Saginaw – The Roman Catholic bishop who was leading the Saginaw Diocese has died. He was 69 years old.

The Diocese says Bishop Joseph Cistone died overnight at his home. He had cancer and was scheduled to undergo a medical procedure Tuesday.

"Since his first days in Saginaw, Bishop Cistone was committed to being a loving and zealous pastor for his priests and his people. I offer them, and the bishop’s family, my heartfelt condolences," Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit said in a statement. "For myself, I’ve lost a friend and a brother. In a year of many challenges, and particularly in these last months of his struggle with cancer, I was edified by the confident hope with which he faced his illness. May the Lord welcome him home this day."

Cistone was ordained a priest in 1975 and spent more than 30 years in the Philadelphia Archdiocese before Pope Benedict XVI sent him to Michigan in 2009.

He lately had been dealing with sexual abuse allegations against priests in the Saginaw area. In April, he hired a retired judge to handle inquiries by victims and law enforcement, saying the 11-county diocese needed a “fresh start” during a “very distressing” time.

The Rev. Robert DeLand recently pleaded no contest to criminal sexual conduct, but the plea was rejected by a judge and a trial is planned.

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