CAPITAL REGION -- Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, took over as temporary head of the Diocese of Buffalo Wednesday and offered words of reconciliation and support in comments to local media there.
Scharfenberger formally took over the post Wednesday, in the role of apostolic administrator. The move came after the Vatican accepted the resignation of Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone in the wake of several scandals involving priests there accused of sexual abuse.
"I am here to help you heal," Scharfenberger said at a news conference in front of Buffalo-area reporters Wednesday morning, according to The Buffalo News.
"Whatever I do, I want to build up our family. We are all family. The survivors of sexual abuse are our family. I want everyone to know that they will be treated with respect," Scharfenberger told reporters, according to The News. "Never be afraid to come forward."
Scharfenberger is expected to head the Buffalo diocese during the search for a permanent bishop, and remain head of his Albany diocese, church officials said. He plans to visit Buffalo weekly, the Albany diocese said in a news release.
According to the New York Times, the 73-year-old Malone, installed as the 14th bishop of Buffalo in 2012, has been criticized for the way he has handled incidents involving accused priests. Local Catholics told the newspaper that Malone promised transparency, but in several cases appeared to be shielding priests accused of abuse.
- Buffalo News: New Buffalo Diocese leader: 'I am here to help you heal'
Hundreds have filed sexual abuse claims against clergy across the state under New York’s new Child Victims Act, which allows lawsuits in old alleged incidents to be filed in state Supreme Court. Investigations by the FBI and state Attorney General’s Office are underway.
In announcing the appointment, Scharfenberger expressed "a desire for openness and transparency," a diocese release reads. The release also called Scharfenberger a "national leader in responding to the clergy abuse crisis."
“I am honored to serve as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Buffalo during these challenging times, and I am humbled by the task put before me," Scharfenberger said in a statement released as the appointment was announced. "I ask for your prayers as we begin this journey together, and I look forward to getting to know the people of this great diocese.
“I will be doing a lot of listening and learning,” Scharfenberger's statement concluded.