Rev. Joseph Kopacz. Source: http://www.jacksondiocese.org/
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -
"It's my first visit to Jackson, Mississippi. It's a whole new world," says Reverend Joseph Kopacz, as the Catholic Diocese of Jackson introduces him as the 11th Bishop.
Kopacz has spent almost his entire life in the Scranton area of Pennsylvania, and says he never dreamed he would be moving to the deep south.
"I'm here today, surprised by the Holy Spirit," he says. "It's like you're not even looking that way, it's like 'whack.'"
But the 62-year-old is embracing what will be a big life change for him. Joseph Latino, the current Bishop of the Jackson Diocese, has to retire because last year he reached age 75, the mandatory age of retirement for Catholic Bishops.
Kopacz understands the scope of his new duties. He also understands the ups and downs of leadership in the Catholic church. He was Vicar of Priests when another priest sexually abused a 14-year-old boy in the Scranton Diocese. That priest pleaded guilty, and in 2007 the Diocese agreed to a $3 million dollar settlement with the victim. The civil suit stated the Diocese had been warned about the conduct of the priest, but did nothing.
"It was the Diocese that eventually did take that to law enforcement, but unfortunately it took longer in hindsight to bring that to light because we didn't have the same response as we did ten years later," he says.
Bishop-elect Kopacz says yearly audits are now conducted by outside groups to help prevent abuse in the Catholic church.
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