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NW Ohio bishop installed as Hartford archbishop

HARTFORD, Conn. – Leonard Blair was installed Monday as the fifth archbishop of Hartford at a service where he spoke of the importance of evangelism and sharing one’s gifts with others.

Blair was presented with a staff symbolizing his new role during a Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, where he was formally installed by the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.

In his homily, Blair spoke of his roots in Detroit, urged the archdiocese to keep up its charity and educational work, and stressed the importance of spreading the faith.

“We’re not meant to hide the light of Christ under a bushel basket out of fatigue, disenchantment, compromise, disinterest, a lack of joy and hope, or what both Popes Benedict and Francis call `worldliness’ – that is, a dour pragmatism that tries to keep the church going using worldly methods and standards of survival and success,” he said.

Blair, 64, had led the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, since 2003. Pope Francis appointed Blair in October to lead the archdiocese’s 700,000 Catholics. Blair succeeds the Most Rev. Henry Mansell, who retired at 76 after 10 years in the post.

Blair was one of the three bishops appointed by the Vatican last year to oversee an overhaul of the largest umbrella group for U.S. nuns, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

A review by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concluded the sisters took positions that undermined Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality, while promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” The sisters vehemently rejected the findings, prompting an outpouring of popular support for the nuns that reached all the way to Congress.

Like many other bishops around the country, Blair also has dealt over the last decade with complaints of sexual abuse by clergy.

Nearly four dozen clerics in the Toledo Diocese faced allegations of sexually abusing minors for the period of 1950 to 2012, according to the diocese. Thirty-seven were priests and deacons of the Toledo Diocese, while nine others were not under the diocese’s jurisdiction. Blair has defended the diocese’s handling of complaints about abuse, saying he and his predecessor removed priests from public ministry and the diocese’s responses have been appropriate.

Blair was ordained a priest in 1976. He said he personally thanked Pope Francis for his appointment, which he learned about during a trip to the Vatican in October.

The archdiocese comprises Hartford, Litchfield and New Haven counties. More than 500 priests minister in the archdiocese, serving 213 parishes and other apostolates.

Mansell, who is past the mandatory retirement age of 75 for bishops and archbishops, said he will be retiring to a parish in Glastonbury. He said he had told Pope Benedict XVI that he was willing to retire last year.