This is a reprint from N.W. Progress (Prayers requested for Archbishop Brunett and the process that will bring to Western Washington a new pastoral leader):
From Seattle Archbishop Alex J. Brunett:
“The Lord alone was their leader, no strange god was with him.” (Dt 32:12)
When Moses transferred authority to Joshua in Hebrew Scriptures (Dt 31:7), he told the people that God would lead them to their future home just as God had led them during their 40-year sojourn in the desert. Moses reassured the Hebrew people, and his words assure us, that while circumstances may change, the Lord is always faithful and trustworthy.
These words resonate within our own church as we continue forward in unity despite changes in pastoral leadership. The rite of succession beginning with St. Peter assures us that the church will remain one, holy, catholic and apostolic, entrusted to the pastoral care of her ministers and led by “the Lord alone.”
This was the essence of a blessing offered by the late Pope John Paul II on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul 11 years ago when I joined other metropolitan archbishops receiving the pallium in Rome: “I pray in a particular way for the ecclesial communities entrusted to your pastoral care: I invoke upon them an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so that he may lead them, filled with faith, hope and love.”
His words, like the words of Moses in Deuteronomy, are particularly poignant during times of transition. While the pastoral care of the church is entrusted to individual ministers, it is God who leads us.
Having reached the age of 75, Pope Benedict XVI will choose my successor and bestow on him the sacred pallium sometime in the not too distant future. Although the details of the process leading up to this transition are confidential — and there is no way of knowing precisely when this selection will be made — a number of well-established steps precede the appointment of any bishop or archbishop.
Local report, recommendations
As this selection process moves forward, I thought it might be helpful to explain these steps in some detail. The entire process can take a year or more to complete, and it follows the same basic outlines whether it is the first appointment of a priest as a bishop, a bishop's transfer to another diocese or his promotion to archbishop.
There are three key participants involved in the appointment process: the apostolic nuncio, the Congregation for Bishops and the pope. The apostolic nuncio, currently Archbishop Pietro Sambi, is the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States. He also is a key person in deciding what names are recommended to the Congregation for Bishops for possible episcopal appointment.
The Congregation for Bishops is a department of the Roman Curia, the central administrative and judicial offices of the Catholic Church, with responsibility for moderating episcopal appointments and other actions related to bishops and bishops’ conferences. There are currently four U.S. Cardinals on the Congregation for Bishops.
At the request of the nuncio, I prepared a report on the conditions and needs here. My report, developed after broad consultation with pastoral leaders in the archdiocese, included suggestions of individuals in the archdiocese that might be consulted as the process goes forward. This report, along with a list of potential candidates, was forwarded to the nuncio and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
At this point, the selection procedure is in the hands of the nuncio, who will conduct his own investigation into the needs of the archdiocese and the suitability of candidates. Archbishop Sambi will consult broadly with bishops within our region, the leadership of the USCCB and other archbishops around the country.
The nuncio will then narrow his list and send a questionnaire to a broad group of individuals who know each of the candidates. After collecting all the material he will review it and prepare his own report along with a terna — or list of three candidates — for the Congregation for Bishops in Rome. His report will include his recommendation for the next Archbishop of Seattle.
The Holy Father decides
All the documentation from the nuncio is sent to the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, currently Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re. A cardinal “relator” is chosen to summarize the documentation and make a report to the full congregation, which generally meets twice a month on Thursdays.
After hearing the cardinal relator's report, the congregation will discuss the appointment and then vote. The Congregation may follow the recommendation of the nuncio, choose another of the candidates on the terna or ask that another terna be prepared. The Congregation for bishops will then create a terna for the Holy Father who makes the final decision.
At a private audience with the pope, usually on a Saturday, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops will present the recommendations of the Congregation to the Holy Father. A few days later, the pope will inform the Congregation of his decision. The Congregation will then notify the nuncio, who will contact the candidate. Once the candidate accepts, the Vatican will be notified and a date will be set for the announcement.
I pledge my support and prayer to all those involved in this process. The pope has a special fondness for us here in the Archdiocese of Seattle, and I am confident that he will select someone who is well qualified to serve and that he will give us a shepherd with the pastoral heart of the Good Shepherd and a love for all God’s people.
I ask each of you to pray each day for the selection of our new archbishop. At the same time, I am grateful and hopeful that he will find a vibrant community of believers here, and the support and love of the priests, religious and laity who serve with dedication, compassionate love and dynamic hope for the future. That has been my experience, and I know it will be no different for my successor. May God love and bless you.