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CLEVELAND — The leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland said Dec.
28 he is retiring because of health concerns. Bishop Richard Lennon said he asked to step down in a letter sent to Pope Francis about a month ago after being diagnosed with dementia.
Lennon, 69, said in brief remarks Dec. 28 he will remember the people of the diocese daily in prayers and asked that they pray for him.
The Vatican has appointed Toledo Bishop Daniel Thomas to oversee the Cleveland diocese until a permanent successor is appointed.
Lennon, who underwent heart surgery in February, was ordained to the priesthood in 1973 and has served as bishop in Cleveland for the past 10 years.
The diocese in northeast Ohio includes more than 690,000 Catholics across eight counties.
Under Lennon's direction, the diocese shut down or merged 50 parishes because of declining numbers of priests and parishioners and financial issues.
But 12 parishes were reopened after the Vatican overruled him, saying Lennon didn't follow church law and procedures in the closings.
The Vatican's rebuff of his plans was a rare instance when Rome reversed a U.
S. bishop on such closures. Parishioners had challenged closures, holding sit-ins and even creating a breakaway congregation.
Thomas said he didn't know until last week that he would be stepping in to oversee the Cleveland diocese for the time being.
He said Lennon's decision to retire now was “a humble and courageous act.
” While serving as apostolic administrator for the Cleveland diocese, Thomas will continue his duties in the Toledo diocese, which he has led since 2014.