Peterborough Bishop William McGrattan appointed to Calgary
By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
Photo Caption: Pope Francis delivers his blessing during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 18. Calgary Bishop Fred Henry submitted his resignation letter to the pope due to health reasons, which the pontiff accepted. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis has accepted Calgary Bishop Fred Henry’s resignation for health reasons and named Peterborough Bishop William McGrattan as his replacement.
Bishop Henry submitted his resignation letter to Pope Francis in February 2016, citing a painful autoimmune disease that causes a form of arthritis affecting his spine.
“I can no longer turn my head sideways but must turn the whole upper body to look left or right,” he wrote to Pope Francis. “In addition, I can’t really look up, but have a permanent stoop and my feet are much more familiar to me than the sky.”
The illness has also caused painful flare-ups of inflammation in other parts of his body, including his eyes, and reduced his lung capacity.
Bishop Henry wrote that he lived with “severe chronic pain.”
“My condition cannot be reversed. I have jokingly said that ‘pain is my best friend, we are always together’ but it is wearing me out and limiting my ministry,” he said.
“I believe that someone younger with more energy, stamina and pastoral vision should take over,” he wrote.
Bishop Henry led the Calgary diocese for 19 years. Though dubbed conservative and even right-wing when it came to moral issues surrounding abortion, marriage and, most recently, his opposition to gender theory and transgender guidelines for public schools, Bishop Henry gained the ire of some conservatives for his support of social justice issues.
During the debate leading to the redefinition of marriage in 2005, Bishop Henry faced human rights complaints for defending traditional marriage in a pastoral letter that also ran as a column in a local newspaper. Those complaints were later dropped after mediation.
In 2004, he received phone calls from Revenue Canada threatening his diocese’s tax status for his defence of Catholic teaching in the public square.
In 2000, Bishop Henry clashed with Conrad Black, the then-owner of the Calgary Herald over a five-month strike at the newspaper. Bishop Henry urged him to negotiate with the workers. Black responded by calling him a “useful idiot,” among other insults.
That same year in the National Post, founded and then owned by Black, the late conservative publisher and columnist Ted Byfield wrote a column calling Bishop Henry “Red Freddy” and a “pinko bishop,” insults that gained coverage in the New York Times. Christian leaders in Calgary rallied in support of Bishop Henry, calling the attacks “outrageous” and “unchristian.”
Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller expressed gratitude for Bishop Henry’s service, saying he will be fondly remembered for his faithfulness and loyalty. “He has been a hard-working, dedicated bishop who was never afraid to take a tough stand on a controversial issue.”
Born in London, Ont., in 1943, Bishop Henry was ordained a priest in the Diocese of London in 1968. In 1986, Pope John Paul II named him Auxiliary Bishop of the London diocese.
In 1995, he was appointed Bishop of the Thunder Bay diocese. Three years later, in 1998, he was named to Calgary.