200th Anniversary of the Diocese of Richmond
Greetings from the Metropolitan Archbishop of Baltimore
St. Peter’s Pro-Cathedral
November 7, 2020
Introduction – Dear Friends in Christ…
As the Metropolitan Archbishop of Baltimore, I am honored and delighted to join with the clergy, religious, and laity of the Premier See in offering heartfelt greetings and warmest congratulations to the Diocese of Richmond as you celebrate your 200th anniversary.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Diocese of Richmond share a rich history, and today remained joined together as part of the Province of Baltimore, together with the Dioceses of Arlington, Wheeling-Charleston, and Wilmington, DE.
In 1820, when the Diocese of Richmond was founded, the Church in the United States was in its infancy. The Archdiocese of Baltimore had been founded three decades earlier, in 1789, and originally stretched from the Canadian Border, down to Florida, and out to the Mississippi River. Richmond was one of the earliest dioceses to be formed from Baltimore; and, as you have read, the priests and people who founded far-flung missions in Virginia had to cope with difficult conditions, including poverty, isolation, and a lack of clergy. Among those who came in service to the fledgling Church in Virginia were Jesuit fathers John Carroll and Leonard Neale, the 1st and 2nd Archbishops of Baltimore.
Between the first and second bishops of Richmond, there was a gap of some 20 years until Bishop Richard Whalen, a priest of Baltimore, was appointed as the 2nd Bishop of Richmond in 1841. For five years, (1872-1877) James Gibbons served as the 4th Bishop of Richmond, until his appointment as the 9th Archbishop of Baltimore. He was succeeded by Bishop John J. Keane, another Baltimore priest, and later, became the 1st Rector of The Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C. Other Baltimore connections include Bishop Peter Leo Ireton and Bishop John J. Russell, both priests of Baltimore who served as the 9th and 10th Bishops of Richmond respectively.
Last, but not least, your current bishop, Bishop Barry Knestout and I served together, for many years, as priests of the Archdiocese of Washington. We both were privileged to serve under James Cardinal Hickey, the 4th Archbishop of Washington, a priest and bishop who was a true friend and a wonderful mentor to both of us. In fact, Bishop Knestout and I worked together so long and so hard that we even started to look like each other! I can tell you from long experience – that in Bishop Knestout – you are blessed with a very good, far-seeing, and totally dedicated bishop
The Gospel and the Eucharist
Yet, the mere mention of prominent historical figures, however worthy, does not begin to do justice to the hard work, struggle, and sacrifice of countless people who labored long and hard to establish the foundations of the Church, here in Virginia. The Diocese of Richmond has surely done its historical homework in preparing for your bicentennial celebration, but the study of your history had a purpose and a goal. It is the same purpose and goal of those pioneers on whose shoulders we stand, namely, to preach the Gospel and to celebrate the Most Holy Eucharist, to live in presence of Christ the Savior, as members of his Body, the Church.
Thus, your bicentennial fittingly concludes with a Eucharistic Congress, in which you celebrate the presence of Christ in the Word proclaimed, in the priestly minister who offers the Mass, in the assembly that gathers, and above all, in the bread and wine totally transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. For the proclamation of the mystery of faith is the true meaning of your history up until this point and the only true foundation and point of departure for your next 200 years.
With that, I renew my warmest congratulations and my prayers and with the whole Province of Baltimore ask God’s choicest blessings to come upon the clergy, the religious, and laity of the Diocese of Richmond, ad multos annos!