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Interim Archbishop Hebda speaks of unity, hope to local Catholics in first Mass

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Catholics in the Twin Cities came together Sunday to celebrate the first Mass with their new leader, Archbishop Bernard Hebda, who preached a message of hope amidst the difficult issues facing the local church.

Hebda was named interim leader of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis last month, after Archbishop John Nienstedt resigned from the position after months of scandal over his handling of clergy sexual abuse by local priests.

"We should have the joy that comes from always knowing that there's always light at the end of the tunnel, that our struggles are not in vain, and that Christ and his church will triumph," Hebda said during Mass at the St. Paul Cathedral, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

There was a full house at the Cathedral, and the Star Tribune reports Hebda "emanated warmth."

He asked Catholics to focus on living out their faith:

Ultimately, we who are called and sent, we who strive to embrace the mystery, who go forth two by two, who, like Jesus, pitch our tent in this local Church, will be judged not by how quickly we resolve court cases, on how astute we are in finances, on how much we live up to our credentials or reputation, but on how effectively we make the love and mercy of Jesus — and only Jesus — present in our day.

Hebda walked down the aisle at the end of Mass, stopping to greet people and posing for pictures, according to the Star Tribune.

He's also been spotted around town, including a stop at the Basilica Block Party at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.

The length of Hebda's tenure as interim archbishop is uncertain; he will remain in the position until Pope Francis names a permanent successor.

Hebda comes from the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, where he is still serving as well, the Catholic Spirit reports.

Hebda was assigned by Pope Francis to help the archdiocese heal, as well as handle the legal, financial and ethical challenges stemming from allegations of sexual abuse by priests:

  • The archdiocese faces criminal charges of endangering children by failing to protect them from a pedophile priest in St. Paul.

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