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Detroit’s new auxiliary is an archbishop and veteran Vatican diplomat

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Pope Francis on Monday named an archbishop who served as an apostolic nuncio in Central Asia as an auxiliary bishop of the Detroit archdiocese.

The Holy See press office said on May 23 that Archbishop Paul Fitzpatrick Russell, the former apostolic nuncio to Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan, would retain the personal title of archbishop of Novi in his new post.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron, who has led the Archdiocese of Detroit since 2009, said: “We are deeply grateful to Pope Francis for appointing Archbishop Russell as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Detroit, and we are similarly grateful to Archbishop Russell for accepting this new ministry.”

“We are particularly glad to welcome Archbishop Russell home to Michigan, where he grew up and first heard the Lord call him to the priestly vocation. Having served the Church all over the world, Archbishop Russell brings to the Archdiocese of Detroit a valuable perspective of the universal Church and our mission to make joyful missionary disciples of all nations.”

Paul Fitzpatrick Russell was born on May 2, 1959, in Greenfield, Massachusetts, but spent much of his childhood in northern Michigan.

He studied at Saint John’s Seminary in Boston and gained a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston on June 20, 1987.

He entered the Vatican diplomatic service in 1997, serving in the Section for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, as well as in Ethiopia, Turkey, Switzerland, and Nigeria, and as head of the diplomatic mission to Taiwan.

On March 19, 2016, Pope Francis appointed him titular archbishop of Novi and apostolic nuncio to Turkey and Turkmenistan.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley ordained Russell to the episcopate at the Cathedral of the Holy Name in Boston on June 3, 2016. Archbishop Vigneron was a co-consecrator.

Russell, who speaks English, French, Italian, Spanish, and German, was also appointed apostolic nuncio to Azerbaijan on April 7, 2018.

According to the website catholic-hierarchy.org, he resigned as nuncio to Turkey on Oct. 22, 2021, and as nuncio to Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan on Feb. 2 this year.

Russell is related to Blessed Michał Piaszczyński, a Polish priest who died in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1940 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1999.

The Detroit Catholic reported that Russell will become the 31st auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese’s history. He will serve alongside four other auxiliaries: Bishop Donald Hanchon, Bishop Arturo CepedaBishop Gerard Battersby, and Bishop Robert Fisher.

On Oct. 9, Hanchon will turn 75, the age at which bishops must present their resignations to the pope.

The Detroit archdiocese serves 1.1 million self-identifying Catholics via 215 parishes in Michigan’s Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, St. Clair and Lapeer counties.

Russell will be formally welcomed to the archdiocese on July 7 during a liturgy at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit.

The 63-year-old archbishop said: “I am so happy with Pope Francis’ decision to send me home and look forward to serving as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Detroit and immersing myself in the mission and ministry of the local Church in southeast Michigan.”

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Detroit’s new auxiliary is an archbishop and veteran Vatican diplomat