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Canadian Catholic bishop resigns at age of 64 ‘for the good of the Church’

Screenshot 2020 11 30 at 151755 Bishop Robert Bourgon, the first Bishop of Hearst-Moosonee, Canada. Courtesy photo.

Pope Francis accepted Sunday the resignation of a Canadian Catholic bishop at the age of 64.

The Holy See press office said that the pope accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert Bourgon of Hearst-Moosonee on Nov. 29.

It added that the pope had named Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa-Cornwall as apostolic administrator of the diocese in Northern Ontario, which was formed after two dioceses merged in 2018.

Bourgon announced the pope’s acceptance of his resignation in a Nov. 29 letter to his flock. 

Recalling his ordination as the bishop of the Diocese of Hearst in 2016, he said that for the past four years he had “tried to be among you as a good shepherd.”

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He wrote: “There have been some successes and, for that, I thank God. There have also been limitations and difficulties. For these I am sorry for my inability to resolve these problems.”

Radio-Canada reported Nov. 29 that Bourgon faced criticism following the dismissal of two priests facing charges of fraud. It added that following protests by parishioners, who believed the priests to be innocent of wrongdoing, Pope Francis mandated a visitation by Bishop Serge Poitras of Timmins, Ontario.

In his letter, Bourgon said that Poitras had made a pastoral visit to the diocese at the request of the Vatican Congregation of Bishops.

Bourgon said that “in obedience to and in communion with the Holy Father, but more importantly for the good of the Church, on November 16, 2020, I presented my resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Hearst Moosonee.”

He noted that the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall would soon welcome a successor to Prendergast, who is 76 years old, who would oversee Hearst-Moosonee diocese.

“I feel certain that you will welcome Bishop Prendergast as a new gift that the Lord sends to you,” he wrote.

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Bourgon was born on March 10, 1956, and grew up in Creighton Mine, Ontario. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 8, 1981, in the Diocese of Sault Sainte Marie. In 2012, he was named vicar general of the diocese.

Pope Francis named him bishop of Hearst and apostolic administrator of Moosonee diocese on Feb. 2, 2016. He was ordained bishop by Prendergast at Assumption Cathedral, Hearst, on April 25, 2016.

Bourgon was named the first bishop of the newly merged Diocese of Hearst-Moosonee on Dec. 3, 2018. According to its website, the diocese has 25 parishes and 13 missions, comprising around 27,080 Catholics. 

Concluding his letter, the bishop wrote: “I thank the Holy Father for his leadership, example and his witness to the truth. I will miss you, dearest Diocese of Hearst-Moosonee but, as you can imagine, I will carry in my heart an indelible impression of you as the ‘local Church’ to which the Lord has bound me, and for which every day I shall pray.”

This report has been updated to include Radio-Canada’s report on parishioners’ protests against the dismissal of two priests in the Diocese of Hearst-Moosonee.

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