Pope Francis, who was selected in March to succeed retiring Pope Benedict XVI, has in his short term so far concluded the selections of new bishops, but the process to select those bishops was already well underway when he assumed the papacy.
The search for McFadden’s successor will give the new pope his first opportunity to select a bishop from start to finish.
“What you could say legitimately, is that whatever appointments he has made, they were in process,” said Monsignor Stuart Swetland, of Mount St. Mary’s University in Emittsburg, Md. “There was background work being done. In that sense, this will be the first one that the entire process is done under his pontificate.”
McFadden, 65, died unexpectedly Thursday at a Philadelphia hospital after complaining of feeling poorly. Harrisburg Diocese officials have not released the cause of death. McFadden will be buried at Holy Cross Cemetery on Wednesday.
Francis, 76 and formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Friday, appointed Father Michael Barber, Jr., as bishop of Oakland, Calif.
In early April, he appointed his first U.S. bishops, naming Bishop Michael Jackels of Wichita to become the Archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa and Monsignor John Folda, of Lincoln, Neb., as the Bishop of Fargo, N. D.
A few weeks ago, Francis marked the 50th world day of prayer for vocations by ordaining 10 men to the priesthood to serve in the Diocese of Rome.
Francis is widely considered a reformer, which in some circles has been mistaken for a lack of doctrinal orthodoxy. Francis has put aside many of the trappings of the papal office and been criticized for how he conducts his liturgy but has shown no indication of abandoning doctrinal orthodoxy. He has selected eight cardinals to find ways to reform the Church.
Some see his selection of the Iowa and Nebraska bishops as a “signal which bodes well for the years in which he will serve.”
Canon law does not dictate that Harrisburg’s new bishop come from within the diocese. Former diocesan leaders Cardinal William Keeler and Bishop Kevin Rhoades rose from within the Harrisburg Diocese, but Bishop Nicholas Dattilo was a chancery priest in Pittsburgh when he was named bishop in Harrisburg.
Keeler, a Lebanon native, was ordained in 1955 in the diocese and served as bishop from 1984 until he became Archbishop of Baltimore in 1989. Rhoades, also a Lebanon native, led the Harrisburg Diocese from 2004 until 2010. Dattilo served in Harrisburg as bishop from 1990 until his death in 2004.
Oakland’s new bishop, Barber, a Jesuit, was the spiritual director at St. John’s Seminary in Boston.
“The point is, yes. It could be a priest from the Diocese of Harrisburg or it could be a priest from somewhere else,” Swetland said.
In recent days, Francis has made headlines after weighing in on socio-political issues via social media.
On Thursday, the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics took to Twitter to admonish "slave labor" conditions at a Bangladesh factory whose collapse last week killed hundreds.
Francis, who has 2.5 million Twitter followers has tweeted only 31 times.
Reporter's Note: This story has been updated from its original version to clarify a reference to Pope Francis with regards to his adherence to doctrinal orthodoxy.