Pope Francis names new bishop of Brooklyn’s Roman Catholics

September 30, 2021 Francesca Norsen Tate
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Bishop Brennan is NY native who served Rockville Centre diocese

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn for the past 18 years, is stepping down, to be succeeded by the Most Rev. Robert J. Brennan, who will be the eighth bishop of Brooklyn. The news was announced on Wednesday by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

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Upon reaching the age of 75 two years ago, Bishop DiMarzio had submitted his resignation on that date, in accordance with canon law. Pope Francis finally accepted DiMarzio’s resignation on Wednesday, Sept. 29 — exactly four weeks after the bishop was exonerated of sexual abuse allegations.

Bishop-designate Brennan, who will be officially installed on Nov. 30 at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph’s, Prospect Heights, was already having a busy day in the diocese. Following an 8 a.m. Mass at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, Bishop Brennan led a prayer service and met with diocesan staff to lay out his priorities upon receiving the mantle from his predecessor. The diocese includes Queens as well as Brooklyn.

During that Mass, the prelates welcomed Police Commissioner Dermot Shea and a contingent of police officers attending a Mass to celebrate the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of cops, which is marked on Sept. 29 each year.

Addressing the police delegation, Bishop Brennan remarked, “I’m looking forward to getting to know each and every one of you. I want to serve you with all my heart.”

Bishop Brennan appeared at a morning joint news conference side by side with Bishop DiMarzio, 77, who called his successor “the perfect man for the job.”

A Bronx native, Bishop-designate Brennan lived on Long Island, earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in mathematics and computer science at St. John’s University in Queens, trained for the priesthood at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, New York, and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre on May 27, 1989.

He served as secretary to the bishop for three prelates: Bishops John McGann, James McHugh and William Murphy. He also served as the vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Rockville Centre and was ordained an auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Rockville Centre on July 25, 2012.

Bishop Brennan was later called to the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, where he has served as bishop since 2019.

Bishop DiMarzio said that his successor, Bishop-designate Brennan, “knows New York. He is someone familiar with the issues here. He’s a quick study. He knows a lot of the priests already in the diocese.”

Bishop-designate Brennan noted he will begin his tenure in Brooklyn as the synod process is getting underway.

“The timing of that fits perfectly with this transition,” said Brennan. “My tenure here will begin with listening. I’m kind of excited by that.

Brooklyn’s newly-named bishop, the Most. Rev. Robert J. Brennan Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Columbus

“As a student at St. John’s University, in the heart of Queens, I first experienced the remarkable diversity of the Diocese of Brooklyn,” he said. “The parishes of Brooklyn and Queens have long embraced the richness of that diversity, and the bishops and diocesan leadership have sought to provide for and learn from immigrants from around the world.”

Bishop-designate Brennan also marvels at the Catholic school enrollment increase during the pandemic within the Brooklyn Diocese.

Addressing the clergy sex abuse crisis, the bishop-designate called it “horrendous, intolerable,” and vowed to fight it. He also praised DiMarzio’s commitment to assisting victims, including the creation of a hotline and office where charges of abuse could be reported confidentially.

Bishop-designate Brennan has served with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a member of the Committee for Catholic Education, the Administrative Committee and the Priorities and Plans Committee.

Even though a Bronx native, Bishop-designate prefers the Major League Baseball team that’s based in Queens. He’s a Mets fan.

The Eagle thanks The Tablet diocesan newspaper for additional information on Bishop Brennan’s official welcome.

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