Duluth bishop Paul Sirba dies at age 59

Bishop Paul Sirba
Diocese of Duluth Bishop Paul Sirba gestures during a news conference on Dec. 31, 2013 in Duluth.
Steve Kuchera | Duluth News Tribune via AP 2013

Bishop Paul Sirba, who led the Catholic Diocese of Duluth for a decade, died Sunday at the age of 59.

Sirba suffered cardiac arrest while at St. Rose Church in Proctor, Minn., on Sunday morning and was pronounced dead just after 9 a.m. at a Duluth hospital.

The diocese announced Sirba's death in a message from Father James Bissonette, Sirba's vicar general, that was shared with parishes and posted online.

"It is with an incredibly heavy heart that I must inform you of tragic news regarding our Bishop," Bissonette wrote. "Words do not adequately express our sorrow at this sudden loss of our Shepherd."

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Sirba was the ninth Bishop of Duluth, ordained as bishop in December 2009. He was raised in Bloomington and ordained as a priest in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis in 1986, according to his biography on the Duluth diocese website.

Sirba oversaw the Duluth diocese as it grappled with lawsuits filed by victims of sexual abuse by priests. The diocese filed for bankruptcy in December 2015; a federal judge approved a bankruptcy reorganization plan for the diocese in October, which includes about $40 million for abuse survivors.

Sirba is survived by his mother and three siblings; one of his brothers is a priest in the Duluth diocese.

Arrangements for Sirba's funeral Mass and burial are pending.