Harrisburg's new bishop pledges outreach, new view

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Jan 27, 2014 4:00 AM

(Harrisburg) -- The Diocese of Harrisburg will soon have a new leader.

Pope Francis decided on the Most Reverend Ronald Gainer for the job nearly two weeks ago, but the Vatican waited until the feast of Saint Francis de Sales to officially announce his appointment.


In a press conference lasting more than a half hour, Gainer deployed a mix of intellect, wit and straight talk.

A native of Pottsville, he comes from the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, where he's served for the past 11 years.

"I think I have a little bit of a jump start, one might say, having served 29 years a priest in the Diocese of Allentown. So I hope that I come here back to my roots, some sense of what are the issues of the people here in this part of the Commonwealth."

He says he hopes to reach out to young and old alike - through town halls, listening sessions, and even a program called Theology on Tap.

"Those who might criticize me, and they certainly can rightly criticize my ministry, no one would criticize my accessibility, my availability. I would imagine opportunities such as those listening sessions, town hall type meetings, to hear from all the faithful."

Gainer assumed a different tone than previous leaders on hot-button issues like same-sex marriage, and says he would prefer to focus on helping the poor, similar to Pope Francis's style of leadership.

The Bishop-elect also joked that he'll now have greater access to Yuengling beer after years in Kentucky.

The Bishop Designate will officially become the eleventh bishop for the Diocese on March 19th.

The Diocese of Harrisburg covers 15 midstate counties, and has nearly a quarter million Catholics.

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