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neymeyrIt’s taken two years but at long lost the Diocese of Erfurt has a bishop again. From Mainz comes 57-year-old Bishop Ulrich Neymeyr as the successor of Bishop Joachim Wanke, who retired on the first of October of 2012 for health reasons. Bishop Neymeyr, until today the sole auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Mainz, becomes the second bishop of Erfurt, which was established in 1994. Before that, since 1973, it had been the Apostolic Administration of Erfurt-Meiningen.

Over the past two years, Erfurt has been led by auxiliary Bishop Reinhard Hauke, who has served as diocesan administrator and has made no secret of the vacancy being exceptionally long. Other bishops, like Bishop Gerhard Feige of neighbouring Magdeburg, have likewise done so, especially when other dioceses, such as Cologne, seemingly were given precedence when needing new bishops. And although the daily affairs of Erfurt are ensured by the presence of a diocesan administrator, general governmental procedures and documents could not be adapted or retracted while there was no proper diocesan bishop. Those limitations are now gone with the appointment of Bishop Neymeyr.

neymeyr

Bishop Ulrich Neymeyr was born in Herrnsheim, a part of the city of Worms on the River Rhine, south of Frankfurt. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Mainz in 1982 by Cardinal Hermann Volk. His successor and the current bishop of Mainz, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, consecrated him a bishop after St. John Paul II appointed him as auxiliary bishop of Mainz and titular bishop of Maraguia in 2003. After 11 years fulfilling that position, Bishop Neymeyr now moves to Erfurt.

For Mainz the move means the beginning of a complete change in bishops. Bishop Neymeyr was Mainz’s only auxiliary bishop, which leaves the ordinary, 78-year old Karl Cardinal Lehmann. His retirement should be accepted between now and May of 2016, when the cardinal turns 80. The diocese is home to some 800,000 Catholics and includes such cities as Mainz, Worms and Darmstadt.

As a priest, Bishop Neymeyr was the conrector of the seminary of Mainz and later parish priest in Rüsselsheim, east of Mainz, and Worms, in the south of the diocese. As bishop he was episcopal vicar with special responsibility for youth, a task field he is also active in in the German bishops’ conference. Additionally, he also sits on the conference’s media commission.

wanke benedict xviThe Diocese of Erfurt encompasses the major part of the German state of Thuringia and was initially created in 1973 from parts of the dioceses of Würzburg and Fulda, which now border it to the west and southwest. At the time it wasn’t a full diocese because of the unique circumstances of being within the Communist state of East Germany. As the Apostolic Administration of Erfurt-Meiningen, it was first led by Bishop Hugo Aufderbeck, who died in 1981 and was succeed by Bishop Joachim Wanke. In 1994, following the German reunification, Erfurt-Meiningen was made a full diocese under the name Erfurt and Bishop Wanke was made its first bishop. He stayed on until 2012 when he retired for health reasons. During that time he hosted Pope Benedict XVI when he visited in 2011 (see image at right). There has in fact been an earlier Diocese of Erfurt, established by Saint Boniface in 742, but that was suppressed again in 755, seemingly without ever having had its own bishop. The cathedral of Erfurt is rooted in that time however. The current St. Mary’s dates from 1154, but was built on the site of the first church built around 742. Erfurt is home to some 150,000 Catholics in 63 parishes.

Photo credit: [1] © Bistum Mainz, [2] © Bistum Mainz / Matschak, [3] Kay Nietfeld dpa/lth (cropped version)

synod of bishopsYesterday the Holy See published the list of participants in the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family. Of course, there are the usual suspects: the heads of the Roman Curia departments, the standing members of the Synod and the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences, with the latter being default participants in an Extraordinary General Synod, which this one is. Pope Francis has had a personal touch in the selection of several participants; noteable among those are Cardinal Kasper, to all appearances a theologian much appreciated by the Holy Father, but also the vast majority of cardinals he created in his first consistory of last February.

