MIAMI SHORES (AP) — The pope has accepted the resignation of Miami Archbishop John Favalora and named Orlando’s bishop to replace him.
Favalora in December turns 75, the normal retirement age for bishops. Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday, April 20, accepted his resignation early under a church law that allows for a bishop to step down because of illness or another reason that makes him unsuited for office.
The Vatican didn’t give a reason.
Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando will formally take over June 1 to replace Favalora, who has been at the helm since 1994. Wenski is known for his advocacy of immigrants and his deep ties to South Florida and its refugee communities.
“I am coming home,” Wenski told those gathered at the archdiocesan headquarters, where he is well known for his service from his ordination as a priest in 1976 through his appointment to the Orlando diocese in 2003.
Wenski will lead the archdiocese’s 1.3 million Catholics in a time of turmoil for the church, which has been shaken again in recent weeks by the crisis of sex abuse by its clergy and accusations that the hierarchy – up to the pope himself – didn’t do enough to stop it.
The 59-year-old cleric himself has faced similar accusations, including those aired Tuesday, April 20 by David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who said Wenski was guilty of “deception, delay and recklessness.”
Wenski said the Orlando diocese adopted a zero-tolerance policy on sex abuse in 1990, ahead of other dioceses, and that the Catholic Church in the U.S. has been more proactive than other institutions in combating the problem.
He acknowledged “Sin and betrayal, that always is a part of the life of the church. That goes back to the time of Judas.” But he said he has been “very firm and very strong” when faced with allegations of abuse by a member of the clergy.
“I have nothing to apologize for,” Wenski said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Wenski speaks English, Spanish and Creole fluently, and used all three in his address Tuesday.
He has worked numerous posts among the Haitian and Hispanic communities and previously chaired the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s committees on migration and international policy.
Catholic bishops must submit their resignations at the age of 75, though the pope can delay accepting them. Church law also allows for a bishop to step down because of illness or another reason that makes him unsuited for office.
Mary Ross Agosta, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami, said Favalora remained in good health. Asked why he was stepping down a few months early, he said simply because he was allowed to and it was time.
“I think everyone should know when it’s time for them to get off the stage and it’s time for me to get off the stage. It’s that simple,” Favalora said. “It’s nothing more profound than that, so don’t go looking for anything more than that.”