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  • What is an episcopal vicar?

    Some aspects of diocesan life are so important to a bishop that he appoints a priest to oversee them on his behalf. Those appointees are called episcopal vicars and in the Diocese of Arlington they manage clergy and charitable works. Father Paul D. Scalia, episcopal vicar for clergy and director of the permanent diaconate formation program, and Father Robert C. Ciliniski, episcopal vicar for charitable works and pastor of Church of the Nativity in Burke, were appointed originally by Bishop Emeritus Paul S. Loverde in 2015.

    As with the vicar general, who handles much of a bishop’s administrative tasks, by canon law (c. 478 §1).episcopal vicars must be “not less than 30 years old, doctors or licensed in canon law or theology or at least truly expert in these disciplines, and recommended by sound doctrine, integrity, prudence, and experience in handling matters.”

    Every priest is the bishop’s representative, said Father Scalia, but vicars act for the bishop. “It means the person holding that title has authority to make decision on behalf of the bishop, what we call ordinary power,” he said.

    “The bishop can't be everywhere, although Bishop Burbidge seems to be,” Father Cilinski joked. “An episcopal vicar is appointed to provide pastoral care and to represent him in an area or activity of the diocese.”

    In his role, Father Scalia supports the clergy of the diocese, “providing whatever assistance they need in their work, (and) advising the bishop about assignments or ongoing formation,” said Father Scalia. “The temptation is to view it just in terms of (human resources), which isn’t fair because the priests and deacons are not employees. The priests really are the bishop's sons — he has to care for them in that way.”

    In his role, Father Cilinski represents the bishop on the board of the Arlington diocesan Catholic Charities. He also works with Catholic Relief Services, the Virginia Catholic Conference and many other charitable organizations in the diocese such as food pantries, homes for new mothers and the Knights of Columbus.

    “I believe it's a privilege to be a part of that work, especially the board of Catholic Charities,” said Father Cilinski. “They inspire me by their dedication to the poor and how they strive to do more.

    “We are a poor church for the poor,” said Father Cilinski. “The poor always have to have the first place in our care and concern in pastoral ministry, because it's Christ Himself.”

    © Arlington Catholic Herald 2021

    @Zoey Maraist