A breakdown per country also shows Pope Francis’ fairly strong focus on both the southern half of the globe and the Middle East. When looking at the members personally appointed by the Pope, as well as the lay and professional participants and auditors, we see that, while 35 participants come from Europe (19 of whom are based in Rome or other parts of Italy), 15 participants come from Asia (5 of them from the Middle East), 12 from Central and South America, 9 from Africa, 4 from Oceania and 4 from North America. Add to those the bishops’ conference presidents and not least the fact that two of the three President Delegates come from outside Europe, and you get a distinct non-western picture.

danneelsFrom a local point of view it is interesting to see that no less than four participants come from Belgium, while there is only a single one from the Netherlands and a mere two from Germany. Belgium sends Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard,which was expected as he is the president of the Belgian bishops’ conference, but also his predecessor, Cardinal Godfried Danneels (pictured), as well as Father George Henri Ruyssen of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. Additionaly, Metropolitan Athenagoras, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Belgium, attends as a “fraternal delegate”.

From the Netherlands comes the archbishop of Utrecht, Cardinal Wim Eijk, as the president of our bishops’ conference, and Germany sends Cardinal Reinhard Marx, not a stranger in Rome, and Berlin’s Professor Ute Eberl.

And of course the list has been criticised, not least today by Fr. Thomas Reese. His argument that the presence of heads of the Curia is a bad thing, and an indication that Pope Francis’ intentions of overhauling and streamlining the workings of the Curia is doomed to fail, is plainly ludicrous. He argues that the prefects and presidents of the Curia are merely staff members and not policy makers, and should therefore be merely attending, not speaking or voting in the Synod, which is an extreme oversimplification. By that reasoning the presidents of the bishops’ conferences should not be there as participants either. The members of the Roman Curia are the closest collaborators of the Pope. They meet with him on a weekly basis and he is generally kept up to date on whatever is going on in the various department. But the Pope is one man, so the prefects and presidents not only have the leeway to make their own decisions, that is also their mandate. They are also not random clerics appointed on a whim, but experienced in their own field of work. They are far more than staff. Their experience, knowledge and mandate are enough to give them not only the right and duty to attend the Synod, but also to contribute and decide. Cricitism like that of Fr. Reese seems mostly motivated by a deeply ingrained fear and mistrust of the Curia, which has created an artifical opposition between individual faithful and the institutional Church.

Anyway, the Synod is still a couple of weeks away. Let’s give it the chance it deserves and not let it die a quiet death once the delegates have returned home.

Below is the full list of participants, as published yesterday:

PRESIDENT

  • Pope Francis

GENERAL SECRETARY

  • Lorenzo Cardinal Baldiserri

PRESIDENT DELEGATES

  • André Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, France
  • Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, Philippines
  • Raymunda Damasceno Cardinal Assis, Archbishop of Aparecida, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Brazil

RELATOR GENERAL

  • Péter Cardinal Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Hungary, President of the Concilium Conferentiarum Episcoporum Europae (CCEE).

SPECIAL SECRETARY

  • Archbishop Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Italy

PRESIDENT OF THE COMMISSION FOR THE MESSAGE

  • Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture

VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COMMISSION FOR THE MESSAGE

  • Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, Rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina

SYNOD FATHERS FROM THE ORIENTAL CHURCHES

  • Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts, President of the Synod of the Catholic Coptic Church
  • Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch of the Greek-Melkites, President of the Synod the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church
  • Patrirach Ignace Youssif III Younan, Patrirach of Antioch of the Syrians, President of the Syriac Catholic Church
  • Patriarch Béchara Boutros Cardinal Raï, Patrirach of Antioch of the Maronites, President of the Synod of the Maronite Church
  • Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, President of the Synod of the Chaldean Church
  • Patriarch Nersos Bedros XIX  Tarmouni, Patrirach of Cilicia of the Armenians, President of the Synod of the Armenian Catholic Church
  • Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc, President of the Synod of the Ukrainian Catholic Church
  • Major Archbishop George Cardinal Alencherry, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, President of the Syro-Malabar Church
  • Major Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Cardinal Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum, President of the Synod of the Syro-Malankarese Church
  • Major Archbishop Lucian Cardinal Muresan, Major Archbishop of Făgăras şi Alba Iulia, President of the Synod of the Romanian Church
  • Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Abeba of the Ethiopics, President of the Council of the Ethiopian Church, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia and Eritrea
  • Archbishop William Charles Skurla, Archbishop of Pittsburgh of the Ruthenians, President of the Council of the Ruthenian Church in the United States of America
  • Archbishop Ján Babjak, Archbishop of Presov of the Slovaks, President of the Council of the Slovak Church

