Latin-rite bishop appointed to administer Eastern-rite diocese following legal dispute
Latin-rite Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix has been appointed apostolic administrator of a Byzantine Ruthenian eparchy also based in Phoenix in USA, following a legal dispute among Eastern Catholics. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Vatican nuncio to the United States, announced the appointment of Bishop Olmsted to the Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparch on August 1. Bishop Olmsted, who remains the head of the Phoenix Diocese, said that the current head of the eparchy, Bishop John Pazak, remains in place. Originally based in Van Nuys, California, the Byzantine eparchy first transferred its offices to Phoenix and later adopted Arizona’s largest city as its base. In a statement, Bishop Olmsted indicated a legal dispute among Eastern Catholics in the United States was the reason for his appointment as apostolic administrator “sede plena,” which he said is “for the time being” until the matter is resolved. The appointment “has not come about because of any personal misconduct of any kind on the part of Bishop Pazak. Indeed, Bishop Pazak remains as the bishop of this eparchy,” Bishop Olmsted said. “However, over the past year, there have been some disagreements about administrative matters within the Byzantine Ruthenian Church here in North America, of which the Eparchy of Phoenix is a part,” he added. “Because of some unfortunate legal developments in these matters, their resolution has been unnecessarily complicated, which have unintentionally endangered the peace, unity and communion within the Eastern Catholic Church.” His appointment as apostolic administrator was made to “facilitate the task of resolving these legal matters, and to support the efforts on everyone’s part to build up the communion within among the other eparchies of the Eastern Catholic Church,” Bishop Olmsted said. He added there is no fixed term to his appointment. Bishop Olmsted has been bishop of Phoenix since 2003. Bishop Pazak has been bishop of his eparchy since 2016 following the retirement of Bishop Gerald N. Dino. The eparchy has 19 parishes and one mission over the 13 western states in its territory: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.