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Bishop Michael Fisher speaks on goals for the Diocese of Buffalo

WBEN Radio Buffalo logo WBEN Radio Buffalo 12/1/2020 Mike Baggerman
a person standing in front of a book shelf: Bishop Michael Fisher introductory press conference. December 1, 2020 © Provided by WBEN Radio Buffalo Bishop Michael Fisher introductory press conference. December 1, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) – Michael Fisher was introduced Tuesday as the 15th bishop in the history of the Diocese of Buffalo.

Fisher, 62, is a native of Baltimore and spent the last two years as Auxiliary Bishop in the Diocese of Washington. He previously spent 30 years as a priest.

Fisher, who urges parishioners to call him “Bishop Mike”, will take over the diocese from Albany Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, who was named the apostolic administrator in the wake of last year’s resignation of former Bishop Richard Malone last December 4.

“My hope is to travel to Buffalo as soon as is possible for a visit before my permanent move,” Bishop Fisher said in a video call with reporters. “I have heard repeatedly about the warmth and innate friendliness of the people of Buffalo, your commitment to faith, education, diversity of culture, the Bills, and, of course, those world famous wings.”

His goals are to meet the local Catholic community, though the bishop is also facing challenges related to the financial woes, the ongoing clergy sex abuse scandal, and recent charges levied by the church by the New York State Attorney General.

“If (survivors) will allow it, I hope to walk with them in seeking healing,” Fisher said. “To listen and, in some ways, soothe the wounds that have been inflicted upon them and to lessen the burden they have been forced to carry. Collaboration and mutual dependency must guide all of our efforts and ambitions.”

Fisher said he will make mistakes and hopes to be the first to acknowledge them. That’s why he’s asking for patience from the community.

“It is my promise to persist in seeking the best solutions to the challenges that together we face in which are directed to reestablishing trust, credibility, healing, and renewal,” he said. “In all things, I pledge to be truthful and transparent in the decisions that we will need to make.”

Attorney General Letitia James on November 23 released a report charging the Diocese of Buffalo with decades of abuse and cover up. When asked about the lawsuit, Fisher said he is aware of it.

“There is a zero tolerance policy of any abuse of children or the sexual harassment of adults,” he said. “It needs to be taken seriously and followed. In my view, to cooperate with the civil authorities will be very much important to us.”

Fisher said he first learned that he would become the next bishop about two weeks ago and was surprised to hear about the lawsuit.

“All that has come, again, is new,” he said.

When asked why parishioners should expect anything different under new leadership, Fisher said he hopes people will give him an opportunity.

“Trust needs to be seen in our actions and how we carry out our ministry,” Fisher said. “I am committed to certainly transparency and working with all the people of the diocese to help move forward. The road to renewal, I think, is a wonderful opportunity to do that and to bring hope and mission to the people in Buffalo.”

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