Bishop Pilla Asks to Resign

CNonline [Cleveland OH]
February 3, 2006

After 25 years of service, Bishop Anthony M. Pilla has asked to leave his post as head of the diocese of Cleveland.

While he waits for a replacement from the Vatican, he continues to lead more than 800,000 Catholics in Northeast Ohio.

In finding a replacement, the Vatican has several avenues open to it.

This includes appointing a bishop coadjutor to serve along with Pilla for an extended period of time before allowing him to leave.

Questions have arisen surrounding the reasons behind his request.

Bishops are mandated to resign at age 75 but commonly retire early, usually as a result of health issues.

Pilla, 73, has undergone a quadruple bypass.

He also had a staph infection and prostrate surgery since 1997.

When asked if his health was the reason for his retirement, Pilla replied "I really don't want to get into that."

Locally, Pilla's reputation suffered when it was discovered that numerous members of the Cleveland Diocese clergy were involved in the worldwide sexual abuse scandal.

"The role of bishop today is very difficult and the stress they deal with is considerable. No doubt the pain he saw in the victims of the clergy abuse troubled him greatly," said the Rev. Donald Cozzens, a religious studies professor.

Cozzens believes that in order to improve the church, there must be greater accountability and transparency by its leaders.

"If the bishops are to regain the confidence and trust of Catholics, they must be far more open with the people of their dioceses."

Despite the scandals, Pilla was able to keep many local churches open as urban sprawl took many Catholics to the blossoming suburbs.

Pilla believed that the parishes were vital to the city and that they helped communities.

Under Pilla's leadership, only 12 parishes closed.

The scarcity of priests in the Catholic Church may make the next diocesan leader's job more difficult.

Cozzens remarked that the shortage of priests has prompted many in the diocese to believe that more parishes should be closed where membership is low.

"The next bishop will have to make some hard decisions soon after he is installed."

Pilla did not set a specific date for departing the diocese and said that he had no authority to do so.

For approval, he must now wait for a response from Pope Benedict XVI.

The Vatican has no set timetable for processing retirement requests.

Pilla's leading the Cleveland Diocese has drawn him vast support from many members of the community.

"He certainly in 25 years has done a wonderful job, no doubt about it," said Rev. Frank Kosem of St. Jude Church in Elyria.

"JCU will miss Bishop Pilla. He has valued the intellectual life at John Carroll, has participated in many of our activities and has fostered a mutually respectful relationship with us," said Doris Donnelly, director of the Cardinal Suenens Center at John Carroll University.

"We have been fortunate to have him as a close friend," Donnelly said.


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