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Pope Francis picks Louisiana’s Bishop Fabre to lead Kentucky Archdiocese

Bishop Shelton Fabre

Courtesy of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux

John Burger - published on 02/08/22

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre heads committee that issued U.S. Bishops' statement on racism.

Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, has been appointed as archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky, saying the Lord has “led me from the Bayou to the Bluegrass.”

“My love for king cake and Mardi Gras will soon be quenched by mint juleps and the Kentucky Derby,” he said at a press conference in Louisville on Tuesday.

Towards racial healing

Archbishop Fabre, 58, is an African-American bishop who has played a key role in the Catholic Church’s response to racism in the United States. He will succeed Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, who has been archbishop of Louisville since 2007. He thanked Kurtz for having invited him to Louisville two years ago to present “Open Wide Our Hearts,” the U.S. Bishops’ Conference’s pastoral letter against racism. The letter was drafted in 2018 by the U.S. bishops’ ad hoc committee against racism, which Fabre chairs. His presentation in Louisville in March 2021 came a year after the killing of Breonna Taylor in her own apartment by Louisville police and a year of what some have called a national “reckoning” with race relations in America.

“While I recognize that our community has faced what some may say is far too great an experience of injustice, disregard for human life and dignity, I come to you with a message of joyful hope,” Fabre said Tuesday in his introductory remarks. “I have  great faith and great hope in the work already underway in our community regarding racial equality. I have great hope that through genuine encounter and accompaniment, we will work together to realize an even greater sense of the promotion of life, charity, justice and peace, as we endeavor to build an even greater civilization of love.”

Asked by a reporter what gifts he feels he brings to the table with regards to healing from racial injustice, Fabre said he brings a listening heart, a willingness to dialogue, the teachings of the Church, and a desire to advance the kingdom of God to get all of us in our racial diversity to understand that we are stronger when we are together, and also to recognize that at the very heart of it is a call to respect the human life and human dignity of each and every person.” 

The new archbishop got emotional when he sent a message to the people of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. Through tears, he expressed his “deep, deep gratitude for our life together in South Louisiana, which has been my home for eight and one half years.”

To the priests, religious and seminarians of his new archdiocese, he said, “We have been called to make known the good news of Jesus Christ to all of God’s holy people, and we are on a mission to make missionary disciples.”

He reminded listeners that his episcopal motto is “Comfort, my people,” taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, and pointed to two examples from last year where God, through the Church, has communicated that sentiment to those who are suffering: in August, the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux was hit hard by Hurricane Ida, and in December, the Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky, which will now be in the province Fabre will head as metropolitan archbishop, experienced a devastating series of tornadoes that took 77 lives. 

Born in New Roads, Louisiana, the fifth of six children, Fabre was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Baton Rouge in 1989, having completed studies at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. He served as auxiliary bishop of New Orleans from 2007 to 2013, when he was appointed bishop of Houma-Thibodaux.

Catholic ChurchRacism
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