Pope Francis removes conservative Texas bishop

Pope Francis ordered the removal of the leader of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, on Saturday after Vatican investigators concluded that “the continuation in office of Bishop Strickland was not feasible.”

Bishop Joseph Strickland was a vocal critic of the pope. “I believe Pope Francis is the Pope, but it is time for me to say that I reject his program of undermining the Deposit of Faith. Follow Jesus,” he wrote in a post on X back in May.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston said in a statement that the pope asked Strickland to resign on Thursday, but Strickland refused. Strickland’s removal comes after Francis directed two U.S. bishops to conduct an apostolic visitation to the bishop in June in response to complaints from priests and others in Tyler about Strickland making unorthodox claims. 

DiNardo said the two bishops “conducted an exhaustive inquiry into all aspects of governance and leadership” by Strickland before the decision to remove him was made.

The Vatican announced the decision at the end of its Holy See bulletin Saturday and said Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin will serve as interim apostolic administrator. 

Strickland challenged Francis to fire him in 2020 when Strickland claimed the Roman Catholic Church had become “weak” under his leadership. He also reposted a video that labeled the pope as a “diabolically disoriented clown,” according to the National Catholic Reporter.

Strickland said he was removed in part because he refused one of Pope Francis’s progressive reforms restricting the old Latin Mass, according to LifeSiteNews. He said he refused “because I can’t starve out part of my flock.”

“I feel very much at peace in the Lord and the truth that he died for,” he added.

Before his removal was announced on Saturday, Strickland wrote in a post on X, “Rejoice always that . . . no matter what the day brings Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, yesterday, today and forever. May the saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary always inspire us to return to Christ no matter how we may wander into darkness. Jesus is Light from Light.”

The Diocese of Tyler responded to the removal in a statement on Saturday.

“Our mission is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to foster an authentic Christian community, and to serve the needs of all people with compassion and love,” the statement said.

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