The long-anticipated merger of Ontario's Ottawa and Alexandria-Cornwall dioceses has been officially approved by the Vatican and, as of May 6, the new Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall is now officially recognized by the Catholic Church.

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast maintains his leadership of the church in Ottawa and is now the first archbishop of the new Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall. But in making the announcement on May 6, Pope Francis named his eventual successor.

Pope Francis appointed Bishop Marcel Damphousse, 57, of Sault Ste. Marie as coadjutor archbishop of Ottawa-Cornwall.

Robert Du Broy, Ottawa-Cornwall communications director, said that although no official date has been set, Archbishop Prendergast is expected to retire this year, and Archbishop Damphousse will succeed him.

In a statement, Du Broy said the merger "will ensure more efficient management of the church's resources while respecting the bilingual nature of the region."

The formal civil merger still needs approval through the Canadian Parliament.

"The nature of the diocesan corporation -- a corporation sole -- requires an Act of Parliament for incorporation. Our legal counsel is moving forward with the civil amalgamation process," Du Broy said.

Pope Francis also appointed Auxiliary Bishop Guy Desrochers of Alexandria-Cornwall as the new bishop of Pembroke, Ontario.