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Pope accepts Archibishop Daniel Bechlein's early retirement

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At the age of 73, Archbishop Daniel Buechlein announced his early retirement because of various health issues Wednesday.

In 2008, Archbishop Buechlein battled Hodgkin's lymphoma.  During that year, he had chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  Then, in March 2011, he suffered from a stroke.  While he had physical therapy, it was not enough.  Archbishop Buechlein decided to submit a request to retire, early, because his health had been declining.  Pope Benedict XVI gave him permission to retire.  Typically, a bishop retires at the age of 75.  

"The Holy Father granted my request and he did it in a hurry.  I hope it doesn't mean he was glad to get rid of me," he laughed.

Buechlein served as the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis for about 20 years.  He has had a number of accomplishments.  He ordained 40 priests who currently serve the archdiocese and has raised $300 million for the archdiocese.

"I leave fond memories.  It is melancholy," Archbishop Buechlein cried as he spoke to a crowd gathered to listen to his announcement.

"I would've like to have worked with the man a lot more.  I think I could have learned a lot from him to be a good Bishop," Auxiliary Bishop, Bishop Christopher Coyne said.  

Coyne has been named as the Apostolic Administrator until a new archbishop is chosen.

Archbishop Buechlein said the process to find someone who will govern the archdiocese, is underway.  

"I just hope he's a down to earth holy priest and I'm sure he will be," he said.  

Meanwhile, Buechlein plans to go back to Southern Indiana where he will live at Saint Meinrad Archabbey.

He said he believes the catholic church is stronger than ever.

"We have (a) good number of priests. They work hard. They're generous and they're spiritually motivated," Buechlein said.  

He added he sees those same qualities in younger adults as well.

Auxiliary Bishop, Bishop Christopher Coyne said the catholic church has overcome so much in the past decade.  

"I think the real horror of what was 10 years ago, as with the abuse crisis and all that, I think we're recovering from that.  I think we're finally getting back underneath our feet," he said.

Coyne said he believes the catholic church is going through a transitional period.  While he said the number of parishes has declined in Indiana, he said membership has not.

"There's also been an increase in the number of Catholics, especlally (in the) Vietnamese (community and) the hispanic community. (There are) other ethnic communities that are (coming) into the country and we're seeing that here in Indianapolis too," he added.

According to IUPUI Chair of the Department of Religious Studies Peter Thuesen, membership is strong in the area. He adds the challenge for the catholic church is recruiting priests, though.

"The real challenge is finding leadership to serve this growing Catholic constituency. That's where the church will have to re-evaluate how it recruit priests. The number of priests (is) increasing worldwide, but not in this country," he said.  

Thuesen believes it could be a number of factors, including sexual abuse accusations and saying the Catholic population is more liberal and less traditional.

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