March 5, 2020 / 4:53 PM / a month ago

Pope Francis picks Savannah bishop to lead Atlanta archdiocese

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Thursday named Gregory Hartmayer, the Roman Catholic bishop of Savannah, to lead the Atlanta archdiocese, its 100 parishes and 1.2 million Catholics.

Hartmayer, 68, an ordained priest of the Franciscan order, said on the Diocese of Savannah’s Facebook page that he was “grateful and honored by the trust and confidence that he (the Pope) has placed in me.”

Hartmayer succeeds Archbishop Wilton Gregory who was appointed to head the Archdiocese of Washington in early 2019 after serving Atlanta for almost 15 years.

At a press conference in Smyrna, Georgia early Tuesday, Hartmayer said of Gregory, “I cannot possibly fill his shoes. I will have to walk in my own shoes.”

Hartmayer, originally from Buffalo, New York, served as priest over two churches in metropolitan Atlanta before Pope Benedict elevated him to bishop of Savannah in 2011.

When Gregory was named as Washington archbishop, he promised to bring transparency to an archdiocese reeling from the sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church in the United States and overseas.

The former archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, was expelled from the Roman Catholic priesthood after he was found guilty of sexual crimes against minors and adults. Earlier he became the first Roman Catholic prelate in nearly 100 years to lose the title of cardinal.

Hartmayer will be installed as Atlanta’s archbishop on May 6.

Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Steve Orlofsky

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