The second Bishop of Fort Worth, the Rt. Rev. Clarence C. Pope, Jr., has died.
On 8 Jan 2012, the Diocese of Fort Worth announced that Bishop Pope (81) had “died in his sleep overnight” at a hospital in Baton Rouge where he was being treated for pneumonia.
“His wife, Dr. Martha Pope, and members of their family were with him over the past week. Please keep all the family in your prayers,” the diocese said.
Elected the second Bishop of Fort Worth in 1984, Bishop Pope was the first president of the Episcopal Synod of America, and a long-time advocate for corporate reunification with the Roman Catholic Church. Upon his retirement in 1994, Bishop Pope announced that he and his wife were joining the Roman Catholic Church. Citing the Church of England’s 1992 Act of Synod permitting the ordination of women, Bishop Pope said then that the “pilgrimage I had longed to take corporately would now have to be taken alone.”
Received by Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, Bishop Pope applied for re-ordination in the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge. The Bishop gave his conditional approval, subject to the agreement of his diocesan priests’ council, but the council refused his request. Following pleas from Bishop Iker and former Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning, Bishop Pope returned to the Episcopal Church in 1995 and was restored to the House of Bishops.
However on 6 Aug 2007, Bishop Pope resigned from the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops and returned to the Catholic Church.
At the time of his return to Rome, Bishop Pope explained that he believed the Catholic movement in Anglicanism had died. “We are left with lots of ‘catholic’ vestments worn in areas of the Episcopal Church where ‘low church’ used to be the order of the day,” but no Catholic faith or order.
“Without the stable center provided by the Holy See of Peter,” he said, the Anglo-Catholic movement within the church will “ultimately die away,” he explained.
Bishop Pope said he regretted his return to the Episcopal Church, explaining that shortly after he was received into the Catholic Church, “I was discovered to have advanced prostate cancer and that because it had spread so aggressively, I probably would not survive.”
The series of chemotherapy treatments and radiation he underwent left him “very impaired in my thinking,” he said The toll taken by his treatment and his tepid reception from the Catholic Church provoked depression.
“In the midst of all this sense of losing any awareness of belonging, Presiding Bishop Ed Browning called to see how I was,” Bishop Pope said.
“Needing some ground of belonging, I gave in to his nudging and, as he claimed never to have received my letter of resignation, I drifted back to the Episcopal Church,” Bishop Pope said. He asserts now that “being of sounder emotional stability and out from under a fog bank of severe depression, I would never have made such a return.”
However, his 2007 return to Rome was not a rejection of Anglicanism but the culmination of a spiritual journey that sought a “wholeness and settlement in the home I believe God has erected [for me].”
“My love of Anglicanism is very deep,” he said, and had “shaped” his faith. But returning to the Catholic Church was “the final step for which this [Anglican] preparation was, intended.”