CLEVELAND (RNS) The Catholic bishop of Cleveland has sent a conciliatory letter to the priests in his diocese, acknowledging that his relationship with many of them has deteriorated.
In a May 21 letter obtained by The Plain Dealer, Bishop Richard Lennon said, "I have become aware of a growing disconnect between many of the priests who serve faithfully in this diocese and myself."
"It saddens me to hear reports," the bishop continued, "that a number of our priests feel anxious and uncomfortable in my presence and that rather than being co-workers with me, a number of priests feel left out of consultation."
The bishop's letter did not offer a reason for the rift he described. But it said he was writing "to assure you of my desire to remedy this situation."
Lennon has pleaded for "peace and unity" in the diocese following a three-year battle over closed parishes. The Vatican recently overturned Lennon's decision to close 11 parishes and ordered them reopened. Lennon has said he hopes to have that process completed by August.
The bishop has asked all priests to attend at least one of nine meetings he has scheduled at various parishes throughout the eight-county diocese to discuss the matter.
"My own heart calls me to listen carefully, reflect, correct and change what needs to be changed as we move forward," the bishop wrote. "I would ask and urge you to be present at one of these meetings."
Diocese spokesman Robert Tayek said in an email, "We do not wish to go much beyond the statements in the bishop's letter."
"Know I am entering this process willingly and open to change," Lennon wrote. "Please join me in this sincere effort to improve the spirit, communication and trust in our relationship."
(Michael O'Malley writes for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland.)
KRE/AMB END OMALLEY