Pope removes controversial bishop of Texas diocese


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VATICAN CITY — The Holy Father has removed Bishop Joseph E. Strickland from the pastoral governance of the diocese of Tyler, Texas, and has appointed Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin as apostolic administrator of the same diocese.

The decision came after an apostolic visitation ordered by Pope Francis last June in the Diocese of Tyler, which was entrusted to two U.S. bishops, Bishop Dennis Sullivan of Camden, N.J., and Bishop Emeritus Gerald Kicanas of Tucson.

Cardinal Daniel Nicholas DiNardo, Metropolitan Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, released a statement in which he noted that the prelates who made the visit “conducted an exhaustive inquiry into all aspects of the governance and leadership of the Diocese of Tyler by its Ordinary, Bishop Joseph Strickland.”

“As a result of the visitation,” the statement continues, “the recommendation was made to the Holy Father that the continuation in office of Bishop Strickland was not feasible. After months of careful consideration by the Dicastery for Bishops and the Holy Father, the decision was reached that the resignation of Bishop Strickland should be requested. Having been presented with that request on Nov. 9, Bishop Strickland declined to resign from office.” Pope Francis then decided to remove the bishop.

“Pending more permanent arrangements for the Diocese of Tyler,” Cardinal DiNardo said, “the Holy Father has, at the same time, appointed Bishop Joe Vasquez, Bishop of Austin, as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Tyler.”

Cardinal DiNardo concluded his statement, “Let us keep Bishop Strickland, the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Tyler and Bishop Vasquez in our prayers.”

The Diocese of Tyler serves a 33-county area in northeast Texas. Bishop Strickland had served as its leader since 2012, when he was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI. Previously, he served in various leadership capacities at the diocese. According to its website, the diocese is comprised of  54 parishes, 14 missions and five schools.

In the last six years, the bishop had been a vocal critic of  Pope Francis, using his Twitter account, in particular, to criticize his programs and decisions. He also had been a critic of Covid-19 restrictions and vaccines.

In a recent tweet, he called it “a travesty” that the month-long synod at the Vatican was going to allow discussions about expanding the role of  women in the Church and greater inclusion for LGBT+ individuals.

As is customary, the Vatican did not reveal specific findings of the apostolic visitation to the Diocese of Tyler. In a story published Nov. 11, America magazine cited sources in the Vatican saying that the visitation “had revealed major issues with (the bishop’s) governance of the diocese.”

This story was compiled from information published by Vatican News, America magazine and the official website of the Diocese of Tyler.



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