RALEIGH (WTVD) --The Diocese of Raleigh announced Tuesday that it was informed during the early morning hours that Bishop Michael Burbidge has been appointed by Pope Francis to serve as the Bishop of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.
"That's one of the interesting aspects about being a bishop or a priest is when the church calls, you come," said Billy Atwell, spokesman for the Diocese of Raleigh.
The 59-year-old Philadelphia native has led the Raleigh Diocese since 2006. Officials say the number of Catholics grew more than 40 percent to 430,000 during Burbidge's tenure and his priorities included the construction of a new cathedral set to be dedicated next year.
"His love of other people and his passion for the church and for Christ and bringing the gospel to other people has been attractive to Catholics and non-Catholics, and it's really made him a bit of a symbol in the community," Atwell said.
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"From the moment I stepped foot in North Carolina, I was welcomed with warmth and love that I have never forgotten," Bishop Burbidge said in part in a statement. "It is with great certainty that while I will leave the Diocese of Raleigh later this year, the next Bishop will be welcomed with the same joy and love that I encountered."
Diocese of Raleigh: thank you for all your love and support. You will always have a special place in my heart. Let us pray for each other.— Bishop Burbidge (@BishopBurbidge) October 4, 2016
The Bishop made a formal announcement at a news conference in the Diocese of Arlington. He is succeeding the current Bishop, Most Reverend Paul S. Loverde. The 76-year-old has led the diocese since 1999. A church rule requires bishops to submit letters of resignation at age 75.
Bishop Burbidge will be officially installed as the new Bishop of the Diocese of Arlington on Dec. 6. The Diocese of Arlington serves 600,000 Catholics in central and northern Virginia.
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According to the Diocese of Raleigh, until then he will serve as the Diocesan Administrator for the Diocese of Raleigh. After his installation, the College of Consultors will elect an administrator who will serve until a new bishop is installed.
There is no timeline for when a new bishop could be named.
Information about the Diocese of Arlington can be found at www.arlingtondiocese.org/bishop/did_you_know.aspx
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