What is Pope Francis saying to Catholics in the U.S. South with the appointment of another Black bishop?
On May 13, 2022, the Rev. Jacques Fabre will be ordained and installed as the new bishop of Charleston, S.C. His predecessor, the Most Rev. Robert E Guglielmone, submitted his retirement to Pope Francis, as is custom at 75 years of age.
This is a historic appointment for many reasons. Bishop-elect Fabre will be the 14th bishop, but the first Black bishop, of the Diocese of Charleston, which extends throughout the entire state of South Carolina. An immigrant from Haiti, he will be one of a handful of Black bishops in the United States.
But these are all labels Bishop-elect Fabre is weary of. “First Haitian, first Black, what does that mean?” he says. “It might put you in a box and I hate to be in [a box.]” He concedes, however, that this is an important historical moment: “To have a person from a different country, different language, being part of the hierarchy of the states—it’s a huge progress.”
“It's a sign that the church in the south,” Gloria says, “which has this tangled up history with Blackness, with Black people,” can realize that “Black is beautiful. Black is holy. Black is beloved by God.”
Bishop-elect Fabre is a member of the religious order the Missionaries of St. Charles, or Scalabrinian Fathers. He has served in many places—Cuba, Colombia, Rome and the Dominican Republic—and in a variety of roles. He speaks five languages, including English, Spanish, Italian, French and Creole.