Cleveland Bishop Lennon dies at 72, remembered for love of Church

lennon Bishop Richard Lennon. CNA file photo.

Bishop Richard Gerard Lennon died at the age of 72 on Tuesday, Oct. 29 after receiving the sacraments. His colleagues and admirers praised his service to the Church.

Lennon was until 2016 the Bishop of Cleveland.

His successor, Bishop Nelson J. Perez, praised the bishop's life.
"In his service to the diocese, Bishop Lennon showed a deep dedication to the faithful governance of the diocese and a tremendous love of the Church and the people he shepherded. May the Lord grant him eternal rest," Bishop Perez said in a statement from the Diocese of Cleveland.

Lennon was was installed in 2006 as the tenth Bishop of Cleveland after Pope Benedict XVI appointed him to the position. He resigned in December 2016, citing poor health. At the time the Cleveland diocese said Lennon suffered from vascular dementia, which causes cognitive impairment due to reduced blood flow to the brain, reports.

Another Cleveland bishop emeritus, Anthony Pilla, 86, said he was saddened by Lennon's death and would pray for him.

"I am grateful for his dedicated service to this diocese and for all the good people who have given him such good care during his long illness," Pilla said.

Lennon regularly invited the Daughters of St. Paul to perform their Christmas concert at Cleveland's Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. He often treated them to dinner, the Cleveland diocese said.

Sister Theresa Aletheia, D.S.P., said that when Lennon was a chaplain for their order in Boston he was "a good friend of the community."

"Once during a terrible blizzard, the sisters were preparing for a Communion service when Father Lennon came riding up the hill on a snowplow," she said. "He was a good and holy servant of the Church. May he rest in peace and intercede for us."

The late bishop was a fan of the Cleveland Indians Major League Baseball team. He was fond of horses, and often offered treats to police horses. Two members of the Cleveland police mounted unit visited his retirement reception.

Lennon was born March 26, 1947 in Arlington, Mass. near Boston. His father served as Arlington's deputy fire chief. He attended Catholic schools and was an altar boy at St. James Parish. After studies at Boston College, he entered St. John's Seminary, and was ordained a priest in May 1973 for the Boston archdiocese.

He served as a parish priest, a fire department chaplain, an assistant for canonical affairs and as a rector of St. John's Seminary. He was named a monsignor in 1998 and ordained as auxiliary bishop of Boston on Sept. 14, 2001, serving in that role until 2006.

After Cardinal Bernard Law resigned as Archbishop of Boston amid clergy sexual abuse scandals, Lennon was interim leader of the Boston archdiocese from December 2002 to July 2003.

After Lennon became Bishop of Cleveland, the Diocese of Cleveland said, he placed a priority on visiting all parishes and schools in the diocese.

He instituted internal audits at parishes and diocesan schools while also establishing norms for Catholic schools and children's catechesis. The diocese credited his launch of the Rooted in Faith capital campaign for raising about $170 million in donations to strengthen parishes, the clergy retirement fund, evangelization efforts, the cathedral, and Catholic schools.

Following a reconfiguration of the diocese begun before he became bishop, he acted on recommendations to close about 50 parishes and to establish 17 new merged parishes. The closures sparked some backlash and criticism from laity.

He stopped the diocese's practice of charging $450 for those seeking marriage annulments two years before Pope Francis exhorted all dioceses to do so.

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Lennon was a member of the Knights of Malta and the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher.

The Cleveland diocese said funeral arrangements are pending.

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