Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Fort Worth, Texas, to take over the much more populous Diocese of Orange from Tod D. Brown, who is retiring after 14 years.
Brown held a news conference Friday morning -- upstaged by the Space Shuttle Endeavour crisscrossing local airspace -- to publicly announce his retirement and introduce the 61-year-old Vann, a native of Springfield, Ill., who became bishop in Fort Worth seven years ago and will become Orange County's fourth bishop in December.
Before attending seminary in 1976, Vann worked as a medical technologist, according to a biography on the Fort Worth diocese's website.
After taking over the Fort Worth diocese, Vann sharply criticized his predecessor, saying the late Bishop Joseph Delaney's handling of sex-abuse allegations against priests was a "huge moral failure."
In 2006, Vann told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "All my life, I have always tried to respect my predecessor wherever I've been. But I can't defend the indefensible."
Vann has encouraged immigration reform in Texas and nationally, according to a Diocese of Orange press release. He is fluent in Spanish and Italian and is developing his Vietnamese language skills, officials said. He is also an accomplished pianist and expert in canon law.
Vann told City News Service he was notified two weeks ago that his next assignment would be in Orange County. He said he's learned to adapt to the church practice of uprooting priests from time to time.
"I thought: I guess I'm being sent somewhere else again," he said. "I just have to trust in God's judgment."
Vann declined to state any goals he might have for the diocese since Brown will remain in charge until December. "I'm not here yet, so it's premature to say anything yet," Vann said. In the meantime, "I have to kind of live in two worlds" between Texas and California.
The diocese Vann is leaving has a flock of 562,000, compared to nearly 1.3 million Catholics in the Diocese of Orange, the country's 10th largest and fastest-growing, having doubled in size and turned considerably more diverse during Brown's watch.
In welcoming Vann on Friday, Brown said: "The Diocese of Fort Worth has enjoyed a dynamic period of growth and the demands for comprehensive pastoral services there are not unlike those we have experienced here in the Diocese of Orange. Bishop Vann enjoys an enviable record of success and I am exceedingly pleased by his appointment as my episcopal successor."
and submitted his resignation to the Vatican. Much of his tenure was dominated by the priest abuse scandal, and his role drew both praise and criticism.
In 2005, Brown agreed to a $100-million settlement -- the largest payout of its kind ever -- with 90 victims who alleged abuse by priests, nuns and lay teachers in Orange County.
Brown also presided over the acquisition of the former Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, which has since been renamed Christ Cathedral and will become the diocese's new headquarters in a few years.
-- City News Service and OC Patch staff reports