WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop John S. Pazak of the Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparchy, which is based in Phoenix.
On Aug. 13, Bishop Pazak turned 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation to the pope.
The pope appointed Latin-rite Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix as apostolic administrator of the eparchy.
The changes were announced in Washington Aug. 23 by Msgr. Seamus Horgan, charge d’ affaires at the apostolic nunciature in the temporary absence of Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
“Over the past three years, I have served as apostolic administrator ‘sede plena’ of the eparchy. With the Holy Father’s decision, I shall continue as apostolic administrator until a new bishop of the eparchy has been named,” Bishop Olmsted said Aug. 23.
“In my own name and on behalf of the clergy and laity of the eparchy of Phoenix, I want to express our gratitude to God for Bishop Pazak’s years of faithful service to the mission of the church and to ask the Lord’s abundant graces upon Bishop Pazak in this time of transition,” he said.
“Please join me in asking for the Holy Protection of Mary over the eparchy of Phoenix and over the future bishop whom we await with lively hope in Christ,” said Bishop Olmsted, who has headed the Latin-rite Diocese of Phoenix since 2003.
On Aug. 1, 2018, Pope Francis named Bishop Olmsted as the apostolic administrator of the Phoenix eparchy.
In a statement, the bishop indicated a legal dispute among Eastern Catholics in the United States was the reason for his appointment as apostolic administrator “sede plena,” which he said is “for the time being” until the matter is resolved.
The appointment “has not come about because of any personal misconduct of any kind on the part of Bishop Pazak. Indeed, Bishop Pazak remains as the bishop of this eparchy,” Bishop Olmsted said Aug. 1, 2018.
“However, over the past year, there have been some disagreements about administrative matters within the Byzantine Ruthenian Church here in North America, of which the Eparchy of Phoenix is a part,” he added. “Because of some unfortunate legal developments in these matters, their resolution has been unnecessarily complicated, which have unintentionally endangered the peace, unity and communion within the Eastern Catholic Church.”
His appointment as apostolic administrator was made to “facilitate the task of resolving these legal matters, and to support the efforts on everyone’s part to build up the communion within among the other eparchies of the Eastern Catholic Church,” Bishop Olmsted said.
In his Aug. 23 statement, Bishop Olmsted said, “I shall continue to facilitate the task of resolving some legal matters and to support the efforts of everyone in the Eparchy to faithfully serve the mission of Christ and His church.”
He added, “There is no fixed term to my appointment; I am happy to serve in any way that will support my brothers and sisters in the eparchy. At the same time, I retain my present office of bishop of Phoenix.”
In May 2016, Pope Francis name Bishop Pazak as the fifth Bishop of the Phoenix-based eparchy. At the time, he was bishop of the Byzantine Eparchy of Sts. Cyril and Methodius of Toronto Eparchy of Phoenix.
Born in Gary Indiana, John Stephen Pazak entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in 1965. He was ordained a Redemptorist priest Aug. 27, 1972, and served as a parish priest, rector of St. Vladimir’s College and superior Redemptorist scholasticate throughout Canada.
Then-Father Pazak was appointed bishop of the Toronto eparchy Dec. 2, 2000, and was consecrated a bishop Feb. 14, 2001.
Originally based in Van Nuys, California, the Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparchy first transferred its offices to Phoenix and later adopted Arizona’s largest city as its base.
The eparchy has 19 parishes and one mission over the 13 western states in its territory: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.