Bishop Robert Byrne / Father James Bradley / Wikimedia (CC-BY 2.0)

CNA Newsroom, Dec 13, 2022 / 05:14 am (CNA).

A bishop in the UK has taken the unusual step of announcing his resignation on the grounds that the office is “too great a burden.”

Bishop Robert Byrne of Hexham and Newcastle announced his resignation on December 12 in a letter to the people of his diocese, which is based in the northeast of England.

He wrote: “The Church’s teachings confirm the diocesan bishop needs to be as Christ among the people entrusted to him. The office of bishop carries great responsibility to provide spiritual leadership and governance to the diocese. As St John Paul II observed: ‘What does the Lord require of us? What does the Lord require of me?’

“I have recently had need to discern and reflect upon this question for myself and the Diocese of Hexham & 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.”

Bishop Byrne began his priestly ministry as an Oratorian and explained in his letter that he would return to the Oratorian Community based in Oxford.

When Father Robert Byrne accepted the position of Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Birmingham in March 2014, he was the first Oratorian appointment since 1874.

Pope Francis appointed him Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle in February 2019.

Byrne said that the question of his successor would be a matter for Pope Francis.

He wrote: “My own discernment has caused me to recognize that I now feel unable to continue serving the people of the diocese in the way that I would wish. 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 English prelate said Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Malcolm McMahon as the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese “pending the nomination and appointment of my successor as bishop.”

Byrne concluded: “Since my arrival in the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, I have received many graces. These have included the considerable kindnesses, care, and support of so many of you. I am and will remain deeply grateful to you all for that support and the care which you have provided to me.”

The bishop is not the first European bishop to step down this year before reaching the retirement age of 75. A German archbishhop announced his resignation Nov. 1, explaining he felt he had “fulfilled and completed my duties.“ A few weeks earier, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of a 59-year-old Swiss bishop who said “inner fatigue” had made his office “unbearable” to him.

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