Monsignor Giovanni D’Ercole, the bishop of the small Italian diocese of Ascoli Piceno, has decided to bring forward his retirement so that he can go to Africa to live a monastic life of silence and prayer among “the poorest of the poor”.

Bishop D’Ercole, well-known in Italy for having presented religious programmes on TV station RAI 2 for many years, presented to the Pope his resignation October 29 at the age of 73 – two years before canon law mandates that prelates step aside, although the Pope can keep them in their posts for longer if he so chooses.

D’Ercole explained that his decision to retire was “a difficult, painful, but deeply free choice, inspired by the service of the Church and not by personal interests”.

In this way, the bishop pointed out that “at a difficult time like this, when confusion reigns, there is much fear in society and I feel a deep need to dedicate myself to prayer”.

The Italian prelate announced his entry into a monastery “where I will be able to accompany the Church’s journey in a more intense way in meditation, contemplation and silence”. “I feel that God is calling me to take a step to be able to serve in this way”, he said.

“I will be even closer to the diocese and to each of you with my prayers”, D’Ercole told the faithful, insisting that in no way was he abandoning them. “Only God can be the reliable hope on which to rest every step we take towards a future that seems uncertain but which will be marked by God’s light”, the prelate concluded.

Two events have deeply marked and exhausted the bishop. The 2016 earthquake that occurred in part of the territory of his diocese and that left 51 dead, on the one hand, and on the other the serious health, social and economic emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

D’Ercole is a member of the congregation of the Sons of Divine Providence. After speaking to his superiors, the bishop told them that “he thought it opportune to retire, for a time, to a monastery in Africa, where he began his priesthood”.

(With reporting by Religión en Libertad)

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