Just hours after the Vatican announced he would be the 13th bishop of the Diocese of Richmond, Bishop Barry Knestout was introduced to his new diocese at a Dec. 5 press conference there.

“I am honored to serve the Church of Richmond which has a long and revered history of faith,” Bishop Knestout said. “…My hope and prayer is for the Church of Richmond to be a strong voice of unity and charity, an impactful example of reconciliation and solidarity among the neglected, poor and forgotten, and a communion among those who are painfully separated brothers and sisters.”

Earlier in the morning, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, announced that Pope Francis had appointed the 55-year-old Bishop Knestout as the new bishop of Richmond, succeeding Bishop Francis DiLorenzo, who headed that diocese from 2004 until his death on Aug. 17.

For the past decade, Bishop Knestout has served as an auxiliary bishop and moderator of the Curia (chief of staff) for the Archdiocese of Washington. The Maryland native was ordained as a priest of the archdiocese in 1989.

Speaking to priests, diocesan employees and local media in Richmond, Bishop Knestout promised to embrace his new home “with all my heart.”

“My first focus is to visit throughout the diocese,” Bishop Knestout said. “This is a large territory and I want to take time to get the lay of the land and to know the parishes and the people and the clergy.”

Noting that “a significant aspect” of the Diocese of Richmond is the large number of colleges and universities located within it, Bishop Knestoout said it would be a priority of his to “reach out to young people… (and) making sure the faith is taught and taught well so that it is embraced and lived.”

In introducing himself to his new diocese, Bishop Knestout thanked his parents “for giving me life and forming me in the faith,” and thanked his eight brothers and sisters who “keep me humble and make sure I do not get too ahead of myself.”

Saying that “the Church of Washington has been a mother to me,” Bishop Knestout pointed out that he served under three archbishops of Washington: the late Cardinal James Hickey, Cardinal Theordore McCarrick and Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

He called Cardinal Hickey “a spiritual father to me” from whom he learned “the small details of priest service” and who was a model of “a steady hand and gentle spirit.” He said Cardinal McCarrick fostered in him “a missionary spirit.” His 10 years of serving with Cardinal Wuerl, Bishop Knestout said, was “an experience of learning, formation and growth in more than words can express.”

Bishop Knestout, noting that he was “happy and grateful for the trust the Holy Father has placed in me,” said he would serve the Diocese of Richmond by recalling that Pope Francis said “bishops should be pastors who are close to their people, pastors who are neighbors and servants… Our greatest joy is to be shepherds.”

He added that he would work “to strengthen the community we have” and to make sure that respecting the dignity of each human being “is respected and upheld and strengthened.”

“I look forward to serving as best I can as a shepherd here with my brother priests, religious, lay men and women and deacons,” Bishop Knestout said. “Let us begin the journey together moving forward with hope. Please pray for me.”

Msgr. Mark Richard Lane, who has served as diocesan administrator since the death of Bishop DiLorenzo, introduced Bishop Knestout at the press conference.

Msgr. Lane called Bishop Knestout “a humble, hardworking” bishop who will serve Richmond as “spiritual leader and a teacher who will guide this vast diocese and this community.”

Bishop Knestout will be installed as the 13th bishop of Richmond in Jan. 12 at 2 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond.