The juggling act for Bishop Richard J. Malone will finally come to an end in February.
The Vatican announced on Wednesday that Pope Francis has appointed a Boston auxiliary bishop to succeed Malone as bishop of Portland, Maine.
The Rev. Robert P. Deeley, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston, was selected as Portland’s 12th bishop.
The move means Malone’s undivided attention will now be focused on Western New York Catholics.
Malone, a Salem, Mass. native who served as Portland bishop for eight years, was appointed to lead the Buffalo diocese on May 29, 2012 and installed as bishop here on Aug. 10, 2012.
But at the request of the Vatican, he continued to serve as “apostolic administrator” of the Portland diocese, which covers the entire state of Maine and has about 187,000 Catholics, during the search for his successor.
The additional assignment required him to travel to Portland about once a month and perform other administrative duties via videoconference, email and telephone.
Malone, 67, expressed relief that his dual role will wrap up soon.
“It’s a big load really off my mind and off my heart,” he said. “What concerned me as each day passed was that the Catholic community in Maine was without a flesh–and–blood shepherd with boots on the ground.”
At 19 months, the vacancy for the bishop’s seat in Maine was lengthy, even by the standards of the Vatican, which usually takes nine months to a year to appoint bishops. The resignation of Pope Benedict last February and the subsequent election of Pope Francis may have added to delay in finding Malone’s successor in Portland.
Malone said he will now be able to focus exclusively on the Buffalo diocese without having to worry about Maine.
Deeley, 67, will be installed Feb. 14 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.
Malone was in Portland Wednesday morning for Deeley’s introduction to the diocese, and he hopped a flight back to Buffalo later in the day.
Malone and Deeley entered the seminary together in 1964 and have known each other for nearly 40 years.