Pope accepts Phoenix bishop's resignation

June 18, 2003 at 11:34 AM

PHOENIX, June 18 (UPI) -- The Vatican accepted the resignation Wednesday of Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien, accused of leaving the scene of a fatal hit-and-run accident.

The Vatican's action came 18 hours after O'Brien became the first American bishop ever charged with a felony, The Arizona Republic reported.

Pope John Paul II named Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Sante Fe, N.M., to serve as interim administrator of the Phoenix diocese, which with 480,000 Catholics.

As apostolic administrator, Sheehan will have full authority to oversee the diocese until a new bishop is named, a process that could take several months.

O'Brien, 67, has been in seclusion since he was released on $45,000 bond late Monday on the felony charges of leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

Earlier this month, O'Brien avoided a possible criminal indictment on charges of obstruction of justice by agreeing to make reforms and surrender some of his authority in sexual abuse cases.

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