PRESIDENT OF THE BISHOPS’ CONFERENCES

  • Bishop Benoît Comlan Messan Alowonou, Bishop of Kpalimé, Togo
  • Bishop Oscar Omar Aparicio Céspedes, Military Ordinary of Bolivia
  • Archbishop José María Arancedo, Archbishop of Santa Fe de la Vera Cruz, Argentina
  • Bishop Anders Arborelius, Bishop of Stockholm, Sweden
  • Raymundo Damasceno Cardinal Assis, Archbishop of Aparecido, Brazil (see also above)
  • Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genova, Italy
  • Bishop Gervaise Banshimiyubusa, Bishop of Ngozi, Burundi
  • Bishop Michael Dixon Bhasera, Bishop of Masvingo, Zimbabwe
  • Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, Archbishop of Valladolid, Spain
  • Bishop Anthony Fallah Borwah, Bishop of Gbarnga, Liberia
  • Bishop Jean-Claude Bouchard, Bishop of Pala, Chad
  • Josip Cardinal Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb, Croatia
  • Archbishop Stephen Brislin, Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Bishop Markus Büchel, Bishop of Sankt Gallen, Switzerland
  • Archbishop Paul Bùi Van Doc, Archbishop of Thành-Phô Hô Chí Minh, Vietnam
  • Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, Archbishop of Tunja, Colombia
  • Archbishop Ignatius Chama, Archbishop of Kasama, Zambia
  • Archbishop Louis Chamniern Santisukniran, Archbishop of Thare and Nonseng, Thailand
  • Archbishop Joseph Coutts, Archbishop of Karachi, Pakistan
  • Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario, Archbishop of Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Archbishop John Atcherley Dew, Archbishop of Wellington, New Zealand
  • Bishop Nicolas Djomo Lola, Bishop of Tshumbe, Congo-Kinshasa
  • Bishop Basílio do Nascimento, Bishop of Baucau, Timor-Leste
  • Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, Archbishop of Gatineau, Canada
  • Willem Jacobus Cardinal Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Péter Cardinal Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary (see also above)
  • Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas, Archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador
  • Ricardo Cardinal Ezzati Andrello, Archbishop of Santiago, Chile
  • Bishop Emmanuel Félémou, Bishop of Kankan, Guinea
  • Bishop Oscar Gerardo Fernández Guillén, Bishop of Puntarenas, Costa Rica
  • Archbishop Ruggero Franceschini, Archbishop of Izmir, Turkey
  • Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, Archbishop of Poznan, Poland
  • Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo García Ibáñez, Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
  • Archbishop Zef Gashi, Archbishop of Bar, Montenegro
  • Bishop Catalino Claudio Giménez Medina, Bishop of Caacupé, Paraguay
  • Bishop Andrej Glavan, Bishop of Novo Mesto, Slovenia
  • Archbishop Roberto Octavio González Nieves, Archbishop of San Juan de Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico
  • Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, India
  • Archbishop Jan Graubner, Archbishop of Olomouc, Czech Republic
  • Bishop Mario Grech, Bishop of Gozo, Malta
  • Archbishop John Ha Tiong Hock, Archbishop of Kuching, Malaysia
  • Archbishop Denis James Hart, Archbishop of Melbourne, Australia
  • Bishop Eugène Cyrille Houndékon, Bishop of Abomey, Benin
  • Archbishop John Hung Shan-Chuan, Archbishop of Taipei, Taiwan
  • Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos, Nigeria
  • Bishop Peter Kang U-Il, Bishop of Cheju, South Korea
  • Archbishop Samuel Kleda, Archbishop of Douala, Cameroon
  • Bishop Franjo Komarica, Bishop of Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Archbisop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, Archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev, Belarus
