Pope Benedict XVI has removed an Italian bishop from ministry following the launch of a police investigation into alleged financial corruption within his Sicily diocese.
The Vatican’s official bulletin on May 19 announced that the Pope relieved the Diocese of Trapani from the “pastoral care” of Bishop Francesco Miccichè.
Bishop Miccichè, 69, had been in charge of the diocese on the Island of Sicily for the past 14 years. Since last year, however, Italy’s financial police have been investigating the disappearance of over one million euros (approximately $1,275,000) from two charitable foundations operated by the diocese.
In June 2011 the Vatican asked a fellow Sicilian prelate, Bishop Domenico Mogavero of Mazara del Vallo, to investigate the situation in the Diocese of Trapani on their behalf. The result is Bishop Miccichè dismissal this weekend.
“It is clear that my superiors were unable or unwilling to understand what was going on in this diocese, leaving the clergy and especially the people of God at the mercy of petty slander” said Bishop Miccichè in response to the news May 19.
He strenuously denied any wrongdoing and described his dismissal as “an extreme measure” which he neither agreed with nor understood. However, out of “loyalty to the Pope and the Church,” he said he has committed himself to accepting the verdict “in a spirit of obedience.”
He also suggested that the decision is the result of “a conspiracy bore in and outside the Church” by those who do not like his vocal opposition to both Freemasonry and Mafia-sponsored crime.
Bishop Miccichè dismissal is the second time in two years that Pope Benedict XVI has removed an active bishop from ministry. In May 2011, the Pope axed Bishop William Morris from his post in Australian Diocese of Toowoomba. The move followed years of fruitless negotiations aimed at correcting the bishop’s abuses of Church doctrine, governance and liturgy.
The emeritus archbishop of Pisa, Archbishop Alessandro Plotti, will now act as Apostolic Administrator for the Diocese of Trapani until a new bishop is appointed.