SYRACUSE — The Diocese of Syracuse celebrated mass this week with new Bishop-elect Douglas John Lucia at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Pope Francis this week appointed the 11th bishop for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse — including 127 parishes of Oswego, Oneida, Onondaga, Madison, Cortland, Chenango and Broome counties — following Bishop Robert Cunningham’s resignation, the diocese announced earlier this week.

Bishop Cunningham, who has served the Diocese of Syracuse since 2009, was required to submit his resignation to Pope Francis upon his 75th birthday, as per canon law, according to the diocese.  

“This morning the word came out, and we’re delighted to welcome Bishop Lucia,” Cunningham said addressing reporters Tuesday morning. “We look forward to his coming, living and dwelling among us, teaching us, leading us ever close to Christ.”

A grateful, “excited” Bishop-elect Lucia, 65, told reporters he had to “pinch [himself]” when officials called him to give him the news that Pope Francis had appointed him.

“I wish somebody had a camera when I answered the phone, because I think it would have been the most shocked look I had in my life because I had no idea,” Lucia said.

Bishop-elect Lucia will soon be ordained and installed at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at a date and time yet to be announced, the diocese said.

A native of Altona, New York, Bishop-elect Lucia previously served as a parochial vicar at St. Patrick’s Church in Watertown for his first assignment, according to the diocese. In 1990, Bishop-elect Lucia was sent to the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall in Ontario, Canada for two years of service where he was posted as parochial vicar at St. Columban’s Church.

Bishop-elect Lucia studied canon law at the Pontifical University at St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome from 1991 to 1997 and served as the parochial vicar of Holy Family Church in Watertown and worked part time for the Diocesan Tribunal Office, according to the diocese.

The diocese said Bishop-elect Lucia most recently served as pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Waddington and St. John the Baptist church in Madrid, as well as Judicial Vicar of the diocese.

The Bishop-elected addressed decades of abuse scandals in the Catholic Church in his introductory remarks and told reporters that the issue hits close to home because one his pastors coming up was “dismissed because of charges.”

“I’ve seen the pain in parish communities — I’ve seen people’s lives totally destroyed,” he said. “I just want to be a human presence. Pope Francis keeps telling us to meet people where they’re at and to accompany them, and that’s what I see my ministry as.”

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