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Bishop named for area diocese

By Melanie B. Smith · 340-2468

Officials of the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham announced Bishop Robert Joseph Baker as the new diocesan leader.

Pope Benedict XVI named Baker, 63, to the post that was vacant more than two years.

Diocesan officials made the announcement at a press conference Tuesday morning at St. Paul’s Cathedral Life Center in Birmingham.

A native of Ohio, Baker has been bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, S.C., since 1999. He was ordained a priest in 1970. He is a graduate of Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, and Gregorian University in Rome, Italy. He has previously served as pastor of the Cathedral of St. Augustine, Fla.

Bishop David E. Foley officially retired in 2005 at age 75 but has served as diocesan administrator since that time.

Baker is author of several books, including, “When Did We See You Lord?” with the Rev. Benedict Groeschel, who is an EWTN personality. The Catholic satellite network EWTN was founded in Irondale.

The process for naming bishops is taking longer than in the past, in part because the pope is proceeding carefully, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported in July. The Pittsburgh diocese has been without a bishop for more than a year.

Other vacant dioceses include Shreveport, La., and Little Rock, Ark.

The Diocese of Birmingham oversees about 83,700 Catholics, according to the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Installation for Baker will be Oct. 2.

Baker said Tuesday at the press conference, “I look forward, as your bishop, to sharing with you what I have personally experienced so many times in so many ways, as a Catholic Christian growing up in Ohio, as a priest in Florida, as a bishop in South Carolina — God’s tremendous love.

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