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Pope appoints new Boston auxiliary bishop from Brazil with heart for ‘mission and evangelization’

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley of Boston gives Bishop-designate Cristiano G. Borro Barbosa his pectoral cross at the Archdiocese of Boston's pastoral center in Braintree, Mass., on Dec. 9, 2023. The Vatican press office announced the same day that Pope Francis named Father Barbosa as the archdiocese's new auxiliary bishop. (OSV News photo / Gregory L. Tracy, The Pilot)

(OSV News) — A Boston priest has been appointed as that archdiocese’s newest auxiliary bishop, a native of Brazil with a heart for discipleship, evangelization and ministering to immigrant communities.

The Vatican press office announced Dec. 9 that Pope Francis named Father Cristiano G. Borro Barbosa, a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, as the archdiocese’s new auxiliary bishop.

“I am grateful to our Holy Father Pope Francis for blessing the archdiocese with the appointment of Bishop-elect Barbosa. He offers a shepherd’s heart and a wide range of experiences that have prepared him for this new role in the life of the church,” Boston Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley said, according to The Pilot, the archdiocesan newspaper.

“His theological background, extensive parish experience, and ministry with the ethnic community clearly appealed to the Holy Father in making this appointment,” he added.

Bishop-designate Barbosa is the second native Brazilian to be named a bishop in the U.S., preceded by Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, whose episcopal ordination as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, took place in September 2003.

Ordained a priest in 2007, the 47-year-old native of Adamantina, Brazil currently serves as the Boston Archdiocese’s secretary for evangelization and discipleship, as well as episcopal vicar for the central region of the archdiocese.

At a Dec. 9 press conference, Cardinal O’Malley said that Bishop-designate Barbosa’s episcopal ordination will take place Feb. 3, 2024, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.

Cardinal O’Malley said the appointment of Bishop-designate Barbosa made it “a very happy day for all of us,” especially since the Brazilian community is “the fastest-growing demographic” in Massachusetts, growing by “about 30%” over the last decade and with “33% … under 25 years of age.”

Bishop-designate Barbosa, speaking at the press conference in English, Portuguese and Spanish, said he felt “happy, overwhelmed, kind of fearful, but full of joy” on receiving news of his appointment from Cardinal Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S.

He recalled driving to a pastoral council around 6 p.m. when “I received this call (in) English with a French accent,” he said. “(Cardinal Pierre) said, ‘Please stop the car.’ I said, ‘I’m on Bluetooth,’ and he said, ‘No, stop the car.'”

Bishop-designate Barbosa also quipped that his 10-year-old nephew is now “happy I became a piece on the chess board.”

He also thanked Cardinal O’Malley “for insisting on keeping” him in the archdiocese, to which he had relocated in 2009 to pursue graduate studies in theology at Boston College.

Having completed his studies in both philosophy and psychology in Brazil, then-Father Barbosa began working with the growing Brazilian and Portuguese-speaking communities in the Boston area while obtaining his licentiate and doctorate in sacred theology. At the time, he still had “plans to return” to his home Diocese of Bauru in Brazil’s São Paulo state after graduation, hoping to assist with seminarian formation, he said at the press conference.

Yet as he ministered to “immigrants…from so many different cultures” in the archdiocese, he came “to realize what we have been weaving together as the people of God — a beautiful and rich tapestry of faith, hope and love that reveals the beauty and wonder of the Archdiocese of Boston,” he said.

His assignments in the archdiocese have included serving at several parishes and, from 2008 to 2019, as chaplain of the Brazilian-Portuguese community. Bishop-designate Barbosa has since 2020 been a faculty member at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, and at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts. In 2021, he incardinated into the archdiocese.

Bishop-designate Barbosa said at the press conference that, “profoundly humbled and with a heart full of joy and gratitude to God,” he now looks forward to focusing on “mission and evangelization” with even greater fervor.

“We can no longer take for granted that our neighbors and those we encounter every day know about Jesus and his Gospel,” said Bishop-designate Barbosa.

Reaching youth and young adults in the Brazilian community in particular is both “a great opportunity and a great challenge,” he said.

“We know that a large majority of them are not coming to church, and it is a challenge to minister to them, to give them what they need,” he said. “We have second and third generations who pray in Portuguese but speak in English, and many leave the church. … We need to find out how God is calling us to act and minister to them.”

Ultimately, said Bishop-designate Barbosa, “I see a great need for the church, for all of us who have been baptized, to be truly present to everyone at the service of all humankind and creation.”

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Gina Christian is a national reporter for OSV News. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter, at @GinaJesseReina. Staff from The Pilot, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston, contributed to this report.

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