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Retired Catholic Bishop Of Cleveland Richard Lennon Dies At 72

Bishop Richard G. Lennon discussing the decline in the Catholic population of greater Cleveland in 2009.
David C. Barnett
Bishop Richard G. Lennon discussing the decline in the Catholic population of greater Cleveland in 2009.

Update: 3:40 p.m., 10/30/19

Bishop Richard G. Lennon, who led the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland for a decade during a time of parish closures and consolidation, died Tuesday morning, the diocese announced. He was 72.

Born in Arlington, Massachusetts, Lennon attended Boston College and was ordained a priest in 1973. He was ordained an auxiliary bishop in 2001 and served for several months as the apostolic administrator for the Archdiocese of Boston after Cardinal Bernard Law’s resignation in 2002.

Pope Benedict XVI appointed Lennon to succeed Cleveland’s Bishop Anthony Pilla in 2006. Lennon retired in December 2016 after a diagnosis of vascular dementia.

“In his service to the diocese, Bishop Lennon showed a deep dedication to the faithful governance of the diocese and a tremendous love of the Church and the people he shepherded,” Bishop Nelson J. Perez, Lennon’s successor, said in statement released by the diocese. “May the Lord grant him eternal rest.”

In 2009, Lennon announced a parish consolidation plan that would close 50 Cleveland-area churches, citing dwindling populations and parish resources. After appeals, the Vatican ordered the reopening of 12 parishes.

“During his episcopacy in Cleveland, Bishop Lennon established a vision for the diocese focusing upon evangelization with an emphasis on the Gospel,” diocesan spokesman Deacon Jim Armstrong wrote in a Tuesday news release. “He also determined that the presence of the Church remain in every setting where consolidation would reduce the number parishes.”

The diocese said Lennon emphasized internal audits for parishes and diocesan schools and credited him for a $170 million capital campaign that funded parishes, Catholic schools, clergy retirement and other efforts.

A wake will begin with a vespers afternoon prayer service at 3 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Cleveland, according to the diocese. Bishop Nelson Perez will preside at the service and deliver a homily.

Lennon’s body will lie in state in the cathedral from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Nov. 5. The funeral Mass begins at 11 a.m.

His body will be interred in the cathedral’s Resurrection Chapel. 

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Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.