On Jan. 5, one week before Bishop Barry C. Knestout’s installation as the 13th bishop of Richmond, Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl was interviewed about the qualities and impact of the churchman who served as his key aide over the past decade.
Cardinal Wuerl became archbishop of Washington in 2006 and was elevated to the College of Cardinals in 2010. One year after his installation in Washington, Archbishop Wuerl appointed then-Msgr. Knestout to serve as the Archdiocese of Washington’s moderator of the curia (chief of staff for the archdiocese’s central offices) and vicar for administration.
Named as an auxiliary bishop of Washington by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008, Bishop Knestout was ordained as a bishop by then-Archbishop Wuerl, and served as moderator of the curia and as the archdiocese’s vicar general before Pope Francis named him bishop of Richmond on Dec. 5, 2017.
What qualities does Bishop Knestout have as a priest and bishop that will serve him well in his new role as bishop of Richmond?
Cardinal Wuerl: “I would underline that Bishop Knestout is a pastor of souls. His whole approach to people is that of a shepherd with the members of the flock entrusted to his care. He is quiet, patient and gentle, but at the same time, committed and able to bring solid leadership. This has served him in his ministry here, and I believe it will hold him in good stead as he takes on the responsibility as chief shepherd of Richmond.”
How would you summarize the contributions that Bishop Knestout made to the Archdiocese of Washington, not only in day-to-day administration, but in historic undertakings like helping to plan the visits of Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 and Pope Francis in 2015 and the coordination and implementation of the first-ever Archdiocesan Synod for the archdiocese’s 75th anniversary in 2014?
Cardinal Wuerl: “Bishop Knestout was very much responsible for the day in and day out oversight of the Central Pastoral Administration. That meant he was attentive to so many details of ecclesial life that would come to the desk of someone who functions as chief operations officer.
“While all this was going on, he was living in a parish, visiting parishes, administering sacraments, especially the sacrament of confirmation. On another level, he was involved in a number of major undertakings. He helped plan the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 and the visit of Pope Francis in 2015.
“When everything is put in perspective over the past 10 years, what will stand out is his coordination and implementation of our only Archdiocesan Synod. He brought together all the different elements of the local Church, was part of the listening process and helped direct the effort to bring meaningful suggestions and recommendations that became the statutes of the synod from more than 15,000 individual recommendations.
“What really served him well was his patience and his willingness to stay at a task until it was done. This was done not only for the synod but for the 75th anniversary of the archdiocese in 2014.
“The driving force for our synod, when looking at all the recommendations and all the potential directions we could go, was that we wanted to be the best Church (that) the Church asks us to be. We were trying to be the best expression of Christ’s Church.”
At his farewell luncheon at the Archdiocese of Washington’s Pastoral Center, Bishop Knestout was presented with a gift, a glass representation of his coat of arms. How have you witnessed him living out his motto as a bishop, “Christ Our Hope”?
Cardinal Wuerl: “The extraordinary gift captures in a very striking manner Bishop Knestout’s coat of arms, but now joined to the Diocese of Richmond’s coat of arms. For those not particularly aware of heraldry, each bishop is entitled to a personal coat of arms, and Bishop Knestout chose one that involves a symbol of God’s kingdom coming to be in our midst. It’s now married to the coat of arms of Richmond to show he is irreversibly joined to the Diocese of Richmond of which he is shepherd.
“He chose the motto, “Christ Our Hope,” the theme of the visit of Pope Benedict. What he will do in Richmond is trying to live that in a way that will bring new meaning to the Church of Richmond, as it takes on the quest to live “Christ Our Hope.”