Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Bishop Samuel J. Aquila as archbishop for the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver. The Holy See made the announcement today at noon in Rome.
Archbishop Aquila, 61, has Colorado roots and spent many years serving the Denver Archdiocese before being appointed bishop of the Diocese of Fargo, N.D., in 2001. Ordained June 5, 1976, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver, he has been a priest for 36 years.
Bishop James D. Conley, apostolic administrator of the archdiocese, made the official announcement at 10 a.m. today at a press conference at the Cardinal Stafford Library at the archdiocese’s headquarters at the John Paul II Center, 1300 S. Steele St. in Denver.
“Today we celebrate the long-awaited news of the appointment of the next archbishop of Denver,” Bishop Conley said. “Because the new archbishop is an old friend to so many of us, we are especially joyful today.”
Parishes where Archbishop Aquila served include St. Mary Parish in Colorado Springs in the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Christ the King Parish in Denver, and Guardian Angels Parish in Denver. He was also the first rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver from 1999-2001.
“It is a tremendous blessing to be able to return to the particular Church where I was ordained and to a place that I consider home because I lived there the majority of my life and served in the priesthood there,” Archbishop Aquila said. “When I left Denver in 2001 to serve the Diocese of Fargo I never imagined that I would return one day as archbishop… yet it is all part of God’s plan.”
Archbishop Aquila will succeed Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Denver’s archbishop from 1997 until being named archbishop of Philadelphia last July. He will be the eighth bishop and fifth archbishop of Denver following the lineage of Bishop Joseph P. Machebeuf 1860-1889, Bishop Nicholas C. Matz 1889-1917, Bishop John Henry Tihen 1917-1931, Archbishop Urban J. Vehr 1931-1967, Archbishop James V. Casey 1967-1986, Archbishop J. Francis Stafford 1986-1996, and Archbishop Chaput 1997-2011.
“Archbishop-designate Aquila has been a trusted friend for many years,” Archbishop Chaput wrote in a statement. “He’s a leader of energy, intelligence and fidelity to the Church; a man of kindness, humor, many warm lay friendships and great fraternal love for his priests. His appointment is a ‘coming home’ for one of Colorado’s finest sons.” Archbishop Aquila was born Sept. 24, 1950, in Burbank, Calif. Following his 1976 ordination in Denver, he was in parish ministry for 11 years, then moved to Rome for three years to study. In 1990 he returned to Denver where he served as director of the Office of Liturgy, as well as in positions in Catholic Education and Social Concerns, before being named seminary rector. In 2001, he was named Coadjutor Bishop of Fargo, N.D., and in 2002 he became the Bishop of Fargo. Archbishop Aquila holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder, a master’s degree in theology from St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, and a licentiate in sacramental theology from San Anselmo University in Rome.
“I very much look forward to returning to Denver to serve as the archbishop,” he said. “I realize that many things have changed in the last 11 years, yet the bonds of faith and the bonds of friendship remain because they are founded on Christ.” This afternoon Archbishop Aquila will tour Guardian Angels Catholic School, the Hispanic pastoral center Centro San Juan Diego, and Catholic Charities’ Samaritan House homeless shelter. Evening events, open to the public, include 5:30 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception at 1530 Logan St. in Denver; followed by a 7 p.m. reception at the refectory building on the campus of the John Paul II Center at 1300 S. Steele St. in Denver.
The morning of May 30, he will visit Mount Olivet Cemetery before returning to Fargo until shortly before he is installed as archbishop of Denver at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception at 2 p.m. July 18. Bishop Conley will continue to serve as apostolic administrator until Archbishop Aquila’s installation Mass.
The Archdiocese of Denver became a diocese Aug. 16, 1887, and an archdiocese Nov. 15, 1941. It covers 40,000 square miles in the northern part of Colorado and includes 25 counties. The archdiocese has 142 parishes and mission churches that serve nearly 550,000 Catholics, which account for approximately 16 percent of a general population totaling more than 3 million people.