Pope Francis has removed Bishop Joseph E. Strickland from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, the Holy See Press Office announced Nov. 11. Simultaneously, the pope has appointed Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin as apostolic administrator to oversee the diocese until a new bishop is appointed.
No reason was given for Bishop Strickland's removal, although speculation about his future in the diocese has swirled for months following the bishop's May 12 post on Twitter (now known as X), accusing the pontiff of "undermining the deposit of faith."
The pope's decision followed an address given by Bishop Strickland at an Oct. 31 public gathering in Rome, where he read from a lengthy letter, attributed to a "dear friend," that accused Pope Francis (among other things) of being a "usurper of Peter's chair." Later, the bishop opined himself that Pope Francis was supporting an "attack on the sacred" coming out of the Vatican.
The speculation about Bishop Strickland's future was accelerated by a June 19-24 apostolic visitation of the Diocese of Tyler conducted by retired Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., and Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan of Camden, N.J.
On Nov. 11, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston released a public statement on the bishop's removal, explaining that after the apostolic visitation of the Tyler Diocese took place — which he described as "an exhaustive inquiry into all aspects of the governance and leadership of the Diocese of Tyler by its ordinary" — it was recommended "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," Cardinal DiNardo said in his statement. "Having been presented with that request on Nov. 9, Bishop Strickland declined to resign from office. Thereafter, on Nov. 11, the Holy Father removed Bishop Strickland from the Office of Bishop of Tyler."
Bishop Strickland, 65, led the diocese since his ordination as bishop in 2012.
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