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Pope appoints new bishop for Fairbanks Diocese

November 8, 2014

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — A diocese official says Pope Francis has appointed a new bishop for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks.

Diocese spokesman Robert Hannon says in a statement Saturday the pope asked the Rev. Chad Zielinski to lead the United States’ northernmost diocese. Zielinski is an active military chaplain at Eielson Air Force Base. According to Hannon, it’s the first time in recent history an active military chaplain has been named spiritual head of a diocese.

Zielinski’s ordination and installation is scheduled for Dec. 15.

He replaces Bishop Donald Kettler, who was reassigned to Minnesota last year. Archbishop Roger Schwietz has been leading the diocese in the interim.

The diocese covers 400,000-square miles including multiple Alaska Native villages. It filed for bankruptcy after numerous claims of clerical sexual abuse, reaching a settlement with more than 300 victims. The diocese emerged from reorganization in 2010.

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