Thursday, May 1, 2008
Gallup Bishop Steps Down
By Olivier Uyttebrouck
Journal Staff Writer
The Vatican announced the resignation Wednesday of Roman Catholic Bishop Donald Pelotte of Gallup, about nine months after he suffered a disabling head injury.
Pelotte, 63, a Maine native and the son of an Abenaki Indian, became the first Native American named a Roman Catholic bishop in 1990.
Pope John Paul II tapped him that year to head the Diocese of Gallup, which encompasses the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona.
Despite speculation that Pelotte was assaulted, he and church officials have maintained Pelotte was injured July 23 in a fall down stairs in his home.
Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan said Wednesday that he had expected the resignation because Pelotte's injuries had prevented him from returning to his duties at Gallup.
Sheehan said he spoke by phone Wednesday morning with Pelotte, who is living with his brother near Miami, Fla.
"He looks fine but he has some brain injuries as a result of that fall," Sheehan said. "I'm not surprised," he said of the resignation.
Pelotte struck his head on a hard tile floor during his fall, Sheehan said.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix will remain as apostolic administrator of the Gallup diocese until the Vatican appoints a new bishop, he said.
Sheehan said the scarcity of Native American priests in the Roman Catholic Church makes it unlikely Pelotte's successor will be an American Indian.
Pelotte received treatment in Arizona, Texas and Florida, then returned to Gallup on Sept. 21.
Shortly after his return to Gallup, Pelotte called police to report that intruders had come to his home and refused to leave, according to Associated Press reports at the time. Pelotte left Gallup for further medical treatment on Dec. 13.
Olmsted has since served as administrator in Gallup.
"We're grateful to Bishop Pelotte for his long service" in Gallup, Sheehan said.