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Bishop Robert Barron to be appointed to lead Minnesota diocese

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Word on Fire

Zelda Caldwell - published on 06/01/22

The appointment comes in the wake of a controversy surrounding Word on Fire's handling of an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by a former employee.

Bishop Robert Barron, the founder of the Catholic media apostolate, Word on Fire, will soon be named as the new bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester in Minnesota, The Pillar reported on Wednesday.

Sources with knowledge of the appointment, which was first reported by “Whispers in the Loggia” writer Rocco Palmo, confirmed the report to Aleteia. 

The news comes two weeks after The Pillar published an article about the resignation of Word on Fire staff following what they say was a mishandling of an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by a former employee.

In the course of leading his media ministry, Barron has become something of a household name among Catholic and non-Catholics alike. Since the founding of Word on Fire in 2000, the evangelization initiative grew from a website featuring Barron’s homilies to become a Catholic media giant. The organization’s videos and books are used in religious formation classes, and its articles, podcasts, and Scripture studies are popular resources among the faithful. 

Word on Fire was founded, its website declares, because of a “simple but powerful idea: spread the Good News of Jesus Christ through multiple media platforms, engaging people with the goodness, truth, and beauty of Catholicism.”

As an evangelizer, in the spirit of Pope Francis, Barron made a point of reaching out to the peripheries with articles and videos meant to engage the unchurched. His commentaries on Bob Dylan and Hunger Games, were offered along side courses on St. John Henry Newman and a video series on “The Sacraments.” In 2021, he took part in his third “Ask Me Anything” session on the website Reddit, in which he engaged with young people on questions about the Church’s teaching on issues ranging from the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, to priestly sex abuse scandals, to questions about salvation.

As a priest in Chicago, Barron broadcast his homilies on a local radio station. With the support of Cardinal Francis George, he formed the Word on Fire ministry to share them with a larger audience. Appointed auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles in 2015, he formerly chaired the United States Council of Catholic Bishops’ committee on evangelization and catechesis, and is chairman-elect of the committee on laity, family life, and youth.

With this appointment, Barron would succeed Bishop John Quinn, who announced his resignation in December 2020, upon reaching his 75th birthday.  The Diocese of Winona-Rochester includes the southernmost counties of Minnesota, where 130,000 Catholics reside, according to The Pillar.

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