Pope Francis on Saturday dismissed US bishop Joseph Strickland, a prominent conservative who had repeatedly criticised his papacy, following concerns over the clergyman's leadership and governance.
But a US cardinal said it was linked to an inquiry ordered by Francis into "all aspects of governance and leadership" of Strickland's Tyler diocese in Texas.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, also of Texas, said the so-called apostolic visitation in June had reported back that it was "not feasible" that the bishop stay in office.
He revealed that Strickland, 65, had been asked on Thursday to resign, but refused -- prompting Francis to step in.
"The Holy Father has relieved from the pastoral governance of the diocese of Tyler (US) Joseph E. Strickland," the Vatican said in a statement.
It said the bishop of Austin, Joe Vasquez, had been named as apostolic administrator of the diocese, but gave no further details.
"I stand by all the things that were listed as complaints against me," Strickland told a conservative Canadian Catholic website in an article published Saturday, adding that he did not implement some of Francis's reforms because "I can't starve out part of my flock."
"I'd do it the same way again," he was quoted by LifeSiteNews as saying.
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