The process of selecting a new bishop could take six months to a year.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The March 31 announcement that Bishop Thomas Tobin is leaving to head the Diocese of Providence, R.I., came less than two months after the post became open at the nation's 25th-largest diocese.
With Pope Benedict XVI now in place and Tobin scheduled to be installed in Providence on May 31, will a new bishop for Youngstown be named soon?
Probably not, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.
"It's hard to know when Youngstown will get a bishop. Typically it's six months to a year,'' said David Early, conference spokesman.
Yet, it is not unheard of to see the speedy replacement of a bishop, as in the case of Bishop Tobin, 57, succeeding Bishop Robert E. Mulvee in Providence, Early said.
Youngstown's new bishop could come from another part of the country or be someone from this area. He could be a current bishop or a monsignor who is elevated to the position, Early said.
In addition to Youngstown, there are openings for bishops in Honolulu; Birmingham, Ala.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Lake Charles, La.; and Nashville, Tenn.
Appointing a bishop is a confidential, complex and usually lengthy process. It begins with recommendations from local level church officials and ends in Rome with the Holy Father, who can select anyone he wants.
According to the Conference of Bishops, local Catholic officials send a list of candidates to the apostolic nuncio, the pope's representative to the United States. The apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, conducts his own investigation into the candidates' suitability, and also considers the incumbent's recommendations.
The president and vice president of the Conference of Bishops also are consulted.
The nuncio narrows his list and seeks input from people who know the candidates on the short list. After narrowing the list to three, the nuncio sends it to the Congregation for Bishops in Rome with his recommendation noted.
The congregation can follow the nuncio's recommendation, choose one of the other candidates or ask for more additional candidates.
Once the congregation decides, the prefect, or head of the group, has a private audience with the pope, who has the final word. In the meantime, the 239,960 Catholics in 116 parishes in the six-county Youngstown diocese can only wait.
Tobin will remain as Youngstown's diocesan administrator until May 31. The College of Consulters, a group of nine church leaders in the diocese, will then meet and decide on a new administrator who will serve until a new bishop is named, the diocese said.