How a bishop is chosen

Categories: Around the Diocese

Nov. 15, 2013, edition

On Sept. 20, Pope Francis appointed Bishop Donald Kettler of the Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska, to be the ninth bishop of St. Cloud. Bishop John Kinney’s retirement, tendered in June of 2012, was accepted by Pope Francis at the same time.

Bishop Kinney continued as the leader of the St. Cloud Diocese until Bishop Kettler was installed Nov. 7.

The selection of new bishops happens in a series of stages, according to an outline of the process on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website. The apostolic nuncio — currently Archishop Carlo Maria Viganò — collects names of bishop candidates forwarded to him from provinces around the country. (A province is a territory consisting of an archdiocese, called the metropolitan see, and one or more dioceses, called suffragan sees.)

The nuncio then conducts his own investigation into the suitability of the candidates as well as the diocese’s needs as identified, in cases of retirement, by the outgoing bishop. The nuncio also consults with others for additional input.

When his investigation is completed, the nuncio forwards a list of three candidates — called a “terna” — to the Congregation for Bishops in Rome. The candidates are listed alphabetically, with the nuncio’s preference noted.

The congregation may follow the nuncio’s recommendation, choose another candidate on the “terna” or request that another “terna” be prepared. Eventually, the prefect for the congregation — currently Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet — presents the congregation’s recommendations to the pope, who makes the final decision.

After the pope makes his choice, the congregation notifies the nuncio, who in turn contacts the candidate and asks if he will accept. If the answer is “yes,” the Vatican is notified and a date is set for the public announcement.