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Pope forcibly removes Memphis bishop after investigation

Pope Francis listens to the welcome speeches during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has forcibly removed the bishop of Memphis, Tennessee, Monsignor Martin Holley, following a Vatican investigation into the diocese.

The Vatican didn’t say why Holley was removed. In a brief announcement Wednesday, the Vatican said only that Francis had “relieved (Holley) from the pastoral governance” of the diocese and named Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz to replace him temporarily until a new bishop is named.

The phrasing in the announcement is commonly used by the Vatican when the pope forcibly removes a bishop who refuses to resign voluntarily.

Earlier this year, the Vatican dispatched two archbishops to investigate Holley’s actions since he became bishop in 2016, news reports said at the time. One of Holley’s deputies resigned suddenly in June.

The results of the Vatican investigation haven’t been made public. The Catholic Diocese of Memphis released a statement Wednesday, but it did not reveal why Holley was removed.

“I am eager to work with the priests, curia, and faithful of the Diocese of Memphis to promote stability, peace, and healing until Pope Francis appoints a new bishop,” Kurtz said in the statement.

Holley was installed as bishop on October 2016. He previously spent time as an auxiliary bishop under Cardinals Theodore McCarrick and Donald Wuerl in Washington. The Commercial Appeal reports that both men attended Holley’s installation.

Earlier this year, McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals and retired from public life after a string of sexual abuse allegations dating back to his time as a priest in New York and a bishop in New Jersey. Wuerl resigned earlier this month amid allegations that he covered up multiple abuse scandals while serving as a bishop in Pittsburgh.

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