Pope names Most Rev. Thomas Rodi new archbishop of Mobile

Published 7:38 pm Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Most Rev. Thomas J. Rodi, appointed as Roman Catholic archbishop of Mobile on Wednesday, said he doesn’t take the post with any list of pressing needs, but pledged that any accusations of church sexual abuse will be reported to authorities.

“Misconduct is not going to be tolerated,” Rodi said at a news conference.

Rodi served for five years on a church advisory committee on sexual abuse.

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“I make a pledge that if there are any accusations of abuse of minors that it will be reported as the law requires,” Rodi said. “I pledge that we will cooperate fully with civil authorities.”

Rodi leaves his post as bishop of Diocese of Biloxi, Miss. to succeed retiring Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb and minister to some 68,331 Catholics in 28 counties of south Alabama. Pope Benedict XVI announced the appointment.

Lipscomb has been planning to retire since 2006, when he announced plans to step down at age 75. It’s taken this long to name his replacement.

Rodi, a New Orleans native with a law degree from Tulane University, among other academic degrees, will be installed at a mass on June 6.

Lipscomb, the archbishop since 1980, when Mobile became an archdiocese, introduced Rodi at the news conference, pointing out Rodi’s leadership in Hurricane Katrina recovery on the Mississippi Gulf Coast since the Aug. 29, 2005 disaster.

Rodi said he doesn’t take the archbishop post with a “preconceived idea” of the most pressing needs of the diocese.

“My role right now is to listen, to learn and to love. And in doing so, everything else will fall into place,” Rodi said.

Rodi said he was “surprised” by his appointment and leaves Biloxi with “mixed feelings.” He will continue as diocese administrator until the Vatican names his successor in Biloxi. He had no timetable for that appointment.

Rodi was asked about the growing ranks of Hispanic immigrants that have boosted the Catholic population in Alabama. He said the church continues its long-standing “rich heritage” of reaching out to the pastoral needs of immigrants.

Catholicism on the Gulf Coast dates to the early Spanish and French explorations.