GALLUP, N.M. (KRQE) - The nation's first Native American Roman Catholic bishop wholeft Gallup after suffering serious injuries in a still-mysteriousincident has died in Florida.
Bishop-emeritus Donald Pelotte died Thursday morning in FortLauderdale, Fla. He was 64.
Pelotte had been admitted to the cardiac-care unit of Holy CrossHospital on Dec. 27, according to the Diocese of Gallup. The natureof his illness has not been disclosed.
Pelotte made history several times during his rise in the RomanCatholic Church.
After being ordained as a priest in 1972 in the Diocese ofPortland, Maine, Pelotte went on to become at age 33 the youngestmajor superior of a men's religious community in the UnitedStates.
In 1990 Pope John Paul II appointed Pelotte as the Bishop ofGallup making him the nation's first Native American bishop. Heheld that post until retiring and moving to Florida last year.
“We are saddened by the passing of Bishop Donald Pelotte,who so faithfully served the Church throughout his life especiallyas the third bishop of the Diocese of Gallup," Bishop James Wall,the current Gallup bishop, said in a statement released by thediocese. "Bishop Pelotte, being the first Native American bishop,had a great love for the Native American people, and his spirit ofservice will continue to live on."
Pelotte was born in Waterville, Maine. His father was a memberof the Abenaki tribe, a part of the Algonquin nation, and hismother was French-Canadian.
In 1999 Pelotte returned to Maine to ordain his twin brotherinto the priesthood marking the first time in known Catholichistory that a bishop had done so.
In July 2007 Pelotte was
Pelotte said he had fallen down a flight of stairs, but firstresponders reported they thought he had been beaten. The resultingcontroversy was never resolved.
During Pelotte's 18 years in Gallup he helped create programsfor Native American ministers. He also helped expand theChristian hospital and he fought to save a homeless shelter.
A vigil for Pelotte is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, and thefuneral Mass will be said Thursday at 11 a.m. Both will be at theSacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup.
In keeping with Pelotte's wishes he will be buried in thecathedral crypt, the diocese said.
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