The Holy Father Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Stika. Please pray for Bishop Stika as he begins his retirement and for Archbishop Fabre our Apostolic Administrator.
Bishop Stika sent the following letter to clergy, religious, and chancery staff this morning:
This morning, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has granted my request to retire as bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville:
“Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Most Reverend Richard F. Stika from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Knoxville. At the same time, the Holy See has appointed the Most Reverend Shelton J. Fabre of Louisville, as the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Knoxville to serve until the appointment and installation of the new bishop.”
People will speculate on why I am doing this. It is no secret that I have been dealing with life-threatening health issues most of my adult life. I nearly died from a diabetic coma in August 2009, and I was hospitalized for another grave diabetic scare in 2015. I have survived a heart attack, heart bypass surgery, and last month I was transported to a hospital in East Tennessee for another health issue.
I recognize that questions about my leadership have played out publicly in recent months. I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that some of this has weighed on me physically and emotionally. For these reasons, I asked the Holy Father for relief from my responsibilities as a diocesan bishop.
God has blessed me with almost 66 years of life. I have been a Catholic priest for most of that time and I have tried my best to be a good shepherd. I vividly remember wearing a Tennessee Vols hat at my introductory press conference in 2009.
A lot has happened since that day. Overwhelmingly, most of it has been good.
Thank you for the work you have done to make our parishes, ministries, and this diocese a vibrant and shining example of our Catholic faith. Thank you for accepting and sharing my vision that the Diocese of Knoxville is a good place to do big things—and that all are welcome. I ask and pray that you will continue to build this diocese in ways that go beyond my vision and that you will faithfully support your new bishop in this mission.
My desire is to remain in active ministry, but at a slower pace. I would like to do so near my hometown, St. Louis, and to continue to live with Cardinal Justin Rigali, whom I have known for almost 30 years and who has been in residence with me in Knoxville for 12 years.
I have tremendous love for East Tennessee. It has been my home for almost 15 years, and I plan to return often to visit friends, celebrate Masses when asked, and take in UT games.
While not intentional, I believe it’s not a coincidence that I made my decision when our daily Scripture readings, found in Acts of the Apostles, focused on the turbulent growth of the Church. Reading Scripture is good. It reminds us that the Church isn’t perfect—it’s human, but it continues to grow in goodness, thanks be to God.
I offer my genuine and heartfelt apology to anyone that I have disappointed over the years. I have tremendous respect for everyone, even my detractors. I will continue to keep all of you, and this diocese, in my prayers. I ask that you pray for Archbishop Fabre as he oversees this diocese in the short term, and for your new bishop when he is selected. Finally, I humbly ask that you please pray for me.