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Bishop Murphy plans to stay in Rockville Centre after retirement

Bishop William Murphy celebrates Christmas Mass at

Bishop William Murphy celebrates Christmas Mass at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre on Friday, Dec. 25, 2015. Murphy, 75, said he plans to remain in Rockville Centre after he retires as head of the diocese, which he has led since 2001. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Bishop William Murphy plans to remain in Rockville Centre after he retires as the diocese’s leader, moving to the rectory where priests for the parish of St. Agnes Cathedral reside, he said.

“I feel very much at home here,” Murphy, 75, said in an interview this week before an event at Molloy College in Rockville Centre. “I love this place and I wouldn’t give up any of it for anything else, even the tough times. The first couple of years weren’t easy, but you know what, I grew — at least I think I did.”

Murphy lives in a former convent on the cathedral grounds that was renovated in 2002 in part to create a residence for him. The three-story rectory is next door and currently is home to five priests who work in the parish.

The bishop, who took over the diocese in 2001, said his love of Long Island and its people undergirds his desire to remain here rather than go elsewhere post-retirement, such as returning to his native Boston or moving to Rome, where he spent years working in the Vatican.

The expansive rectory has plenty of room for another priest, said Msgr. William Koenig, rector of the cathedral.

“I want to stay living here,” Murphy said. “I am going to move next door to the rectory. I will have a two-room suite like everybody else. Then I’ll kind of think about life from there.”

Sean Dolan, a spokesman for the diocese, said Thursday that the bishop taking up residence in the rectory after retirement “is only one option” he is considering. Murphy has not definitively decided to remain in the diocese, he said.

When Murphy turned 75 on May 14, he officially submitted his letter of retirement to the Vatican — as all bishops are required to do upon reaching that age.

Pope Francis has not named a replacement. That is not unusual, church analysts said. Some replacements are named immediately, while in other cases a year or two may pass after a bishop turns 75 before that occurs.

Murphy said he has submitted three names of potential replacements to the Vatican’s nuncio, or representative, in Washington, D.C., as required by church rules, but cannot reveal them. The nuncio then submits three names to a Vatican committee, which in turn submits three names to the pope for his consideration of all the candidates.

Murphy said he has no idea where the process stands.

“Could it be in Rome already? Yeah. Could it not be in Rome already? Yeah,” he said. “It’s a 50-50.”

Murphy, who studied in Rome in the 1960s and served on the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission of Justice and Peace from 1974 to 1987, said returning there is “not really in the cards. I love Rome. But I think I’m very happy here. I really love the place.”

He said he plans to visit Rome and Boston in his retirement, but that Long Island and the rectory will be his “anchor.”

Currently, there are 167 retired bishops, archbishops and auxiliary bishops in the United States, according to Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

It is common for a retiring bishop to remain in the diocese from which he retires, and not unusual for him to remain living in the diocese’s seat, said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior analyst for The National Catholic Reporter.

A new bishop has the ultimate say on where the retired bishop lives, but the two usually work it out amicably, he said.

Some retired bishops move away and pursue all kinds of activities, from writing books to golfing. Many return to their roots, working part-time as parish priests, “which is why they entered the seminary,” Reese said.


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