Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Bishop Richard Malone to serve as the administrator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland in addition to his new duties as bishop for the Diocese of Buffalo.

After eight years leading the Roman Catholics in Maine, Malone was appointed to head the diocese in New York, which has more than three times the 185,000 Catholics that live in Maine. He will be installed in August.

A statement issued by the Portland diocese says Malone’s appointment to continue overseeing Maine’s Catholics “is a statement of confidence in Bishop Malone’s abilities to lead both dioceses simultaneously until a new Bishop of Portland is in place.”

The decision allows Malone to continue overseeing the church’s role in the upcoming referendum on whether to legalize same-sex marriage.

Malone authored a pastoral letter on marriage entitled “Marriage Yesterday—Today—Always,” and he says he accepted the administrator role in part because of “the need to continue the Church’s educational leadership as the referendum approaches which attempts to redefine marriage,” according to the statement from the diocese.

The church actively supported a referendum against gay marriage in 2009, but with the issue being voted on again, it has chosen instead to educate Catholics about what it says are the benefits of traditional marriage.

Malone, 66, will hold the administrator position until a new bishop for Maine is appointed.

Farewell masses, prayer services and other events planned to mark Malone’s departure have been postponed.

The diocese also announced that Marc Mutty, director of public policy, will retire in March. The diocese’s Office of Public Policy advocates for church positions with the government, seeking to shape laws and public policy to reflect Catholic principles. Mutty will be replaced by Suzanne Lafreniere.

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