The appointment comes following controversy surrounding Word on Fire’s handling of an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by a former employee.
Bishop Robert Barron, founder of Catholic media apostolate Word on Fire, will soon be named the new bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester in Minnesota, The Pillar reported Wednesday.
Sources familiar with the appointment, who was first reported by “Whispers in the Loggia” writer Rocco Palmo, confirmed the report to Aleteia.
The news comes two weeks after The Pillar published an article about the resignation of Word on Fire staff following what they say was mishandling of an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by a former employee.
During the leadership of his media ministry, Barron became something of a household name among Catholics and non-Catholics. Since founding Word on Fire in 2000, the evangelistic initiative has grown from a website featuring Barron’s homilies to becoming a Catholic media giant. The organization’s videos and books are used in religious training classes, and its articles, podcasts and Bible studies are popular resources among the faithful.
Word on Fire was founded, states its website, because of a “simple yet powerful idea: to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ through multiple media platforms, engaging people with the goodness, truthand beauty of Catholicism”.
As an evangelizer, in the spirit of Pope Francis, Barron has made it a point to reach out to the peripheries with articles and videos aimed at engaging unbelievers. His comments on Bob Dylan and hunger games, were offered alongside classes on St. John Henry Newman and a series of videos on “The Sacraments.” In 2021, he participated in his third “Ask Me Anything” session on the Reddit website, during which he spoke with young people about issues concerning the Church’s teaching on questions ranging from Church teaching on homosexuality, to priestly sex abuse scandals, to questions about salvation.
As a priest in Chicago, Barron broadcast his homilies on a local radio station. With the support of Cardinal Francis George, he formed the Word on Fire ministry to share them with a wider audience. Appointed auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles in 2015, he previously chaired the United States Council of Catholic Bishops’ committee on evangelism and catechesis, and is chair-elect of the committee on laity, family life and youth.
With the appointment, Barron would succeed Bishop John Quinn, who announced his resignation in December 2020, after reaching his 75th birthday. The Winona-Rochester Diocese comprises Minnesota’s southernmost counties, home to 130,000 Catholics, according to The Pillar.