  • Bishop Patrick Daniel Koroma, Bishop of Kenema, Sierra Leone
  • Archbishop Joseph Edward Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville, United States of America
  • Archbishop Vincent Landèl, Archbishop of Rabat, Morocco
  • Chibly Cardinal Langlois, Bishop of Les Cayes, Haiti
  • Bishop Mathieu Madega Lebouakehan, Bishop of Mouila, Gabon
  • Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium
  • Archbishop Gerard Tlali Lerotholi, Archbishop of Maseru, Lesotho
  • Bishop Felix Lian Khen Thang, Bishop of Kalay, Myanmar
  • Patriarch José Macário do Nascimento Clemente, Patriarch of Lisbon, Portugal
  • Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi, Bishop of Tonga, Tonga
  • Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, Vicar Apostolic of Paksé, Laos
  • Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, Ireland
  • Reinhard Cardinal Marx, Archbishop of München und Freising, Germany
  • Archbishop Angelo Massafra, Archbishop of Shkodrë-Pult, Albania
  • Bishop Juan Matogo Oyana, Bishop of Bata, Equatorial Guinea
  • Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi, Arcbishop of Lubango, Angola
  • Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege, Bishop of Kabgayi, Rwanda
  • Archbishop Thomas Meram, Archbishop of Urmya, Iran
  • Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, Archbishop of Lviv, Ukraine
  • Bishop Lúcio Andrice Muandula, Bishop of Xai-Xai, Mozambique
  • Archbishop Liborius Ndumbukuti Nashenda, Archbishop of Windhoek, Namibia
  • Bishop Benjamin Ndiaye, Bishop of Kaolack, Senegal
  • Bishop Tarcisius J.M. Ngalalekumtwa, Bishop of Iringa, Tanzania
  • Vincent Gerard Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, United Kingdom
  • John Cardinal Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi, Kenya
  • Bishop Rimantas Norvila, Bishop of Vilkaviskis, Lithuania
  • Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, Central African Republic
  • Archbishop John Baptist Odama, Archbishop of Gulu, Uganda
  • Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada, Archbishop of Tokyo, Japan
  • Bishop Arnold Orowae, Bishop of Wabag, Papua New Guinea
  • Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu, Bishop of Konongo-Mampong, Ghana
  • Archbishop Paul Yembuado Ouédraogo, Archbishop of Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso
  • Archbishop Diego R. Padrón Sánchez, Archbishop of Cumaná, Venezuela
  • Bishop Franghískos Papamanólis, Bishop of Syros and Santorini, Greece
  • Albert Malcolm Ranjith Cardinal Patabendige Don, Archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Bishop Gregorio Nicanor Peña Rodríguez, Bishop of Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia en Higüey, Dominican Republic
  • Archbishop Tomasz Peta, Archbishop of Mary Most Holy in Astana, Kazakhstan
  • Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, Archbishop of Mother of God at Moscow, Russia
  • Bishop Maurice Piat, Bishop of Port-Louis, Seychelles
  • Archbishop Patrick Christopher Pinder, Archbishop of Nassau, Bahamas
  • Archbishop Salvador Piñeiro García-Calderón, Archbishop of Ayacucho, Peru
  • Archbishop Georges Pontier, Archbishop of Marseille, France
  • Bishop Louis Portella Mbuyu, Bishop of Kinkala, Congo-Brazzaville
  • Bishop Christo Proykov, Apostolic Exarch of Sofia of the Bulgarians, Bulgaria
  • Francisco Cardinal Robles Ortega, Archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico
  • Archbishop Ioan Robu, Archbishop of Bucharest, Romania
  • Óscar Andrés Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras
  • Bishop Sócrates René Sándigo Jirón, Bishop of Juigalpa, Nicaragua
  • Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Wien, Austria
  • