New Metropolitan of Pittsburgh’s Byzantine Catholics

MUNHALL, Pa. (CNS) — Archbishop William C. Skurla said that “the need to present Jesus Christ and his Gospel teachings in a way that touches the lives of our people” is one of his most pressing priorities as he assumes the administration of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh.

Archbishop Skurla, formerly bishop of the Ruthenian Diocese of Passaic, N.J., was appointed Jan. 19 by Pope Benedict XVI as metropolitan of the archeparchy.

At the April 18 Divine Liturgy marking his enthronement as metropolitan, he recalled his predecessor in the post, the late Archbishop Basil Schott.

Archbishop Schott had wanted to engender a renewal of the 58,000 Byzantine Catholics in his territory, which runs from Pennsylvania to Texas with churches in seven states. But he died in 2010 with the work yet to be done.

“After years of study and planning, the work begins today,” Archbishop Skurla said. “We have to inspire our young and revitalize our leaders to surrender themselves unconditionally to the Lord.”

“Just in my lifespan we’ve seen the world radically changed,” the 55-year-old Archbishop Skurla said in his homily at the liturgy. “Some of them (changes) have been good,” he added, but others undercut the mission of the church and have “dulled our ability to see God.”

The archbishop said he hopes to bring Byzantine Catholics to a “deeper understanding of the spiritual life,” and “be a model for our priests and our religious, and hopefully bring our people back” to the regular practice of their faith.

More than 700 people were in attendance at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Munhall for the enthronement. Given the far-flung nature of the archeparchy, the ceremonies also were streamed live on the Web, allowing more than twice the number present at the cathedral to watch the proceedings, including 399 people in Slovakia.

Among the prelates in attendance were Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the papal nuncio to the United States, and Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki of St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, as well as 19 Eastern-rite bishops and 12 Latin-rite bishops, plus representatives of seven other Christian denominations.

Archbishop Skurla elicited laughter during his homily when he said that Catholics from his former New Jersey diocese “threatened to put duct tape around me and take me back to Passaic, so you have to watch them.”

To still more laughter, he added that with his new residence near Pittsburgh, “I have to give up my allegiance to the Minnesota Vikings, unless they go to the Super Bowl.” Archbishop Skurla was born in Duluth, Minn.

But even as a youngster, he had a budding familiarity with Pittsburgh, he said. “My father used to commute to Pittsburgh once a month,” he recalled. “Growing up we always heard stories about a magical place — a land of rivers, of more ridges than you could count, roads that went right through mountains, not over them. They even had a hockey stadium with a removable cover — which probably wasn’t such a good idea.”

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