Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Richard G. Lennon of Cleveland. He has headed the diocese since 2006.
Bishop Lennon, who turns 70 in March, said during a news conference
at diocesan offices Dec. 28 that he had developed vascular dementia,
leading to his decision to submit his resignation for health reasons to
the pope in November.
“Recently it has come to my awareness that my health has declined to
such an extent that I should resign as diocesan bishop,” he said.
“Given the progressive nature of this illness,” he added. “Pope Francis has accepted my request for an early retirement.”
Normally, bishops do not turn in their resignation to the pope until they turn 75, as required by canon law.
The pope named Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Toledo, Ohio, as the
apostolic administrator of the diocese until the installation of a new
The changes were first announced in Washington early Dec. 28 by
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Bishop Thomas, 57, called Bishop Lennon’s request for an early
retirement “both a humble and courageous act, one that speaks volumes to
his love for the local church and his desire that the people of God
receive the pastoral care they need.”
Having to take on the additional responsibilities of overseeing the
Cleveland Diocese was unexpected, Bishop Thomas said. He compared his
appointment as apostolic administrator to that of an interim coach.
“My job is to be the conduit from the past to the future,” he said.
Bishop Thomas admitted during the news conference that he had
“limited” knowledge of the diocese and that he would undertake a quick
study of the Catholic Church that serves 692,000 Catholics in eight
As apostolic administrator, Bishop Thomas said, he would regularly
travel between Toledo and Cleveland, a distance of about 120 miles.
“My sister-in-law texted me this morning and said, ‘Well, maybe they
should clone you even though the church doesn’t believe in that,'”
Bishop Thomas said, smiling. “Someone else said, ‘Well, maybe you should
follow the example of Padre Pio.’ But I’m not a saint, so I can’t
“But I hope you know I will do everything in my power to work so well
with the good folks here and in the Diocese of Toledo to be able to
govern the people entrusted to me by Pope Francis until a successor is
named,” he said.
Bishop Thomas pointed particularly to the “rich ethnic culture and
traditions” represented in northeast Ohio and said he was looking
forward to meeting parishioners in the diocese’s 185 parishes as well as
the priests, deacons and religious communities that minister to them.
“There is much for me to learn, understand and embrace as I strive,
with your help, to get down to the work of governance in shepherding the
diocese,” Bishop Thomas said.
Prior to his appointment to head the Toledo Diocese in 2015, Bishop
Thomas was auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia beginning
At the archdiocese, he oversaw the Media Affairs Department,
the Office for Clergy, including the Department of Permanent Deacons,
and the Vocation Office for the archdiocesan priesthood. He was ordained
a priest for the archdiocese in 1985 by Cardinal John J. Krol, a native
Bishop Lennon was an auxiliary bishop of Boston before he was named
Cleveland’s 10th bishop by Pope Benedict XVI.
During his decade in
Cleveland, he led the revision of the statutes governing the diocese’s
finance, pastoral and presbyteral councils, established norms governing
internal audits of parishes and schools, and carried out a plan to
The diocese also completed a capital campaign in
2016 that raised more than $170 million for parish and diocesan needs.
A Boston area native, Bishop Lennon was ordained in 1973 and served
in the Boston Archdiocese as a parish priest, fire department chaplain,
assistant for canonical affairs and rector of St. John’s Seminary.
He was ordained auxiliary bishop for Boston in 2001 and served as
apostolic administrator of the archdiocese from December 2002 to July
2003 after Cardinal Bernard F. Law resigned as archbishop in the midst
of Boston’s crisis over clergy sexual abuse of minors.
successor as archbishop, then-Bishop Sean P. O’Malley, was named that