ROME — Pope Benedict recently welcomed Bishop-designate Gregory L. Parkes of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida – the newest and the tallest member of the U.S. episcopate.
"I'm 6 feet 8 inches and I believe from what I've heard from the other bishops that I will be the tallest bishop in the United States," Bishop-designate Parkes told CNA in Rome prior to his papal audience May 11.
"As far as the gift that it is, I suppose people remember you first of all and you tend to draw attention to yourself, so I try to use that in a very good way and very positive way to serve God's people."
Pictured: Bishop-designate Gregory L. Parkes of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, center, celebrated Mass during ad limina visit. (Photos by SueAnn Howell.)
The towering cleric will be installed at bishop of Pensacola Tallahassee on June 5. This week he is making his first ever "ad limina" pilgrimage to Rome and his first ever papal audience at bishop-designate.
"I want to assure the Holy Father that I will be faithful to him and to the teaching of our Church and to let him know that there is great hope in the United States," Bishop Parkes said.
Originally from New York's Long Island, the 48-year-old bishop moved to Florida in his teens to attend college at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Interestingly, his alma mater is now in his new diocese. He was ordained for the Diocese of Orlando in 1999.
He described this week in Rome as a "great blessing" as well as an opportunity to grasp how the administration of the Vatican operates.
"I had the privilege of studying here in Rome for four years from 1996 to 2000 here at the North American College," he said, "but I never really had a chance to visit the various congregations and councils that help the Church to function."
He was particularly inspired by a visit to the new Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization which was founded by Pope Benedict in 2010 and is led by the Italian Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella.
"We had a very good discussion there with the Archbishop Fisichella," Bishop-designate Parkes added.
He summed up his idea of what the new evangelization is as "finding modern ways to communicate the lasting truths of our faith" by using "the current social media that people are looking to for information to spread the good news and to evangelize about our Catholic faith."
— CNA/EWTN News
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