszczak. "The criticism that I have is that they're saying right out of the gate that this is a confidential investigation. We may never know the result of it; they may oust him and never tell us the reason for that matter."

Regardless of the outcome of this visitation, Zapfel simply hopes this points the diocese in the right direction.

"With all that's happened in the last year and more here in our diocese, I think many priests and hopefully many people will see it as a sign that their concerns have been heard," said Zapfel. "Sometimes, we might feel that we're pretty isolated here in Western New York. Who's going to hear about the problems in little Buffalo when you think of the church throughout the world - a billion people in the Catholic Church - but this is a serious step the Holy Father has taken in his expression of concern about our church, our diocese."

Listen to Zapfel's full comments below:

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