Pope Francis accepts retiring Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin’s resignation 

Henning Tobin Bishop Richard Henning (left) and Bishop Thomas Tobin. | Credit: Diocese of Rockville Centre / Diocese of Providence

Pope Francis announced Monday that he has accepted the resignation letter of Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, submitted on his 75th birthday on April 1, as required by canon law.

Tobin is succeeded by Bishop Richard Henning, whom Pope Francis in November appointed as coadjutor bishop of Providence, home to more than 603,000 Catholics. 

“On this day dedicated to St. Joseph the Worker, and as we begin this month dedicated to our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, it is with profound gratitude and personal peace that I have received word that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has accepted my request to resign from office, that is, to retire from the active ministry,” Tobin said in a press release May 1.

Ordained a priest in 1973, Tobin was appointed by Pope John Paul II as bishop of Providence in 2005. A steadfast defender of life, Tobin has received the Defender of the Faith Award from Legatus, the Proudly Pro-Life Award from the National Right to Life Committee, and the Cardinal von Galen Award from Human Life International. He also launched new initiatives to help the needy and refugee and immigrant communities in Rhode Island.

In the diocesan press release, Tobin referenced the homily he delivered at his installation Mass 18 years ago. 

“On occasions like this we sometimes say that a bishop takes possession of a diocese. In truth, I think it’s really the other way around — a diocese takes possession of a bishop. In that spirit, today I joyfully and willingly surrender myself to you. I give you my heart and soul. I promise to work hard for you and to do the very best I can. But keenly aware of my own weakness, limitations, and needs, I will also depend on your cooperation, support, and prayers,” Tobin said in his homily. 

An outspoken critic of abortion and gender ideology, Tobin was sometimes at the center of debates on social issues. In the press release he also apologized for any mistakes and failures he may have made.

“For the mistakes I’ve made, for my faults and failures, I am deeply sorry. And for those times when some individuals were offended by my words and deeds, I am truly sorry for that too. It can be very difficult to preach the Gospel of Christ, and to carry on the mission of the Church in the world today, but that’s what we are called to do,” he said.

Tobin tweeted this morning that he was deleting his Twitter account

In the same press release, Bishop Henning thanked Tobin for his service.

“I am particularly grateful for the time with Bishop Tobin whose own ministry as diocesan bishop for 18 years offers me a powerful witness of faith and a model of selfless service to the People of God,” he added.

Henning, 58, was born in Rockville Centre, New York, as the first of five children. After earning a master’s degree in history from St. John’s University in Queens in 1988, he entered the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception and was ordained a priest for the Rockville Centre Diocese in 1992.

After receiving a licentiate in biblical theology from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in 2000, Henning began to teach sacred Scripture at his former seminary.

He continued his studies in Rome, earning a doctorate in biblical theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome in 2007, and was named rector of the seminary and director of an institute for ongoing formation for clergy in 2012.

“As the Holy Father accepts Bishop Tobin’s retirement, I express my gratitude to Pope Francis and to Bishop Tobin for the gift they have given to me. I also wish to express my gratitude for the priests of this diocese who are my brothers and co-workers in the vineyard,” Henning said.

“Deeply aware of my need for mercy, I entrust myself and my ministry to the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” Henning said.

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