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Pope Accepts Resignation of Covington Bishop Foys, Names Successor

This story has been updated since publication with details collected by and statements provided to RCN.

The Diocese of Covington has a new bishop, the Vatican announced on Tuesday.

Roger Foys's resignation was accepted by Pope Francis, who named Diocese of Belleville, Ill. Bishop John Iffert as bishop-elect. The installment will be completed on September 30, 2021, at 3 p.m. in the Cathedral Basilica in Covington. Foys has been appointed by Pope Francis as apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Covington until Iffert's consecration and installation.

"This is an announcement that we have been waiting to make for a long time," Foys said at a press conference. 

Foys continued by recalling the moment he heard about his replacement and likened his reaction to John the Baptist's followers in Matthew:11; "'Are you the who is to come, or are we to wait for another?'” 

Foys reached the age of 75 last year, the age at which bishops are expected to tender their resignations to the Pope.

He served as the Diocese of Covington's tenth Bishop starting in 2002, and was appointed by Pope John Paul II.

The Chicago-native became a priest in 1973.

Father John Iffert, 53, became a priest in 1997 after earning a bachelor's degree in political science from Illinois State University, and attending Mundelein Seminary, also in Illinois, where he earned a bachelor's degree in sacred theology and a master of divinity in 1997.

"I am astounded and excited," Iffert said in the press conference. "Bishop Foys has been gracious as the day is long."

Iffert continued by thanking various members of the clergy, his community, and his family. 

"The only lottery that counts is the family you're born into, and I have won that lottery," he said. "I want to see the art you create, I want to hear you sing, I want to go to your games."

Iffert concluded his remarks by stating that his first priority is to understand the community that he has been entrusted with in order to better serve it. He asks for the community's prayers. 

In a statement, Bishop Michael McGovern - who presides over Iffert's former diocese in Belleville, Ill. - said:

"The Diocese of Belleville is proud to share the news that our Holy Father, Pope Francis has appointed Father John Iffert as the 11th Bishop of the Diocese of Covington in Kentucky. Bishop-elect Iffert has been an excellent priest and a dedicated pastor, and he is widely respected in our diocese. With his strong faith and many talents, I believe Bishop-elect Iffert will be an excellent shepherd for the people of Northern Kentucky."
Thomas More University President Joseph Chillo also published a statement about Bishop Foys's resignation:
"I look forward to the next chapter of leadership for the University under the guidance of Bishop-elect Iffert and will always cherish the relationship fostered between Bishop Foys and this University."

Bishop-elect Iffert’s assignments after ordination include, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: parochial vicar at St. Peter Cathedral in Belleville (1997-2000); administrator and pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Columbia (2000-2003). During that time, he served as a member of the diocesan personnel board, Defender of the Bond for the Tribunal, Spiritual Moderator for both the Belleville deanery CYO and the Diocesan Teens Encounter Christ movement. In August 2003, he entered the novitiate of the Order of Preachers, Province of St. Albert the Great, USA (Dominican, Central Province). He professed simple vows as a Dominican in 2004 which he renewed in 2006. From 2007-2008, he served as parochial vicar of St. Thomas Catholic Center at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Father Iffert left the Dominicans in 2008 and returned to the Diocese of Belleville.

Father Iffert has served as administrator of St. Mary parish in Mount Vernon (2008-2010); administrator of St. Theresa parish in Salem and at St. Elizabeth in Kinmundy (2009-2010); pastor of St. Mary parish (2010-2020); and pastor of St. Barbara in Scheller (2014-2020). He has served as vicar forane of the North Central Vicarate (2013-2020); diocesan co-vicar for priests (2014-2020); member of the Diocesan Finance Council (2010-present); and as a member of the College of Consultors (2016-present). Since 2020, Father Iffert has served as vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Belleville and since January 2021 he has served as pastor of St. Stephen in Caseyville.

The Diocese of Covington is comprised of 3,359 square miles in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and has a total population of 532,567 of which 91,895 are Catholic.

-Staff report with details from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

-Details provided by Connor Wall, associate editor

Photo: Bishop Foys (RCN file)

Slideshow Images & Captions: 
Bishop-elect John C. Iffert