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The Latest: Leader of West Virginia Catholics ‘full of hope’

July 23, 2019
FILE - A 2015 file photo shows West Virginia Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, then-bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. In a news conference scheduled for Tuesday, July 23, 2019, West Virginia's Roman Catholic Diocese says it's set to discuss its "future leadership," 10 months after the resignation of Bransfield. (Scott McCloskey/The Intelligencer via AP, File)
FILE - A 2015 file photo shows West Virginia Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, then-bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. In a news conference scheduled for Tuesday, July 23, 2019, West Virginia's Roman Catholic Diocese says it's set to discuss its "future leadership," 10 months after the resignation of Bransfield. (Scott McCloskey/The Intelligencer via AP, File)

WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) — The Latest on the leadership changes at West Virginia’s Roman Catholic diocese (all times local):

9:50 a.m.

The new leader of West Virginia’s Roman Catholics has appeared in Wheeling. The Most Reverend Mark Brennan, formerly the auxiliary bishop in Baltimore, was named by Pope Francis on Tuesday to lead the state’s 75,000 Catholics, 95 parishes and 34 smaller missions and chapels.

Bishop Brennan is a Boston native but he says his parents retired to West Virginia and he’s “no stranger” to the state. He says his first priority is to meet and get to know people across the diocese. He says he’s full of hope and confidence about working “toward bringing about true healing and renewal,” work he said was begun so well by Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore.

The pope had appointed Lori to oversee an investigation in West Virginia after Bishop Michael Bransfield resigned amid allegations of sexual and financial misconduct.

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6:10 a.m.

Pope Francis has named Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Mark Brennan to lead the Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia diocese following a scandal over the former bishop’s sexual harassment of adults and lavish spending of church money.

The 72-year-old Brennan replaces Bishop Michael Bransfield, who resigned in September after a preliminary investigation into allegations of sexual and financial misconduct. Last week, Francis barred Bransfield from public ministry and prohibited him from living in the diocese, while also warning that he will be forced to make amends “for some of the harm he caused.” Brennan will now help decide the extent of those reparations.

Coming on the heels of a new wave of sex abuse allegations in the U.S., the Bransfield scandal added to the credibility crisis in the U.S. hierarchy since several top churchmen received tens of thousands of dollars in church-funded personal gifts from Bransfield during his tenure in Wheeling-Charleston, which is located in one of the poorest U.S. states. 

A press conference was planned in Wheeling later Tuesday following the Vatican’s announcement.

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1 a.m.

West Virginia’s Roman Catholic Diocese says it’s set to discuss its “future leadership,” 10 months after the resignation of Bishop Michael Bransfield.

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston says a news conference is scheduled Tuesday at the diocese offices in Wheeling. A diocese statement did not indicate whether a new bishop would be announced.

Bransfield resigned in September. An investigation authorized by Pope Francis found accusations that Bransfield sexually harassed adults were credible. It also found Bransfield misused church funds, spending them on dining, liquor, gifts and personal travel and luxury items.

Last week the pontiff issued disciplinary action against Bransfield, saying he cannot live within the diocese or participate in any public celebration of the liturgy, and must make amends “for some of the harm he caused.”

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore has overseen the West Virginia diocese since Bransfield’s departure.

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