Trenton bishop suffers heart attack in Rome  — By: Catholic News Agency

Bishop David O’Connell of the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey. / Credit: Courtesy of the Diocese of Trenton

CNA Newsroom, Jan 5, 2024 / 13:05 pm (CNA).

Bishop David M. O’Connell of the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, is recovering in a hospital in Rome after suffering a heart attack Thursday, the diocese said. 

“He was taken to Santo Spirito hospital where he had surgery to open a completely closed artery,” the diocese said in a written statement Friday. “… Bishop O’Connell is resting comfortably after a successful surgery. He asks that you keep him in your prayers as he recovers.” 

O’Connell, 68, was in Italy to lead a pilgrimage of 20 priests and two members of the diocese’s staff to holy sites in Rome and Assisi. The pilgrimage was due to start Friday. 

The pilgrims are planning to attend a Mass with Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday celebrating the solemnity of the Epiphany as well as Masses at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and the Basilica of St. Mary Major, which are also in Rome. 

Bishop David O’Connell enjoys a meal in Rome on Jan. 3, 2024, with priests from the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey: Monsignor Thomas N. Gervasio, Monsignor Sam Sirianni, Father Juan Daniel Peirano, and Father Jean Felicien. Credit: Courtesy of the Diocese of Trenton

In Assisi, the itinerary includes visits to three basilicas: St. Mary of the Angels, St. Francis, and St. Clare. It also includes a visit to the Church of St. Mary Major to see the tomb of Blessed Carlo Acutis (1991–2006), the Italian teenager who created a website documenting Eucharistic miracles and who helped his classmates and parents connect with the Catholic faith, according to, the diocese’s news website. 

On Tuesday, O’Connell prayed at the tomb of Pope Benedict XVI, who appointed him a bishop. On Wednesday, O’Connell attended a general audience of Pope Francis at the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall, where he greeted the pope twice, according to

Bishop David O’Connell greets Pope Francis during the Jan. 3, 2024, general audience in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. Credit: Courtesy of the Diocese of Trenton

O’Connell is a member of the Congregation of the Mission, which is more commonly known as the Vincentians, after its founder, St. Vincent de Paul. 

He shares the same first and last name with Bishop David G. O’Connell (1953–2023), an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles who was shot to death in his home in February 2023. 

O’Connell has a doctorate in canon law from The Catholic University of America, where he later served as president from 1998 to 2010. He has served as bishop of Trenton, which covers four counties in central New Jersey, since 2010.

He has suffered from health problems. In December 2014, O’Connell had the lower part of his left leg amputated because of recurring infections caused by diabetes. After physical therapy, he returned in April 2015 to celebrate Mass on Palm Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in Trenton.

In November 2023, he was elected chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education, which provides guidance for Catholic elementary schools, secondary schools, and colleges. The committee also, according to the bishops’ conference’s website, “advocates for federal public policies in education that are consistent with Catholic values and that uphold parental rights and responsibilities regarding education.”

Read More