Bishop Robert Byrne, the head of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle in the U.K., penned a letter on Dec. 12 saying he is leaving office due to the 'overwhelming' burden that comes with it.

"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?'" Byrne said in the letter quoted by the Catholic News Agency (CNA).

Torn Between Serving and Giving Up

Bishop Byrne's letter seemingly indicated a religious man torn between his willingness to serve the Church and wanting to give up because of the pressure surrounding his leadership role.

Byrne explained that he 'felt the need to discern and reflect' on what the Lord wanted him to do. Following his reflection, the bishop said he reluctantly realized that his office "has become too great a burden," which was why he had to vacate the post.

Byrne, whom Pope Francis appointed as bishop of the diocese in 2019, was the first Oratorian since 19874 to hold the Archdiocese of Birmingham in March 2014. The outgoing Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle bishop explained that the pope would decide who would fill the post he's vacating.

Currently, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon will serve as apostolic administrator of the diocese until the pope formally appoints a replacement bishop, Byrne said.

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Byrne's Discernment

The English prelate explained his discernment process and how the pope reacted to his intention to leave his office.

"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," Byrne further explained.

In closing, Byrne said he had "received many graces" from the time that he began serving as the spiritual head of the diocese.

"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 concluded.

According to CNA, Bishop Byrne is the third European bishop this year to leave office even before reaching 75, which canon law dictates is the mandatory retirement age for Catholic bishops.

The news outlet bared that 59-year-old Bishop Valerio Lazzeri vacated his office in October due to "inner fatigue" that had rendered his position 'too much to bear.' After that, German Archbishop Ludwig Schick also resigned from his post, saying he had "fulfilled and completed my duties in the archdiocese." 

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