Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond

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Diocese of Richmond

Diœcesis Richmondiensis
MJK50172 Cathedral of the Sacred Heart (Richmond, Virginia).jpg
Cathedral of the Sacred Heart
Diocese of richmond.png
Coat of arms
Country  United States
TerritoryCentral and Southern Virginia, as well as the Eastern Shore of Virginia
Ecclesiastical province Baltimore
Metropolitan Baltimore
Area36,711 sq mi (95,080 km2)
- Total
- Catholics (including non-members)
(as of 2015)
236,061 (4.7%)
Denomination Catholic
Sui iuris church Latin Church
Rite Roman Rite
EstablishedJuly 11, 1820 (200 years ago)
Cathedral Cathedral of the Sacred Heart
Patron saint St. Vincent de Paul
Current leadership
Pope Francis
Bishop Barry C. Knestout
Metropolitan Archbishop William E. Lori
Diocese of Richmond map 1.jpg

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond ( Latin: Diœcesis Richmondiensis) is an episcopal see or diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Its current territory encompasses all of central and southern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and the Eastern Shore. It is a suffragan diocese of the metropolitan Archdiocese of Baltimore, from which its territory was taken, and is a constituent of the ecclesiastical province of Baltimore.

As of 2018, there were 241,276 Catholics and 142 parishes that are part of the Diocese of Richmond. The diocese currently has 91 active priests, 41 retired priests, 140 permanent deacons, 7 religious brothers, 181 religious sisters of Catholic religious orders and 31 seminarians serving 139 parishes. There are 28 diocesan Catholic schools in the diocese, with a total enrollment of 8,827 students in 5 high schools and 22 elementary schools. [1]

The diocese's current bishop is Barry C. Knestout, who was appointed by Pope Francis on December 5, 2017. [2] He was installed to the position on January 12, 2018. [3]


Early history

Catholic "church on wheels" in Richmond, 1955

Prior to the American Revolution, few Catholics lived in colonial Virginia. Attempts to found Catholic settlements in Virginia were made by Lord Baltimore in 1629, and Captain George Brent in 1687. In the spring of 1634 Father John Altham, a Jesuit companion of Father Andrew White, the Maryland missionary, laboured amongst some of the Virginia tribes on the south side of the Potomac. Stringent laws were soon enacted in Virginia against Catholics. In 1687 Fathers Edmonds and Raymond were arrested at Norfolk for exercising their priestly functions. During the last quarter of the eighteenth century the few Catholic settlers at Aquia Creek, near the Potomac, were attended by Father John Carroll and other Jesuit missionaries from Maryland. [4]

It was not until the passage of Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786 that Catholics were free to worship openly in the commonwealth. Rev. Jean Dubois, afterwards third bishop of New York, accompanied by a few French priests and with letters of introduction from Lafayette to several prominent Virginia families, came to Norfolk in August, 1791, where he laboured a few months. Proceeding to Richmond towards the end of the year, he offered in the courtroom of the new State House, by invitation of the General Assembly, the first Mass ever said in the Capital City. [4] James Monroe served as his host until Father Dubois rented a house in Richmond near a major bridge and opened a school to teach French, classics and arithmetic. [5] Patrick Henry helped the priest learn English. For two years Dubois mostly celebrated mass in rented rooms or at the homes of the town's few Catholic families. [6]

According to tradition, at an early date, probably at the time of the Declaration of Independence, Alexandria had a log chapel with an unknown resident priest. Rev. John Thayer of Boston was stationed there in 1794. Rev. Francis Neale, who in 1796 constructed at Alexandria a brick church, erected fourteen years later a more suitable church where Fathers Anthony Kohlmann, and Benedict Joseph Fenwick, afterwards second bishop of Boston, frequently officiated. About 1796 Rev. James Bushe began the erection of a church at Norfolk. He was succeeded by were the Very Rev. Leonard Neale, afterwards Archbishop of Baltimore.

