Death comes for the auxiliary bishop… who anticipated Pope Francis by decades

(La Croix Internacional. Robert Mickens).

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton was living among, and advocating for, some of the most marginalized people in society and the Church long before Pope Francis made “going to the peripheries” Catholicism’s preeminent leitmotiv. In fact, Jorge Mario Bergoglio (the pope’s Christian name) was not even a priest yet when Gumbleton was ordained to the episcopacy back in 1968. Tom, who would have marked his 56th anniversary as a bishop on May 1st, died on Easter Thursday at the age of 94. At the time of his death, he was the most senior member of the US Catholic hierarchy. Only ten other men in the entire world had been a Catholic bishop longer. Tom was just 38 when Paul VI named him an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Detroit, making him the youngest member of the US episcopate at the time. And he would remain an “assistant” bishop in his native Michigan city for the rest of his life. That had not been Cardinal John Dearden’s plan when he asked the pope to make Gumbleton his auxiliary. Dearden, who did not get the red hat until April 1969, relied heavily on the young bishop in his efforts to implement the reforms of the recently concluded Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

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