Retired Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson addresses the Catholic Media Conference in Green Bay, Wis., June 14 as he accepts the Bishop John England Award. Bishop Kicanas was named the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico Sept. 28 to serve until a bishop can be named. (Chaz Muth/CNS)

TUCSON, Ariz. (CNS) — Retired Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson has been named apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The Las Cruces Diocese announced Sept. 28 that Pope Francis appointed Bishop Kicanas to the post.

On July 11, Pope Francis named Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces to be coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of San Jose, California. He remained head of the New Mexico Diocese until Sept. 28 when he was welcomed to the San Jose Diocese with a special Mass.

As apostolic administrator, Bishop Kicanas will have oversight powers of a local bishop until a new bishop is named.

“I have had the joy of visiting the Diocese of Las Cruces on a number of occasions,” Bishop Kicanas said in a statement. “I admire the clergy, religious and parishioners of the diocese and have been impressed by their commitment to the pastoral mission to this local Church.”

“I hope to do what I can to support the Church until a new bishop is appointed,” he added. “Please keep me in your prayers.”

Bishop Kicanas, now 77, retired in October 2017. His successor, Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger, was installed as the eighth bishop of Tucson that November.

“It is a great tribute to Bishop Kicanas’ many gifts and talents that the Holy Father has appointed him to care for the faithful in Las Cruces during this time of transition,” said Bishop Weisenburger. He called on priests, deacons, religious and all diocesan employees and volunteers to join him in congratulating and praying for the bishop in this new position.

Bishop Kicanas currently serves as the chairman of the board for the National Catholic Educational Association and vice chancellor for Chicago-based Catholic Extension, a national organization that raises and distributes funds to support the ministry of U.S. mission dioceses, like Las Cruces and Tucson.

The 10-county New Mexico diocese was founded in 1982. It serves about 234,550 Catholics through 47 parishes, 44 missions and six Catholic schools.

Bishop Cantú, 51, had headed the Diocese of Las Cruces since February 2013. He was an auxiliary bishop of San Antonio for five years. The San Jose Diocese is headed by Bishop Patrick J. McGrath, who turned 73 June 11 and has headed the diocese since 1999.

A coadjutor automatically becomes the head of the diocese upon the death or retirement of its bishop.