Establishment of diocese

Pope Pius VII erected the Diocese of Richmond, taking the territory of the state of Virginia except for two counties of the Eastern Shore region from the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Baltimore and making it a suffragan of the same metropolitan see, on 11 July 1820. [4]

Pope Pius IX erected the Diocese of Wheeling, taking the territory of Virginia west of the Allegheny Mountains and west of Pennsylvania from the Diocese of Richmond and making it also a suffragan of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Baltimore, on 19 July 1850. The same pope transferred the territory of Alexandria, which the federal government had retroceded to Virginia from the District of Columbia in 1846, from the Archdiocese of Baltimore to the Diocese of Richmond on 15 August 1858.

The Civil War led to formation of the state of West Virginia in counties that seceded from the Commonwealth of Virginia after the latter seceded from the union, but the boundary between that Virginia and West Virginia did not coincide with the boundary between the Diocese of Wheeling and Diocese of Richmond, but this situation endured for over a century.

The two counties of the Eastern Shore region of Virginia became part of the new Diocese of Wilmington when Pope Pius IX erected that diocese, taking the Delmarva Peninsula (the entire state of Delaware and the Eastern Shore regions of Maryland and Virginia) from the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Diocese of Philadelphia and making it a suffragan of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Baltimore, on 3 March 1868. [7]

On 28 May 1974, Pope Paul VI simultaneously (1) transferred the two counties of the Eastern Shore region of Virginia from the Diocese of Wilmington to the Diocese of Richmond, (2) erected the Diocese of Arlington, taking the northern region of Virginia from the Diocese of Richmond and making it also a suffragan of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Baltimore, and (3) realigned the boundary between the Diocese of Richmond and the Diocese of Wheeling to conform to the Virginia-West Virginia state line by transferring the territory of the Diocese of Wheeling that was in Virginia to the Diocese of Richmond and the territory of the Diocese of Richmond that was in West Virginia to the Diocese of Wheeling. [8] These actions established the present configuration of the Diocese of Richmond. (The same pope subsequently changed the title of the Diocese of Wheeling to Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston on 21 August 1974.)

Other Events

The Diocese of Richmond has seen an increase in the number of seminarians preparing for the priesthood.[ when?] According to Rev. Michael Boehling, the typical candidate is in his early to mid-20s, and college graduate with a degree in history, science or mathematics. "They are articulate and bright, well-rounded individuals who are mature for their age," [9]

In early 2019 Knestout gave permission to the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia to ordain Susan B. Haynes as the new bishop at Saint Bede Catholic Church in Williamsburg, Virginia. The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia does not have a cathedral and usually rotates where it hosts ordinations and other events. [10] However the announcement was met with opposition by many Catholics who objected to holding a non-Catholic worship service and episcopal ordination of a woman in a Catholic church. Over 3,000 people signed an internet petition objecting to the event. On 17 January the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia announced it would no longer hold Haynes' ordination at St. Bede. [11]

Sexual abuse

On February 13, 2019, Bishop Barry Knestout released a list of 42 priests who had "credible and substantiated" accusations of sexual abuse made against them. The list covers allegations dating from the 1950s to the most recent substantiated allegation in 1993. [12] [13] Among those listed was future Bishop of Memphis, Carroll Dozier was accused of committing acts of sex abuse while serving in the Diocese of Richmond. [14]

In 2019, Knestout instructed Fr. Mark White to shut down his blog, under pain of removal from the priesthood. White had criticized the church hierarchy's handling of the child sexual abuse crisis, including Theodore McCarrick, for whom Knestout had served as priest secretary, and Donald Wuerl, with whom he had worked as auxiliary bishop. [15] In May 2020 Knestout removed White from his parish and trespassed him from the parish residence. [16] Knestout ordered White to take up residence at a retreat center, and undertake a ministry to prisoners. On June 2, the Holy See denied White's appeal on technical grounds. [17]

On October 15, 2020, it was revealed that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond had paid $6.3 million to settle 51 out of 68 claims of sexual abuse. [18] [19]


