Roman Catholic Bishop Donald Pelotte of Gallup, New Mexico has been hospitalized in Phoenix after a serious fall in his home.
"We're still not sure what has happened," said the Rev. James P. Hoy, finance director for the Diocese of Gallup. "He fell at home and has some head injuries."
Pelotte, 62, was taken to a Gallup hospital after the fall Sunday, then was flown to the John C. Lincoln Hospital in Phoenix.
In accordance with canon law, Fr. James Walker, the vicar general of the diocese, will temporarily assume leadership of the diocese until Bishop Pelotte recovers.
Father Walker issued the following statement yesterday: "I know that many are concerned about the bishop’s condition. Bishop is making progress. Every day he seems to be improving -- even over this short time span. Surgery was postponed until next week; a good sign.
"Bishop readily recognizes his visitors and is very aware of his surroundings. Severe injuries to his face are causing the bishop difficulty with speech; a symptom that should subside as he continues to progress.
"The bishop's brother, Father Dana Pelotte, and other family members, are with the bishop. The religious sisters in the diocese were asked to offer prayers and to fast today for the bishop. He's got a lot of people supporting him in prayer."
Bishop Pelotte made church history when Pope John Paul II appointed him in 1990 as the first American Indian bishop. Pelotte's father was a member of the Abenaki tribe.
Pelotte was ordained a priest in 1972, in Portland, Maine, and arrived in Gallup in 1986 as coadjutor bishop. The Diocese of Gallup encompasses all of San Juan and McKinley counties in New Mexico and most of northeastern Arizona.