Pope accepts resignation of Dubuque, Iowa, archbishop for health reasons

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Archbishop Michael O. Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa, 68, for health reasons and has appointed retired Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, as apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.

The resignation and appointment were publicized in Washington April 4 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

“For health reasons, I asked our Holy Father Francis — may God preserve him — to accept my resignation as Archbishop of Dubuque. Jesus called me to this ministry, and I wouldn’t take my hands from this plow unless Jesus, through his Vicar on earth, called me away. And so it is, effective 4 April 2023,” Archbishop Jackels told the faithful of the archdiocese in a letter posted on the archdiocesan website.

The archbishop gave no details about his health in the letter. At 68, he is seven years younger than the age at which canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation to the pope. He turns 69 April 13.

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know you, praying with you, sharing meals together, joining you as a partner in ministry. Your responses on our Synod Survey confirmed our ministry: sharing with the Church and the poor; learning/teaching the Gospel; devotion to and worship of the Eucharist,” Archbishop Jackels wrote.

Archbishop Michael O. Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa, attends opening prayer during the 2018 fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Archbishop Jackels, 68, for health reasons April 4, 2023, and named retired Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, as apostolic administrator. (OSV News photo/CNS file, Bob Roller)

“These are ministries that you rightly appreciate, are presently committed to, and want to see enhanced. Keep up the good work. You’re great. God bless you. I’ll miss you,” he added. “Let us pray for each other, and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.”

An archdiocesan statement said Bishop Pates will serve as apostolic administrator until a successor to Archbishop Jackals is named.

“After almost 10 years here, Archbishop Jackels leaves with gratitude for the opportunity to serve, fond memories and contrition for anyone who took offense at him,” the statement said.

A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, Bishop Pates retired in 2019 after 11 years as the bishop of Des Moines. Most recently, the 80-year-old prelate served as apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Crookson, Minnesota, from April 2021 until the pope named a new shepherd for the diocese, Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens, who was installed Dec. 6, 2021. Bishop Pates also was appointed apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois, in January 2020 and served in that role to October 2020.

Archbishop Jackels had headed the Dubuque Archdiocese since 2013. Before that he was the bishop of the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, for eight years. A native of Rapid City, South Dakota, he was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1981. Before being named to the Kansas diocese by St. John Paul II, he was on the staff of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for eight years.

In early May 2019, the archbishop suffered a heart attack and was admitted to a Dubuque hospital, where surgeons placed two stents into his coronary arteries. Some six weeks later, his cardiologist OK’d his return to ministry.

“Thanks to all for prayers for healing. God heard, and responded ‘yes.’ … I am humbled by the thoughtfulness and generosity that people have shown me. I will do my best to honor that by making your sacrifices count for something, and to pay it forward,” he said in a statement.

In a Sunday Mass homily Nov. 8, 2020, he recalled his heart attack, saying that “as the pain was increasing, I thought that I might be near death and it brought a great smile to my face. I’m going to go see Jesus. I know I’m a sinner and that I’ll need the final purification of purgatory, but my great Christian hope made me eager for heaven and disappointed when I survived.”

He was one of the first bishops appointed by Pope Francis. In June 2013 he made a pilgrimage to Rome with 33 other new archbishops — all accompanied by members of their flock — to kneel before Pope Francis and receive their palliums, the woolen bands placed over the shoulders to symbolize the archbishops’ unity with the pontiff and their charge as shepherds of a local church.

“To be quite honest, I was kind of hoping that maybe he would send the pallium by way of FedEx and say, ‘Save the money and give it to the poor,'” Archbishop Jackels told Catholic News Service,

He said that in receiving the pallium he would pray that he would be more patient, gentle and merciful.

Being Catholic in the United States today often means being countercultural, especially on themes related to “the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person,” he said.

The Archdiocese of Dubuque is comprised of 17,403 square miles in the state of Iowa and has a total population of 1,017,175, of which 185,260 are Catholic.

Author: OSV News

OSV News is a national and international wire service reporting on Catholic issues and issues that affect Catholics.

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