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Texas Bishop Loudly Critical of Pope Francis Is Removed

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Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, one of the loudest American voices against Pope Francis within his own church, recently responded to a Vatican investigation into his leadership and talk of his potential resignation with a public letter stating, “I cannot resign as Bishop of Tyler because that would be me abandoning the flock.” He added he would step aside only if the pope removed him.

On Saturday, Francis did just that.

In a rare move that is a measure both of Bishop Strickland’s outspoken criticism of the supreme pontiff of his faith and Francis’ frustration with ultraconservatives in the United States who have emerged as the financial center, and media megaphone, of the resistance to his papacy, the pope removed the prelate from his post.

“The Holy Father has relieved from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Tyler,” Bishop Strickland, the Vatican said on Saturday in a routine statement of global staffing changes. It added that Francis had appointed Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin as the apostolic administrator of the sede vacante, or temporarily vacant seat, of Tyler.

Supporters of Francis, who considered Bishop Strickland’s frequent salvos against the pope beyond the pale and indicative of his extremism, were likely to welcome the firing. Unlike his predecessors, who had records of censoring prelates with opposing ideological viewpoints, Francis has generally allowed dissent in the ranks of his church in the interest of debate. But Bishop Strickland, 65 and well below the age of automatic resignation, tested the limits of that tolerance.

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