Italian bishop granted early retirement to return to missionary work

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Pope Francis accepted the early retirement request of Italian Bishop Gianfranco Todisco, who begged to be allowed to return to missionary work or to be sent "to the farthest, most disadvantaged" diocese.

The Vatican announced Bishop Todisco's resignation April 21 as bishop of Melfi-Rapolla-Venosa in southern Italy. The bishop is 71, and the normal retirement age is 75.

In a letter to the people of his diocese, Bishop Todisco said he had made his request in early November and received a letter from the pope saying he would think and pray about it. A few weeks later, Pope Francis phoned and "asked me if I was still ready to leave. My answer was yes," the bishop said.

After meetings with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and with the Vatican nuncio to Italy, a date was chosen to announce the bishop's resignation.

In his letter to the diocese, the bishop said he was ordained to the priesthood as an Ardorini Missionary and that was the life to which he felt called. He accepted the call to become bishop of the Italian diocese in 2002 "because I always saw the will of God in the decisions of my superiors."

As a missionary, he had served at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Toronto from 1979 to 1989 and in the Diocese of Garzon, Colombia, from 1989 to 1997.

Throughout his years as bishop, he said, he continued to make overseas trips to visit Italian missionaries. "Although I'd return to Melfi recharged by the joyful witness of so many brothers and sisters who, despite the passing of the years, continued to remain in the trenches, within me there was an increasing unrest to return to the missions, even as a simple priest."

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported April 21 that the bishop already had a plane ticket to Honduras.

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