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Pope Taps Allentown, Pennsylvania Bishop For Rockville Centre

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Pope Francis has named a new bishop for Rockville Centre, tapping the bishop of Allentown, Pennsylvania whose diocese is one of six undergoing a statewide grand jury investigation into clerical sex abuse.

Bishop John Barres will succeed 76-year-old Bishop William Murphy, who submitted his resignation in 2015 as required by church law when he turned 75. Murphy led the diocese since 2001.

"It is my deep conviction that he will be a Bishop for all of us without exception," Murphy said in a statement.

Barres is a native of Larchmont, New York and has been the shepherd of Roman Catholics in the Allentown diocese since July 2009. He expanded his ministry to Hispanics, the fastest growing ethnic group in the diocese, CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported.

He graduated from Princeton, and even played three years of junior varsity basketball there. Barres also received a masters from New York University and studied theology at Catholic University.

The 56-year-old will be installed on Jan. 31. The Rockville Centre Diocese is the eighth-largest U.S. diocese, serving 1.45 million Catholics in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

"It is a joy to welcome Bishop John Barres 'back home' to New York, as Pope Francis has appointed him to become the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre," Cardinal Timothy Dolan said in a statement. "Born in the Archdiocese of New York, and baptized by the then Auxiliary Bishop of New York, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, Bishop Barres' New York roots run deep.  His pastoral experience, first as a priest in the Diocese of Wilmington, and since 2009 as Bishop of Allentown, will serve him well as he undertakes this new challenge of ministry and service to God's people on Long Island.  I look forward to many years of working closely together with him."

Teamwork, sharing, chemistry, and passion are sports messages that the former ball playing bishop brings from his old post.

"I liked how he talked about basketball and related to being a good leader in the church, you need skills," Ciaran Murray said.

"I liked how he spoke about he adored the kids and the elderly and how he relates basketball to a life lesson," Ariana Taveras added.

Bishop Murphy was popular with some, but critics called him autocratic, too conservative, lacking in warmth, McLogan reported.

Rockville Centre residents were reacting to the news of getting a new bishop on Friday.

"I just hope he has an open mind and he's very accepting of everybody," resident Melissa Allen said.

"Bishop Murphy has been here a long time and done a good job, I think the younger bishop will probably do that same good job," resident John O'Brien said.

"Many thanks to the bishop retiring and I hope that the bishop coming in is open minded, and takes into account that females are representative in the United States," resident Mary Smith said.

Although SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, blasted both Bishops Murphy and Barres for not doing enough to help victims and punish the guilty, overall accolades have been pouring in from all over the country that Rockville Centre is getting a very good man.

Barres has said the Allentown diocese is fully cooperating with investigators and noted that since 2002, it has given county prosecutors all records of accused priests.

The abuse scandal, which exploded in the U.S. in Boston in 2002, has heated up recently in Pennsylvania. In March, a state grand jury report said two former bishops who led the Altoona-Johnstown diocese had helped cover up the abuse of hundreds of children.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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