.- Cleveland Bishop Anthony M. Pilla, 73, has asked Pope Benedict XVI for permission to retire as head of the Cleveland Diocese.
Pilla is the former president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and a proponent of suburban alliances with shrinking city parishes, has asked Pope Benedict XVI for permission to retire as head of the Cleveland Diocese.
Pilla went through bypass surgery in 1997 and prostate surgery in 1999, he submitted the request in a personal letter, Rev. Ralph E. Wiatrowski, a top Pilla aide as diocese chancellor, said Thursday.
No timetable was disclosed on when the pope might act on the retirement request or appoint a replacement. It could take up to 1 1/2 years to name a replacement, according to Wiatrowski, who said Pilla had not disclosed the specific reason for wanting to retire at this point.
Bishops must submit their resignations at age 75, but can stay on at the pope's request.
Pilla, who marks his 25th anniversary as bishop on Friday, told the diocesan newspaper that he was ready to retire.
"I'm looking forward to it in the sense that it's time. It's time for a change," he said. Pilla said he might teach, lecture or help out in a parish in retirement.
He was the first Cleveland priest to lead the diocese, the nation's 15th largest with 800,000 Catholics in eight northeast Ohio counties.
Pilla served as president of the national bishops' conference from 1995-98 and his pioneering "Church in the City" program encouraged cooperative efforts between shrinking urban congregations and wealthier, fast-growing suburban parishes.
Unlike some U.S. cities where numerous churches were closed, only 12 were shut down in Cleveland during Pilla's tenure.