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Catholic Diocese Bishop Lennon Is Retiring Early Because of Failing Health

Bishop Lennon announcing his early retirement

Bishop Richard Lennon announced today that because of ongoing health problems he’s retiring early as head of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. He says Pope Francis granted him early retirement because he’s been diagnosed with “vascular dementia,” a progressive illness that restricts blood-flow to the brain. 

The 69-year-old Lennon did not take questions during the press conference. But in a brief statement, he thanked the pope for allowing him to step-down after 10 and a half years. He also he expressed gratitude to the priests, lay people and parishioners of the diocese, and asked for their prayers.

Bishop Daniel Edward Thomas
Toledo Bishop Daniel Edward Thomas will be interim bishop for Cleveland unitl a replacement for Bishop Lennon is found.

Until a new bishop is appointed, Toledo Diocese Bishop Daniel Edward Thomas will run the Cleveland diocese. He compares the role to being an interim coach.

“My job is to be the conduit, if you will, from the past to the future. And that is, simply to make sure that the diocese knows it is cared for. That is why the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has named an Apostolic administrator, so that the Diocese of Cleveland is well aware and feels his care and concern for all the people here.”        

During his time in Cleveland, Bishop Lennon oversaw a major capital improvement campaign, as well as a controversial restructuring that led to the closure of dozens of parish churches. 

Bob Kloos was one of the parishioners who successfully fought Lennon’s efforts and got the Vatican to reverse some of the closures.

Kloos: A bumpy road

“There were some very surprising results when Rome came back and found in favor of all the appealing parishes. That was just one episode in 10 years with Bishop Lennon here. And knowing that this day was coming, the only thing that I really want to say is that the last 10 years have been a very bumpy road, a lot bumpier than they needed to be.”

Lennon also expanded the morality clause for Catholic school teachers and waived the fee for annulments for Catholic marriages.

Lennon is a native of Boston, who was ordained back in 1973.  He rose to bishop and served as apostolic administrator in Boston after Cardinal Bernard Law resigned amid the church sex scandal there. 

He was vicar general of Boston from 2003 to 2006, when Pope Benedict XVI appointed him to take over from  retiring Cleveland Bishop Anthony Pilla. In February, he underwent emergency heart surgery.