The Virginian-Pilot Report:
The Most Reverend Francis Xavier DiLorenzo is installed as the twelfth Bishop of Richmond on Monday, May 24, 2004 at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond, Va. Bishop DiLorenzo sits with Pastoral staff in hand, the staff associated with leading the flock as a shepherd might.
The Most Reverend Francis X. DiLorenzo, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond, was the keynote speaker at the groundbreaking ceremony of Saint Patrick Catholic School in Norfolk on Friday afternoon.
RICHMOND Bishop Francis Xavier DiLorenzo of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, a leader who drew both devotion and controversy, died Thursday night at age 75, officials said in a statement. DiLorenzo, who served as bishop for more than a decade and announced his resignation earlier this year, died at St. Mary's Hospital. "He was an exceedingly gracious and thoughtful bishop for the diocese," said Father Dan Beeman, pastor at Norfolk's Holy Trinity Catholic Church and chaplain at Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School in Virginia Beach.
The diocese announced DiLorenzo's death in a statement Friday morning. "He was a faithful servant of the Church for 49 years and a Shepherd of the Diocese of Richmond for 13 years," Mark Lane, the diocese's vicar general, wrote in the statement. DiLorenzo was named bishop by Pope John Paul II in March 2004, according to the church's website. He announced his resignation earlier this year, because of a canon law that when a diocesan bishop reaches his 75th birthday, he must start the retirement process, The Pilot reported. The church is still searching for his replacement. DiLorenzo made a return to conservative values his top priority throughout his tenure and vowed to bring back practices in line with the Scriptures, according to the Associated Press.
Within a few months of being named bishop, he appointed a diocesan theologian and began rolling back some of the more liberal policies put in effect by his progressive predecessor, the former Bishop Walter E. Sullivan, the AP reported. "If you are welcomed into a family, there is a culture or set of values you need to be comfortable with," DiLorenzo said in a 2004 interview. He also suspended the diocese's first official group that reached out to LGBT Catholics, the Sexual Minorities Commission and dismissed an advocate for ordaining female priests, according to the AP. But Beeman said he didn't see DiLorenzo as controversial. "The diversity of bishops is one of the gifts of the church, so I don't see (his differences from his predecessor) as a negative," Beeman said. "He loved the people." DiLorenzo had a strong relationship with his priests, "and he was always open. You could be honest with him," said Beeman, who was ordained by DiLorenzo. "He wanted our Catholic parishes to be warm and welcoming but he wanted them to be faithfully Catholic." The bishop was also passionate about Catholic schools and youth ministry, Beeman said, including starting an educational endowment fund and creating the Segura Initiative, an outreach effort to expand Catholic education for Hispanic students. The Catholic Diocese of Richmond encompasses 33,000 square miles, including the Eastern Shore, stretching from the Chesapeake Bay west to West Virginia and Kentucky. It includes 153 parishes and about 220,000 Catholics. DiLorenzo made local headlines over the years. He fired the Rev. Leo Manalo, a founder and leader of the San Lorenzo Spiritual Center who was beloved by many local Filipino Catholics, according to Pilot archives, spurring protests from the community. He also removed the Rev. James Parke from Virginia Beach's Church of the Holy Apostles – the nation's first combined Episcopal and Catholic parish – worrying parishioners who thought it could be the end of the ecumenical experiment. Father Joseph Metzger, pastor at Norfolk's Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, remembers that DiLorenzo "liked to laugh and liked to know what was going on." He said in addition to making Catholic education more affordable, the bishop was successful in building relationships with his counterparts across the globe, making the Richmond diocese home to many international priests, such as some in Hampton Roads from Africa and the Philippines. "He will be missed," Metzger said.
DiLorenzo was born in Philadelphia in 1942 and was the oldest of three children, the diocese website said. He served in a variety of roles for the Catholic Church, including as a chaplain and biology and religion professor at a high school. He studied moral theology in Rome and earned a doctorate in sacred theology, according to the website. He served as bishop in Honolulu for a decade before coming to Richmond. In 2015, DiLorenzo came to Norfolk for a symposium on climate change. He stressed that he and other "religionists" deal with matters of faith and spiritual belief but are not in conflict with scientists who deal with facts and physical evidence. "We are not fighting with each other," he told the audience. "Right now, it's important for us to zero in on what the science is saying and pay attention." The bishop was speaking out as recently as last week, when he released a statement on the violence in Charlottesville.
"Hatred, and its manifestations of racism, neo-Nazism and white supremacy, are sins against God and profoundly wound the children of God," DiLorenzo wrote. "We ask (God's) mercy, pardon and wisdom as we root out these long-standing evils, strands of which, tragically, remain woven within the fabric of our society."
Michael Cistola, a member of St. Benedict's Church in Chesapeake, said he didn't know DiLorenzo personally but remembers him as a "middle of the road type of guy." When the bishop visited Hampton Roads years ago, Cistola recalled him saying the church was kind of "like a box of chocolates. There's some fruit and some nuts, but it was his job to keep everyone inside the box."
Text from the Virginia Pilot Online