The Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle has resigned, saying that his office “has become too great a burden”.
In a letter to the clergy and laity of the diocese dated 12 December, Bishop Robert Byrne CO announced that Pope Francis has accepted his resignation.
The Archbishop of Liverpool, Malcolm McMahon, will act as the apostolic administrator of the diocese pending the appointment of a successor.
“My own discernment has caused me to recognise that I now feel unable to continue serving the people of the diocese in the way that I would wish,” he said, in his letter read in St Mary’s Cathedral in Newcastle on Monday.
“Having undertaken this discernment process, and with due consultation with others, I indicated my wish to resign to the Holy Father and he has graciously accepted my request.”
The 66-year-old Bishop Byrne was appointed the fourteenth Bishop of Newcastle and Hexham in February 2019, having served as an auxiliary in the Archdiocese of Birmingham since 2014. Born in Manchester, he first entered the Birmingham Oratory in 1980, and was provost of the Oxford Oratory from 1993 to 2011.
His letter reflected on the gospel for the fourth Sunday of Advent (Matthew 1:18-24), describing St Joseph, “in the vulnerability of sleep, receiving the Lord’s assurance and guidance on how he was required to act”.
He said he had reflected on the Church’s teaching that a bishop must “be as Christ among the people entrusted to him”, and on St John Paul II’s challenge: “What does the Lord require of us? What does the Lord require of me?”
He continued: “I have recently had need to discern and reflect upon this question for myself and the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.
“Having done so, and with great sorrow and reluctance, I have concluded that the office of the diocesan bishop has become too great a burden and I feel I must resign from my position as your bishop.”
The Vatican requires bishops to submit their resignation to the Pope at the age of 75.
Bishop Byrne said that he would “seek new ways to exercise my episcopal ministry to as full an extent as I can and for as long as I am able”.
He intends to return to the Oratorian community in Oxford, which he helped to establish in 1990.