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McCarthy successor likely to look more like Miami.

MIAMI SHORES, Fla. -- After five decades of leadership from Irish-American archbishops, Catholics in southern Florida may be getting a spiritual leader who -- to paraphrase President-elect Clinton -- looks like southern Florida.

Archbishop Edward S. McCarthy, who has lead Miami area Catholics for 15 years, will retire in April, and the odds-on profile for the next archbishop is that he will be of Hispanic, possibly Cuban, descent.

In an interview in his office at the archdiocese's pastoral center, McCarthy implied only that the next archbishop must be fluent in English and Spanish. Spanish is the first language for 57 percent of Dade Countians.

"Sixty-two percent of the Miami archdiocese is Hispanic," McCarthy said. "We can't ordain a priest unless he's bilingual."

McCarthy's mission has been to keep the church a relevant moral force in the region, to maintain the archdiocese's remarkable contribution to the well-being of refugees and to keep pews filled with parishioners.

In south Florida, he said, only 670,000 of the 1.1 million people who identify themselves as Catholics are registered in parishes.

"Continued evangelism," he said. "The leader has the mission to raise the excitement of what it means to be Catholic."

Evangelization could be McCarthy's middle name.

"Faith, Prayer and Love," McCarthy said, "is used by our laypeople and our priests to develop our concept of evangelism. Other dioceses look to us. Bishops in other American cities tell me |We think of Miami as the evangelization office."

In 1979, McCarthy opened the Office of Lay Ministry, which sponsors a two-year program of courses ranging from theology to social justice. McCarthy works closely with Marsha Whelan, the director of the archdiocese's evangelization office. In October, to mark the Fifth Centennial of Christianity in the Americas, parishioners visited every Catholic home within their parish boundaries.

"At the parish level, we take a fresh look at the vision of what the church is. We strengthen it," he said.

In a biography of McCarthy, Ana Rodriguez-Soto, a former news editor for the now-defunct archdiocesan newspaper The Voice, described the archbishop: "Quiet and gentle. Collegiality, consensus, unity are his passwords.... Delegation is the order of the day. Seldom does the archbishop get angry, but he will often memo that he is |concerned.' Instant decisions are rare."

Diocesan priests, laypeople and parishioners agree.

One priest, who asked not to be identified, called McCarthy "a visionary."

"By instinct he's low-profile. There are two sides to him. He's a non-bureaucrat and he's not a chancery bishop.... But his implementation has not matched his vision. His vision outreaches his grasp," he said. He cited McCarthy's quest for a large archdiocesan presence on radio and television in a time of severe financial cut-backs -- and possible closures -- of several inner-city Catholic schools.

A parishioner in southern Broward County put it more bluntly: "He's not an administrator. He's a dreamer. The archbishop is a like a little boy looking at a Christmas tree."

Critics aside, McCarthy will leave many achievements to the Miami archdiocese.

He built Miami's Genesis House for homeless AIDS patients and, working with Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh, president of the diocese's Catholic Community Services bureau, has made Miami a model in helping the homeless. In 1980, when 125,000 Cubans fled to southern Florida in the Mariel exodus, the archbishop made sure Miami did its best to welcome them.

McCarthy has also been a friend to Haitians. In 1980, the archdiocese declared the Haitian city of Port-de-Paix a sister diocese. In 1991 and 1992, the archdiocese assisted refugees who fled Haiti after Jean-Bertrand Aristide was overthrown. McCarthy also condemned the forced repatriation of Haitian refugees.

Twice, McCarthy concelebrated funeral Masses and donated burial plots for Haitians whose bodies had washed up on southern Florida beaches.

"When some Americans began complaining about the Haitian refugees, I didn't hear that from people in Miami," McCarthy said.
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Title Annotation:Miami, Florida Archbishop Edward S. McCarthy
Author:Slavin, J.P.
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jan 15, 1993
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