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Vatican City, Sep 18, 2020 / 06:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis accepted the resignation Friday of Bishop Herbert Bevard of the U.S. Virgin Islands after he was hospitalized and airlifted to the U.S. mainland for medical treatment.

“Regrettably, I have experienced some new and unanticipated medical conditions that unfortunately preclude my ability to continue to maintain my position in the Diocese of Saint Thomas,” Bevard wrote in a letter to the diocese Sept. 18. 

“I have loved serving the People of God; the clergy, religious, laity and the entire Virgin Islands community in the Diocese of Saint Thomas and will treasure the fond memories that we share together. It is this same love and concern for them, recognizing my own limitations, that now compel me to make this request,” he said.

Bevard, who turns 75 in February, noted that he had already submitted his resignation to Pope Francis on July 6, before following up to request an immediate resignation in light of his medical conditions “so as not to inhibit the effective ongoing pastoral leadership and care of the Diocese of Saint Thomas.”

Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington to serve as the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Saint Thomas until Bevard’s successor is appointed. 

The Diocese of Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands was established in 1977 and is the sole suffragan see of the Archdiocese of Washington. 

Bevard led the diocese for 12 years. The diocese is made up of 30,000 Catholics across the islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, Saint Thomas, and Water Island. 

Born in Baltimore, Bevard was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1972 after converting from Presbyterianism. He served in parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as a priest for 36 years before Pope Benedict XVI appointed him bishop of Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands in 2008. 

Bevard was the fifth bishop to lead the diocese. His predecessor, Bishop George Murry, died earlier this year on June 5. 

The U.S. Virgin Islands’ Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has asked for prayers for Bishop Bevard, noting his transfer to the U.S. mainland for medical treatment for a condition unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a long-time and beloved spiritual leader in our community, Bishop Bevard has provided guidance and solace to many Virgin Islanders, and we are praying for his speedy recovery and return to the Territory,” Bryan said, according to the Freedom City Times.

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