WASHINGTON, D.C. — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of 71-year-old Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Illinois, just over four months after the bishop took a medical leave of absence.

Announcing the bishop’s resignation in Washington May 4, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican nuncio to the United States, also said Pope Francis had confirmed retired Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, as apostolic administrator of the diocese.

When the Diocese of Joliet announced Conlon’s leave of absence Dec. 27, it did not specify the nature of his health problem.

The normal retirement age for a bishop is 75.

In a statement released by the diocese, Conlon said, without referring to any specific health concern, that he was grateful to Pope Francis for accepting his resignation.

He said that 2019 was “a challenging year.”

“I experienced a lot of stress and fatigue, which I did not always handle well, along with some serious medical issues, plus the death of my best friend. I know I needed a break. The leave of absence the Holy Father granted me at the beginning of this year was a huge blessing. I experienced personal healing and was able to recognize that, at 71, I am no longer able to carry the burden of leadership of a large diocese,” he said.

Conlon also expressed gratefulness to the faithful of the diocese, including clergy, women religious and laity. “My hope is to continue to live and minister among you and even reside in one of our rectories,” he said.

Pates in the statement thanked Conlon for his years of service in Joliet.

“We assure the bishop of our continuing prayer, especially for his good health. May his retirement be a blessed time. We feel fortunate that he intends to remain with us in the diocese,” Pates said.

The diocese also plans a Mass of thanksgiving for Conlon’s service and reception in the future.

Born in Cincinnati Dec. 4, 1948, he studied at the Athenaeum of Ohio and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and was ordained to the priesthood in 1977. Ten years later, he earned a doctorate in canon law from St. Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario.

St. John Paul II named him the bishop of Steubenville, Ohio, in 2002, and nine years later Pope Benedict XVI appointed him to lead the Diocese of Joliet.

From 2011 to 2014, Conlon served as chairperson of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People.