I learned yesterday at Mass and today in the WNJ that Bishop Saltarelli is in hospice care, which presumably means that cancer or whatever else ails him has taken its toll.
On many issues I did not agree with my bishop, but I have repeatedly found him in interactions to be a warm, caring, and humorous man, whose love for his parishoners exceeded any intellectual devotion to a particular interpretation of Christianity.
My son Michael first met him at age six, when the Bishop was visiting Resurrection Parish to conduct Mass. We were in the church library, and one of the Bishop's hangers-on was preparing to uncase and screw together his staff for the service. My own Michael, fascinated with this entire operation, asked if he could do it. The young and oh-too-serious Monsignor was recoiling in horror (I suppose it was his primary job in life), but Bishop Saltarelli laughed and said, "I think another Michael will take quite enough care with the stick. Let the boy have it."
On one occasion we discussed same-sex marriage, which he knew I supported and he opposed. He admitted that his own position had to do almost as much with his upbringing as his understanding of theology, and that this had often caused him to pick his words with care. "After all," he said, "I can only say what I believe and what I think God commands. It is necessary to be humble, because while God cannot be wrong, it is certainly possible that I may not be understanding Him perfectly."
Abortion, same-sex marriage, stem cells, and other issues bedevilling the Catholic Church also sometimes tended to separate the Bishop from parts of his flock, at least intellectually. Yet I do not believe those differences have ever kept Bishop Michael Saltarelli from loving his fellow human beings, and from attempting to do his best for both the most and the least of them.
I wish for him today release from pain, peace of mind, and the Heaven to which he has devoted his life.