Vatican Accepts Bishop's Resignation
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"The Holy Father accepted my resignation effective today, September 21st," Bishop Matthew Clark explained.
With that announcement Bishop Matthew Clark officially entered retirement. He now holds the title of Bishop Emeritus. Clark submitted his resignation to the Vatican in July upon his 75th birthday, which Church law requires. He believed he would remain on the job until a new bishop was appointed.
"Commonly, I would have received a letter saying 'I accept your resignation now effective when your replacement is named,' in which case I would have continued without interruption my episcopal service here," he said. "So this is not the common way."
Bishop Robert Cunningham of the Syracuse Diocese assumes the role of Apostolic Administrator, or interim Bishop of Rochester, until Clark's permanent successor is named. It's a move Bishop Clark says caught him by surprise.
"The Holy See, in this case, chose the Apostolic Administrator option, they did that without explanation to me nor were they required to make one. So I really don't know precisely why that option was chosen but it was," said Clark.
Clark said the Vatican informed him of its decision two weeks ago. Just last Sunday, a special Mass was held at Sacred Heart Cathedral celebrating Clark's more than 33 years as head of the Diocese. The Bishop said knowing the end of his tenure leading Rochester Catholics was near, made that day even more meaningful.
"This was another profound change for me right in the middle of all that," said Bishop Clark. "It wasn't troublesome, as a matter of fact in many ways it rather enhanced my appreciation for the Eucharist and the assembly with whom we shared it that day. It was an experience that I would never have forgotten under any circumstances but has an extra depth now because I was also mindful of this day."
Bishop Cunningham says he'll spend at least one day a week in Rochester until a new bishop is named, however he expects there will be some challenges leading two dioceses.
Cunningham says he already has a full schedule guiding the Syracuse Diocese and also has a trip to Rome coming up next month. With the help of Father Joseph Hart, who will serve as the Bishop's delegate in the daily operation of the Rochester Diocese, Cunningham is optimistic this will be a smooth transition.
"It's always important to remember that the work of the Church goes on," said Bishop Cunningham. "Our children are being served in our parishes, we're educating kids, Mass and the sacraments are being celebrated, the sick are being visited. The needs of the people, the evangelization is going on."
Bishop Clark said he will stay in the Rochester area and remain active in local ministry.