Most. Rev. Robert J. Cunningham, Bishop of Syracuse, is appointed Apostolic Administrator
Holy See accepts Bishop Clark’s resignation
ROCHESTER, New York, Sept. 21, 2012 – Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Bishop of Rochester Matthew H. Clark. Bishop of Syracuse Robert J. Cunningham has been appointed as Apostolic Administrator of the Rochester Diocese until a new bishop is named at a later date.
The appointment is effective Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. Bishop Cunningham will oversee all aspects of the 12-county Diocese of Rochester, as well as continuing to lead the Diocese of Syracuse. Rev. Dr. Joseph A. Hart, who served as vicar general and moderator of the Pastoral Center under Bishop Clark, will be Bishop Cunningham’s delegate in the daily governance of the Diocese of Rochester.
Bishop Clark submitted his resignation on his 75th birthday on July 15, 2012, as is required of all diocesan bishops by church law. As the 8th Bishop of Rochester, Bishop Clark served from June 1979 until today, second only in length of tenure to Rochester’s first bishop, Most Rev. Bernard J. McQuaid.
Bishop Cunningham, a native of Buffalo who was ordained a priest in 1969, served as the 13th Bishop of Ogdensburg from 2004 until his appointment as the 10th Bishop of Syracuse in April 2009.
“I am greatly honored, and humbled, to serve as Apostolic Administrator of this diocese,” said Bishop Cunningham. “I ask for the prayers of all that I might serve you well, as long as need be. I will be traveling weekly between the Dioceses of Syracuse and Rochester, and hope to make acquaintance with many new friends.
“Above all, I want to help wherever I can, to be the solid bridge that spans the time between Bishop Clark and whomever the 9th Bishop of Rochester may be. I do not know when that will happen, but I do know I am at this Diocese’s service as long as it takes.
Bishop Clark said, “I assure the good and faithful people in our 12 counties that the governance of this Diocese is in excellent hands. Now that provision has been made for the pastoral care of our diocese, I am peaceful; and I look forward with lively curiosity to a new phase of my life and ministry after more than 33 years as Bishop of Rochester. I humbly thank God for having lived during this incredible time and for the opportunity to shepherd a beautiful, faithful and inspired people. Words cannot express my gratitude to the people of this Diocese, whom I love very much.”
The Apostolic Nuncio, the Pope’s representative and ambassador in the United States, and the Holy See’s Congregation for Bishops are responsible for identifying possible candidates to be the new Bishop of Rochester. They present their thoughts directly to the Holy Father, who makes the final determination and appointment. The process can take several months.
More than 300,000 Roman Catholics reside in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, which was established in March 1868. The counties contained within the Diocese are: Monroe, Livingston, Wayne, Ontario, Seneca, Cayuga, Yates, Tompkins, Schuyler, Tioga, Chemung and Steuben.
About Bishop Cunningham
Bishop Robert J. Cunningham, son the late Cecil and Grace Cunningham, was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. He received his early education at St. John the Baptist Parish Elementary School and the Diocesan Preparatory Seminary, Buffalo. His college and seminary education continued at St. John Vianney Seminary, East Aurora, where he earned both Bachelor of Arts and Master of Divinity degrees. In 1978 he received a Licentiate Degree in Canon Law from the Catholic University of America.
Bishop Cunningham was ordained to the priesthood by Auxiliary Bishop Bernard J. McLaughlin on May 24, 1969 at St.
Joseph New Cathedral in Buffalo. His first assignment was associate pastor at Blessed Sacrament Parish, Kenmore. In 1972 he became the assistant pastor at his home parish of St. John the Baptist, Kenmore.
He was named secretary to Bishop Edward D. Head and assistant chancellor of the Diocese of Buffalo in 1974. Upon the completion of his Licentiate Degree in Canon Law, Bishop Cunningham was named a judge in the marriage tribunal and vice-chancellor of the diocese. He was named a Monsignor by John Paul II in 1984. In 1985 he was appointed chancellor for the diocese and the following year, vicar general. In January 2002, Bishop Henry J. Mansell named Bishop Cunningham pastor of St. Louis Church in downtown Buffalo. In December of 2003, the diocesan College of Consultors in Buffalo elected him diocesan administrator, a position he held until his installation as the Bishop of Ogdensburg. On March 9, 2004 His Holiness Pope John Paul II appointed Msgr. Robert J. Cunningham as the 13th Bishop of Ogdensburg. Bishop Cunningham was ordained and installed as the Bishop of Ogdensburg on May 18, 2004 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ogdensburg. The Diocese has over 128,000 Catholics in the eight northernmost counties of New York State covering an area of 12,036 square miles.
On April 21, 2009 His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Cunningham as the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Syracuse. He was installed as the Bishop of Syracuse on May 26, 2009 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse. The Diocese of Syracuse has over 285,000 Catholics in seven counties of Upstate New York. The Diocese of Syracuse was established November 26, 1886 and covers 5,749 square miles.
Bishop Cunningham has served on a number of boards including Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Buffalo and the Diocese of Ogdensburg, Baker Victory Services in Lackawanna, NY, the Cantalician Center in Buffalo, Board of Managers of St. Joseph’s Home in Ogdensburg and the Board of Trustees of the former Wadhams Hall Seminary College in Ogdensburg. The Bishop was also a charter member of the Kenmore Mercy Hospital Foundation Board. Currently, Bishop Cunningham serves on the board of trustees of Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, NY.
In the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Cunningham has served as Chairman of Region II (Province of New York). He currently serves as a representative from Region II to the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He also serves on the Committee for Priorities and Plans, as well as on the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People and the Sub-committee on Native American Catholics. Bishop Cunningham was presented with an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Niagara University, Niagara Falls in 1991 and St. John’s University, Staten Island in 2007 and Canisius College in 2009. The Kenmore Mercy Hospital Foundation Board honored him for his years of service with the Sister Mechtilde Award in 2004. In 2008, Bishop Cunningham received the Cure of Ars Award from Christ the King Seminary.
Bishop Cunningham has a brother and sister-in-law, Patrick J. and Sheila Cunningham, Williamsville, NY, and a sister and brother- in-law, Eileen and Dr. Ronald G. Korn, Clarence, NY. He has thirteen nieces and nephews and twenty-eight grandnieces and grandnephews.