BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Pope Francis is calling on all bishops to consider what simplicity means in their lives. Here in Buffalo, will that mean Bishop Richard Malone will stop living in a million dollar home?
The bishop currently resides in a mansion on Oakland Place, which is owned by the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and has nine bedrooms and six bathrooms. The diocese purchased the mansion in the 1950s for $50,000. Over the next 60 years, the assessed value of the property rose to $1.3 million.
John Hurley, co-chair of the bishop's council on laity, said, "It seems to come up either when we have a new bishop and then the first question is: will he live in the mansion or will he sell it?"
But in this instance, the question came up with the election of Pope Francis, who is dedicated to a life of poverty.
Mark Zirnheld with the Society of St. Vincent DePaul, a Catholic charity that helps the poor, says the pope's outlook is refreshing.
"It's a chance to rethink just to see how valuable that is in the business dealings of the diocese and is it a positive for us," Zirnheld said.
If faith is more about service, why would an opulent mansion be needed?
Hurley explained, "Unlike your house or my house, the bishop lives in a meeting hall where the public is in regularly. If it was to be sold I am sure the diocese would have a place to put the return on it."
Hurley says though the outside of the mansion looks lavish, the inside is much more modest. The bishop has a three-bedroom apartment and there are two smaller apartments for priests.
"I think they've tried to be efficient in the use of it so that he's not there by himself. But it is not opulent by any standard," Hurley said.
For now there are no plans to sell the home. But with empty churches scattered across Buffalo and schools undergoing consolidations, some question why it is needed.
"Some people feel it's an over ornate show of the wealth of the church and it's something that doesn't really fit in with the message of service," Zirnheld noted.
But Hurley says the building is often used for annual gatherings and fundraisers, and serves a larger purpose than just to house the bishop.
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