Vatican appoints new administrator of Steubenville Diocese amid possible merger

Bishop Edward M. Lohse of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Bishop Edward M. Lohse. | Credit: Diocese of Kalamazoo

The Vatican has removed Bishop Paul Bradley as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio, the bishop revealed on Friday, with Pope Francis appointing a new administrator to take his place. 

Bradley said in a letter to the diocese on Friday that the Holy Father had “informed me that my service as apostolic administrator of the diocese has been completed,” with Francis having “thanked me for my leadership over these last nine months.” 

The Vatican has appointed Kalamazoo Bishop Edward Lohse as the new apostolic administrator of the Ohio diocese, Bradley said. The appointment was effective immediately. 

Bradley had retired from the bishopric in Kalamazoo last July before being appointed by the pope as apostolic administrator of Steubenville on Sept. 28. 

The prelate was appointed to that role after the departure of prior Bishop Jeffrey Monforton, whom Pope Francis transferred to the Archdiocese of Detroit at the same time. 

While serving in the Steubenville Diocese, Monforton had proposed a merger between Steubenville and the Diocese of Columbus. That plan drew negative feedback and disappointment from many within Steubenville, including clergy who said they had not been consulted about the proposal. 

Monforton ultimately put a hold on the plan one week before the U.S. bishops’ conference planned to vote on the merger at its 2022 meeting in Baltimore.

Bradley and Columbus Bishop Earl Fernandes said in December of last year that the two dioceses were back into talks about a possible merger. 

The Steubenville Diocese was created in November 1944 out of territory previously part of the Diocese of Columbus. The diocese has seen a marked decline in population in the subsequent 80 years as the region has suffered from economic struggles stemming from losses in the coal and steel industries. 

In March of this year the two dioceses said in a press release that they had “submitted a summary of findings on how both dioceses could be affected by a potential merger” to Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr as well as the apostolic nunciature. 

“No decision on a merger has been made,” the bishops said at the time. “The final decision will be made by the Holy Father, Pope Francis.” 

“This process of discernment is distinct from the process of implementation should a merger occur,” the bishops said. 

In his letter on Friday, meanwhile, Bradley said he was “so very grateful to the Holy Father” for the Steubenville appointment. 

He said Lohse, who will continue to serve as bishop of Kalmazoo, would “complete the current process of discernment” underway in the diocese.

“I am confident that Bishop Lohse will provide excellent leadership to the diocese throughout the remainder of this process,” the bishop said.

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