Cleveland bishop contacts Vatican about retirement

CLEVELAND (AP) - The city's Roman Catholic bishop, who will celebrate 25 years in that post on Friday, has asked the Vatican to consider appointing his replacement.

Bishop Anthony Pilla declined to reveal the reasons for his retirement request, saying a letter he had written to the Vatican was private.

The date of his retirement is at the discretion of the Vatican, said Pilla, who is awaiting a response from Pope Benedict XVI and his staff.

"I have let the Holy See know that it would be good for the diocese," Pilla (pictured, above) told The Plain Dealer for a story Thursday.

The Vatican does not have a set timetable for handling retirement requests.

Pilla, 73, is the spiritual leader for more than 800,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Cleveland, which covers eight northeast Ohio counties.

He has spent the past few years dealing with the clergy sex-abuse scandal and coping with health problems. Pilla had a quadruple bypass operation in November 1997, then was diagnosed the next month with a life-threatening staph infection. He also had prostate surgery in fall 1999.

Bishops are required to offer their resignations at age 75, but can stay on at the pope's request. Bishops who request permission to resign before 75 often do so for health reasons, said the Rev. Thomas Reese, author of "Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church."

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)