Daily steps down as leader of Queens Catholic church

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Bishop Thomas Daily, the religious leader of Catholics in Queens and Brooklyn, announced his retirement last week, saying his age, not recent criticism of how he dealt with priests accused of sexual abuse, was the cause of his departure.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Camden, N.J., a figure known for his work with immigrants, was named Daily’s replacement as head of the Diocese of Brooklyn, which includes Queens.

As required by canon law, Daily submitted a letter of resignation to Pope John Paul II on his 75th birthday on Sept. 23, 2002.

On Friday, church authorities announced the pope had accepted Daily’s resignation.

“In my 13 years as bishop of Brooklyn, I have seen the gift of faith alive among all our people,” Daily said in a prepared statement. “Despite the difficult challenges which we have all encountered and still encounter, there have been tremendous signs of hope and growth.”

The announcement came one week after Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly issued a report criticizing Daily for his handling of priests accused of sexually abusing primarily children.

From 1976 to 1984, Daily was second in command at the Archdiocese of Boston, serving as vicar for administration.

In charge of responding to complaints of sexual abuse leveled against clergy, Daily often transferred priests suspected of such behavior without telling the new parish of the accusations, Reilly said.

Reilly’s report found that from 1940 to the present, some 250 priests in the Archdiocese of Boston were accused of sexual abuse in cases involving 789 people, almost all of whom were children at the time. Church workers also have been cited in the investigation.

DiMarzio, the 59-year-old bishop of Camden, has experience in handling complaints of sexual abuse.

Last year, he set up a toll-free number, run by an independent attorney and a former judge, for allegations of sexual abuse in his diocese.

Under DiMarzio, the Diocese of Camden published a 32-page special edition of its newspaper, the Catholic Star Herald, devoted to the nationwide scandal surrounding priests accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with children.

DiMarzio, who will become the seventh bishop of Brooklyn in the diocese’s 150-year history, also has a background in immigration, serving as chairman of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.

“Perhaps in some way I have been especially prepared for this ministry, since my whole priesthood and Episcopal ministry has involved the pastoral care and social care of immigrants, refugees and migrants,” DiMarzio said in a statement. “Now the great challenges of this urban diocese are before me and I welcome this challenge with hope and enthusiasm.”

After a recent mass at St. Kevin’s Roman Catholic Church in Auburndale, parishioners had a mixed reaction to Daily’s departure.

“I think he did a pretty good job while he was here. I am happy to welcome the new one, too,” said Theresa, who did not want to give her last name.

Another woman, who did not want to be identified, said, “I am very glad we are getting a new bishop.”

Others said they hoped DiMarzio would bring a greater focus to Queens, saying Daily paid more attention to Brooklyn.

Of all the 195 archdioceses and dioceses of the Catholic Church in the United States, the Diocese of Brooklyn has the largest population of Catholics, with 1.82 million living in Brooklyn and Queens, according to statistics provided by the diocese.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 141.

Posted 7:24 pm, October 10, 2011
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