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Now 75, Bishop of Diocese of Phoenix Submits Request for Retirement | Arizona News


PHOENIX (AP) — Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, who has overseen the Roman Catholic Church’s Diocese of Phoenix since 2003, submitted a request for retirement to Pope Francis after reaching his 75th birthday, the age limit for bishops, church officials said Friday.

The pope did not immediately act on the request Olmsted submitted on his birthday Jan. 21, diocese spokeswoman Katie Burke said.

“The Pope can accept Bishop’s resignation as he sees fit, and the Diocese of Phoenix will be in a time of prayer and anticipation as we await the appointment of our next bishop. Bishop Olmsted will remain bishop of the diocese until Pope Francis accepts his resignation,” the diocesan office said in a statement. “The next bishop may or may not be appointed at the same time.”

Olmsted is the fourth person to serve as bishop of the diocese, which Pope Paul VI established in 1969.

“Bishop Olmsted has been nothing but a wonderful shepherd to our diocese, especially in the way of serving those less fortunate,” said Steve Zabilski, lifelong Catholic and CEO of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix. , at KJZZ-FM.

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In the mid-2000s, Olmsted spoke out against sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and began biannual Masses dedicated to survivors, the Arizona Republic reported.

“It is a horrible outrage within the church, but also throughout society. … We have a very deep obligation as a church to reach out to these people, whether they have been abused by someone in the church or someone else in society,” Olmsted said.

Olmstead in 2012 publicly released a list of clerics in the diocese who had committed sexual abuse.

In 2008, Olmstead spoke in favor of a proposed state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Voters approved the measure, but a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

While serving as bishop, Olmstead handled a controversy involving the excommunication of Sister Mary McBride after an abortion was performed at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix in 2009.

The case involved a seriously ill mother of four, suffering from pulmonary hypertension and 11 weeks pregnant. The pregnancy put additional stress on her heart, and hospital officials and doctors believed she was near death.

Olmsted decided to revoke St. Joseph’s Catholic status after allowing abortion.

“It was a painful time,” Mike Phelan, director of marriage and family life for the diocese, told the Republic. “These decisions were not taken lightly. They were after a long series of dialogues. … Then the bishop decided to withdraw the Catholic status of the hospital.

A Kansas native who grew up on a farm, Olmsted was ordained a priest in 1973. He served as bishop of the Diocese of Wichita from 2001 to 2003.

Parts of Arizona are included in the dioceses of Tucson and Gallup, New Mexico.

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