By GLENN RUTHERFORD, Record Editor Emeritus
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, speaking at a hastily-called press conference on his 75th birthday Aug. 18, said that he had submitted his letter of resignation to Pope Francis.
The resignation is required by canon law when a bishop or priest turns 75. That doesn’t mean that the archbishop, who has served the Archdiocese of Louisville for 14 years, will be leaving his office immediately.
“The pope decides when that will happen,” he explained to reporters gathered at the Pastoral Center on Poplar Level Road. “It usually happens within a year.”
But given the archbishop’s recent health issues, he said, it might happen sooner. “It could be a couple of weeks; it could be a couple of months,” he noted.
Archbishop Kurtz said that two years ago, “almost to the day,” he discovered that he had “a form of cancer.”
“I underwent chemotherapy and immunotherapy, and I went through radical surgery that November,” he said. “I’m happy to say that, thank God, a year-and-a-half after the surgery, I continue to be cancer free.”
Though it might be jumping the gun a bit, the archbishop was asked what he hoped to see in his successor.
“Well, Christ leads and we follow,” he said. “It’s not what I want to see or what we want to see … we trust that God will provide what we need. We trust that he will have a pastoral heart; a desire to be holy.”
Resignation, he noted, is the “word we use and it actually sounds worse than retirement, doesn’t it?” But after his letter is accepted by the pope, the archbishop said he “won’t have a title but I’ll continue to be a priest and a bishop.”
“And I’m as excited as you are to learn just who my successor might be,” he added. “And I hope that I can be as helpful to him as Archbishop (Thomas E.) Kelly was to me. He was a good mentor.”
The archbishop also said that when he leaves his office, he hopes to be remembered as a leader who empowered and inspired people “to take heart in Jesus Christ.”
“I hope that I’ve helped to create a feeling that our 110 parishes are helping one another,” he said. “I’d like to think I’ve promoted a healthy atmosphere of working together and I hope the tone of service to others will be lasting.”
When retirement does come, he added, he plans to read even more — “I love to read,” he said. “I’m about to finish ‘The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin’ and I’m sorry it’s coming to an end.”
“I love to celebrate the Eucharist, and I hope to continue to be of service,” he added. “And I hope to improve my (golf) handicap.”