Washington prelate to lead U.S. bishops

Nov. 16, 2004 at 11:30 AM

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Bishop William Skylstad, whose diocese plans a bankruptcy filing due to clergy-abuse lawsuits, is the new president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Skylstad, who had been vice president of the Roman Catholic organization, won 52 percent of the vote in Washington Monday. The vote was unusually close, since the vice president is generally automatically elevated to the president's post.

The election to the three-year term as president was likely closer than usual because Skylstad, 70 and bishop in Spokane, Wash., since 1990, last week said he planned to declare the diocese bankrupt. The first trial for alleged clergy abuse against the diocese is expected to start in the next several weeks. Some 18 other lawsuits have been filed against the diocese and some 125 people -- not all of who've filed lawsuits -- have alleged abuse by Catholic clergy in the area.

Chicago Cardinal Francis George was elected vice president, winning a runoff, 51 percent to 49 percent, over Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl.

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