By Elizabeth O'Brien
BIRMINGHAM, August 15, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Rome recently appointed Bishop Robert J. Baker, known for his faithfulness, and especially his courage in officially denying communion to Catholic, pro-abortion politicians, to the Alabama diocese that is home to the world's largest Catholic television and radio network.
Pope Benedict XVI chose the 63-year old bishop to head the Birmingham diocese where the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), the international television network that was founded by Mother Angelica, is based. Baker has a strong connection with EWTN already, having appeared on EWTN in the past; he also recently co-authored the book "When Did We See You, Lord?" with EWTN personnel Father Benedict J. Groeschel.
Baker, who is replacing Bishop David E. Foley, will officially assume his position in Birmingham on October 2 and take over the diocese that is home to around 86,500 Catholics. Foley retired in 2005, and the diocese has been without a bishop for 27 months, an unheard of length of time in the Catholic Church, Tuscaloosa News Reports.
At a press conference on Tuesday morning Bishop Foley introduced Baker, saying, "We have waited a long time for a bishop." He stated enthusiastically, "I tell you, the wait has been well worth the time."
Baker has stated that he will continue to support EWTN. He commended the network's emphasis on Bible outreach in the South, which is predominantly Protestant, and he called the effort "evangelical Catholicism." Baker referred with respect to Bible Belt Protestant evangelization initiatives, and stated his commitment to working with other Christian denominations despite the theological differences.
He stated, "I pledge to seek with you those areas of common concern and belief, to help us build bridges between us, while respecting the areas of divergence that call for further prayer, reflection and dialogue." Referring to other Christian Churches, he said, "Always may we maintain a spirit of mutual respect and deep love for one another."
Baker, who has been a strong supporter of the pro-life cause, also emphasized the importance of helping all those in need, including the elderly and the unborn. As the former bishop of the diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, he was part of a joint agreement in 2004 between the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina to refuse communion to Catholic pro-abortion politicians.
The three bishops, including Archbishop John F. Donoghue and Bishop Peter J. Jugis, issued a statement that said, "Catholics serving in public life espousing positions contrary to the teaching of the Church on the sanctity and inviolability of human life, especially those running for or elected to public office are not to be admitted to Holy Communion in any Catholic church within our jurisdictions."
The statement left no room for compromises or excuses, stating, "Only after reconciliation with the Church has occurred with the knowledge and consent of the local bishop and public disavowal of former support for procured abortion, will the individual be permitted to approach the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist."
Read Previous LifeSiteNews coverage:
Archbishop of Atlanta and Two Other Bishops Forbid Pro-Abortion Politicians from Communion
See Baker's full statement on pro-abortion politicians not receiving communion: