[Episcopal News Service] Second Diocese of Fort Worth Bishop Clarence Pope died in his sleep Jan. 8 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Pope, 81, will be buried from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Baton Rouge, on Jan. 12. Visitation will begin at 10 a.m., with a Requiem Mass to begin at 11 a.m.
Pope had been the second rector of St. Luke’s and it was from there that he was elected to be bishop coadjutor of Fort Worth on Sept. 14, 1984. He succeeded diocesan Bishop A. Donald Davies in January 2006.
The Rev. Canon Chad Jones, rector of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Zachary, will celebrate and preach at Pope’s service. Interment at the Grace Episcopal Church Cemetery, St. Francisville, will follow immediately.
Pope was reportedly being treated for pneumonia when he died. His wife, Dr. Martha Pope, and other members of his family had been with him during the week.
Pope was the diocese’s second bishop, serving from 1986 to 1995. He announced in October 1994 that he intended to retire as diocesan bishop January 1, 1995, join the Roman Catholic Church and eventually seek ordination as a Roman Catholic priest. That effort would have been made under the Pastoral Provisions set in place by the Vatican in 1980 to allow married Episcopal priest to enter the Roman priesthood.
After his announcement, Pope took sabbatical leave and turned over his administrative duties to the Rt. Rev. Jack Iker, who was bishop coadjutor at the time.
He entered the Roman Catholic Church in early 1995 during a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston. The mass was held at St. Mary the Virgin Catholic Church in Arlington, Texas, a former Episcopal congregation which Pope and the diocesan Standing Committee had allowed to leave the diocese in 1991 after a nearly unanimous vote of the congregation.
In August 1995 Pope withdrew his letter of resignation from the House of Bishops and returned to the Episcopal Church. At the time, he told the New York Times that he had a “growing unease” with his decision because he would have to give up his episcopal orders to become a Roman Catholic priest. The House of Bishops had been scheduled to act on his resignation in September.
Pope reportedly explored the Roman Catholic Church again for a period of time in 1998 but returned in December of that year.
Then in August 2007, Iker told his clergy that Pope had told him that he and his wife would be re-joining the Roman Catholic Church. Pope told Iker he had mailed a letter to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori informing her of his decision. During a subsequent House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans the next month, Jefferts Schori announced that Pope had voluntarily renounced his Episcopal Church orders.
Pope was a founder and first president of the Episcopal Synod of America, now Forward in Faith/North America.
Iker, who said that he had lost “a valued mentor and beloved friend,” said Pope “will be remembered first as a loving pastor who cared deeply for his clergy and their families, and second as a defender of the historic faith and order of the catholic church.”
Pope graduated from Centenary College and the University of the South and was ordained priest in 1955. He served as priest-in-charge at a number of missions in Louisiana and as rector of St. George’s, Bossier City, before being called to St. Luke’s, Baton Rouge, in 1963. He was a chaplain in the Air Force reserve for 10 years.