New Saginaw Catholic bishop has handled controversy in the past

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SAGINAW (WJRT) (5/24/2019) - Bishop Robert Gruss is coming to Saginaw from South Dakota and will be the new leader of a religious community with some big challenges.

Robert Gruss, the seventh bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw

Gruss got a phone call three weeks ago informing him Pope Francis has selected him to be the seventh bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw. He has been the bishop in Rapid City, South Dakota for the past eight years.

"I knew after almost eight years -- I was suspecting within the next two years I would be moving, but didn't think it would happen within two months, so I was quite surprised, and Saginaw was really not on my radar," Gruss said.

The 63-year-old is a native of Texarkana, Arkansas, and loves to hunt and fish and he rides a Harley-Davidson.

Gruss takes over in Saginaw after the death of former Bishop Joseph Cistone in October. Walter Hurley has been serving as interim bishop since then.

"I'm truly delighted that he is the one that has been chosen to be here," Hurley said of Gruss.

The past several years have been tumultuous for the Saginaw diocese, as churches and schools have closed and there is the sex abuse scandal. Robert DeLand has been sent to prison and two other priests remain suspended from ministry while facing sexual assault allegations.

"There is no place in the church for sexual abuse of minors or anyone else," Gruss said. "It's a terrible thing to have priests abuse their power and authority for their own self serving reasons."

The Saginaw diocese has also had some internal conflicts over how masses should be conducted. Some advocate for traditional practices, while others opt for more modern ways of worship.

Gruss said he will try to unite the diocese.

"Differences shouldn't divide us," he said. "If situations are approached in the right way, I think unity can come about."

He will try to bring that unity once he is he installed officially as Saginaw's bishop on July 26.

"I'm happy to be here, because I believe in my heart the Lord has called me here in a very particular way," Gruss said.

He is no stranger to rocky times. KOTA, our sister station in Rapid City, South Dakota, reports that Gruss has served there as bishop for the last eight years.

Two priests from his diocese are currently behind bars. One pleaded guilty to child sex abuse and is serving six years in prison while another is in custody and accused of embezzling $150,000 from two churches.