Pope Francis fires Texas bishop over criticism and anti-vaccine stance

FILE PHOTO: Catholic bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas speaks during a rally to protest the Los Angeles Dodgers honoring the pro-LGBTQ+ group Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence during LGBTQ+ Pride Night at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 16, 2023. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports via REUTERS MANDATORY CREDIT

Pope Francis Removes Texas Bishop Amidst Criticism and Anti-Vaccine Stand

The Vatican announced on Thursday that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Strickland from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas. However, according to a statement from the diocese, Strickland did not voluntarily resign but was asked to do so by the Pope.

The statement said that Strickland received a letter from the Vatican on October 31, informing him that Pope Francis had ordered an investigation into his conduct and requesting his resignation. Strickland declined to resign and asked for a meeting with the Pope to explain his position.

The Vatican did not disclose the reasons for the investigation, but Strickland had been a vocal critic of Pope Francis on several issues, especially on matters of doctrine and morality. Strickland often used Twitter to express his views, sometimes contradicting or challenging the Pope’s statements.

For example, in September 2020, Strickland tweeted that he would not take a COVID-19 vaccine if it was developed using aborted fetal tissue, even though the Vatican had approved such vaccines as morally acceptable. He also urged Catholics to boycott the vaccine and called it a “crime against humanity”.

In January 2021, Strickland called President Joe Biden an “evil president” over his support of abortion rights and said that he would not pray for him. He also accused Biden of being a “fake Catholic” and said that he was leading the country to “hell”.

Strickland’s removal is a rare move by the Pope, who has generally been tolerant of dissenting voices within the Church. However, some observers say that the Pope may have decided to act after Strickland’s repeated defiance and disrespect.

Strickland, who was appointed as the bishop of Tyler in 2012, said that he was “saddened” by the Pope’s decision and that he would continue to serve the Church in other ways. He also said that he would pray for the Pope and the Church. He will be replaced by Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama, who currently serves as the bishop of Raleigh, North Carolina.

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