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Jun. 23—Pope Francis has appointed the Most Rev. Mark L. Bartchak, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura — the Vatican's highest court.
The appointment is for a five-year term, and Bartchak will continue to serve as leader of the local diocese.
"Bishop Bartchak's appointment to the Vatican's highest court will not impact our liturgical life here in Altoona-Johnstown, but certainly all local Catholics should feel a sense of pride that their bishop has been chosen by Pope Francis for this important role in the church," said Tony DeGol, secretary of communications for the diocese.
Bartchak and the other 11 members will judge cases that are typically appeals of lower court decisions.
The Apostolic Signatura is the final court of appeals for cases that come from the Vatican city-state.
"As someone who works closely with Bishop Bartchak, I am certainly impressed by his expertise in canon law," DeGol said, "and I have witnessed his brother bishops around the world and various religious organizations turn to him for counsel on such matters."
Along with Bartchak, Pope Francis also appointed Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, and Cardinal James Harvey, Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. William Daniel, professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America, also was among those appointed.
Bartchak was ordained and installed as the eighth bishop of the Altoona-Johnstown diocese in 2011.
He is a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance. He has assisted the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in various matters.
"Despite the significance of this appointment and the additional responsibilities that are likely to go along with it, his priority is shepherding the faithful of this diocese," DeGol said. "Our bishop is a respected canonist, but his greatest desire is helping the good people of Altoona-Johnstown to know and love Jesus Christ."