Bishops of Richmond

  1. Patrick Kelly (1820–1822), appointed Bishop of Waterford and Lismore
  2. Richard Vincent Whelan (1841–1850), appointed Bishop of Wheeling
  3. John McGill (1850–1872)
  4. James Gibbons (1872–1877), appointed Archbishop of Baltimore (elevated to Cardinal in 1886)
  5. John Joseph Keane (1878–1888), appointed Rector of The Catholic University of America and Archbishop of Dubuque
  6. Augustine Van de Vyver (1889–1911)
  7. Denis Joseph O'Connell (1912–1926)
  8. Andrew James Louis Brennan (1926–1945)
  9. Peter Leo Ireton (1945–1958)
  10. John Joyce Russell (1958–1973)
  11. Walter Francis Sullivan (1974–2003)
  12. Francis Xavier DiLorenzo (2004–2017)
  13. Barry Christopher Knestout (2018–present)

Auxiliary Bishops of Richmond

Other priests of this diocese who became bishops

Notable people

  • Servant of God Francis J. Parater (1897–1920), seminarian and candidate for canonization

Knights of Columbus

The Knights of Columbus has several councils in the Richmond Diocese. The Knights serve parish and communities throughout both dioceses in the Commonwealth. One of the best known services is the KOVAR drive which raises money for assisting Virginians with intellectual disabilities. [20]

High schools

Closed Schools

See also


  1. ^ "Diocesan Statistics", Diocese of Richmond
  2. ^ "Bishop Barry Knestout tapped to lead the diocese of Richmond". Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  3. ^ "Bishop-designate Barry C. Knestout". Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  4. ^ a b c Magri, Francis Joseph. "Diocese of Richmond", The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 27 June 2019 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ Fogarty, Gerald, Commonwealth Catholicism: a history of the Catholic Church in Virginia (University of Notre Dame Press, 2001) pp. 25-36
  6. ^ Hayes, Patrick. "John Dubois." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 26 Aug. 2014 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ Page about Diocese of Wilmington on Catholic Hierarchy web site.
  8. ^ Page for Diocese of Richmond on Catholic Hierarchy web site.
  9. ^ Sheler, Jeff. "Catholic Diocese of Richmond rebounds from past", The Virginian-Pilot, October 20, 2013
  10. ^ Rousselle, Christine (January 15, 2020). "'An act of charity': Virginia bishop defends parish hosting Episcopalian consecration". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  11. ^ "Catholic parish will not host Episcopalian consecration". Catholic World Report. January 17, 2020. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  12. ^ "Virginia's two dioceses release lists of clergy credibly accused of abuse". Catholic News Herald. Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte. 15 February 2019. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  13. ^ Poulter, Amy. "Richmond Catholic diocese publishes list of 42 priests with 'credible' abuse allegations", Daily Press, February 14, 2019
  14. ^
  15. ^ Wyatt, Bill (February 7, 2020). "UPDATED: Diocese of Richmond allows Father Mark White to keep his collar but not his voice". Martinsville Bulletin.
  16. ^ Boorstein, Michelle (May 10, 2020). "Catholic bishop suspends priest and issues trespass order over blog about clergy sex abuse". The Washington Post.
  17. ^, Bill Wyatt. "WATCH NOW: Vatican hands down its word in case of Father Mark White". Martinsville Bulletin. Retrieved 2020-07-04.
  18. ^ "Catholic Diocese of Richmond paying $6.3 million to 51 victims sexually abused by clergy". The Richmond Times-Dispatch. October 17, 2020. Retrieved October 17, 2020.
  19. ^ WWBT (October 15, 2020). "Catholic Diocese of Richmond pays $6.3M to sex abuse survivors". WHSV. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  20. ^ "KOVAR". Virginia Knights of Columbus. Retrieved 2016-02-29.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Diocese of Richmond". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

External links

Latitude and Longitude:

37°32′50.8″N 77°27′07.7″W / 37.547444°N 77.452139°W / 37.547444; -77.452139