Features > Spreading the word

24 November 2016 | by Christopher Lamb

Spreading the word


Christopher Lamb talks to one of the men Francis has chosen to help build a more pastoral Church

Four years ago, I sat down to interview Archbishop Joseph Tobin in London. He was then number two at the Vatican’s department for religious but had just been told he was leaving Rome to be appointed Archbishop of Indianapolis, a move many judged as sending him into exile.

During the pontificate of Benedict XVI he was considered too conciliatory to the religious sisters in the United States that he had been asked to investigate. Powerful conservatives in the Vatican felt the supposedly errant nuns needed to be brought into line and that Tobin wasn’t doing so. How times have changed.

Last week we met again, this time in Rome, two days before he was made a cardinal by Pope Francis. As if being given a red hat was not a surprise enough for the 64-year-old Redemptorist priest, Francis produced a second bombshell, appointing Tobin as Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, home to 1.5 million Catholics. Both announcements took Tobin by surprise.

“I had no prior notice about the nomination as cardinal and then there was a simple declaration of sentence: the nuncio called me and said, ‘I’m calling because the Holy Father has appointed you the Archbishop of Newark,’” Tobin explains.


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