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Buffalo's new bishop Catholic leader will find challenges, open hearts in his new assignment

It has been an eventful eight years that Edward U. Kmiec has served as bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo. It has also been a remarkably swift eight years, with Kmiec seemingly suddenly alighting on the church's mandatory retirement age of 75. And so, on Tuesday, the region welcomed a new bishop, the Most Rev. Richard J. Malone of Portland, Maine, who, no doubt, will find his service here equally eventful even if for no other reason than his insistence upon maintaining his puzzling status as a fan of the Boston Red Sox in a Yankees town. He knows not what he does.

Nevertheless, as Malone will soon discover for himself, Western New Yorkers are a welcoming sort, even of Red Sox fans, and we are sure he will find the challenges here to be more than matched by the open hearts for which Western New Yorkers are rightfully known. We join those welcoming him to Buffalo. Regarding those challenges, though, there are bound to be plenty.

It fell to Kmiec to do the early, hard work of matching resources to expenses in the diocese, closing schools and merging parishes. It was a stressful time for Catholics in Western New York, though anyone willing to look at the balance sheet knew that hard decisions were inevitable. Under persistent pressure, Kmiec handled that necessary work with grace and good humor, and for it he deserves the thanks of Western New Yorkers.

But neither the economy nor the number of practicing Catholics has improved so much that Malone can expect to be free of financial strain in his new post. He, too, is likely to face decisions that will test his relationship with his new flock.

The church, itself, has been severely tested in recent years as revelations of tacitly tolerated child abuse came to light, and it is fair to say the church remains on a kind of probation with many Americans of all faiths. Malone spoke to that issue in his press conference Tuesday, telling reporters that, "Our church is committed these days more than ever before to transparency."

That is the right approach for the church to take. Indeed, it is the only approach that will assure the world that the church has left behind policies that shielded child abusers from the law. It was good to hear Malone make that declaration at his first appearance before Western New Yorkers, and it meshes well with the motto he's settled upon for his appointment here: "Live the truth in love."

Malone has spent much of his life in the area around Boston. He was born in Salem, Mass. He is a graduate of St. John's Seminary in Boston and earned a graduate degree in theology from Boston University. He was director of religious education and secretary of education for the Archdiocese of Boston. He comes here from Portland, where he has been bishop since 2004, the same year Kmiec came to Buffalo.

We mention this because Malone said he accepted the appointment immediately upon being called, which is gratifying. He is leaving Red Sox territory; he really must want to be here.