Pope Francis appoints new bishop in Tennessee after former bishop's resignation under pressure

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Pope Francis has appointed Reverend James Mark Beckman as Bishop of Knoxville, Tennessee, almost a year after the previous bishop resigned under pressure following claims he mishandled sex abuse allegations.

The Vatican announced the appointment in its Tuesday noon bulletin. As is usual, the announcement made no mention of his predecessor or the circumstances under which he left the post.

Bishop-elect Beckman is a priest of the Diocese of Nashville where he has served as pastor of Saint Henry parish since 2015, according to the announcement. He earned his master's degree in religious studies from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium in 1989 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1990 for the Diocese of Nashville.

Pope Francis accepted Bishop Richard Stika’s resignation last June, closing a turbulent chapter for the southern U.S. diocese that was marked by a remarkable revolt by some of its priests. They accused Stika of abusing his authority during his 14 years as bishop of Knoxville and protecting a seminarian accused of sexual misconduct.

They appealed to the Vatican for “merciful relief” in 2021, citing their own mental health, sparking a Vatican investigation that led to Stika’s resignation.

In media interviews, Stika strongly defended his actions and his leadership, saying he worked to bring unity in the diocese.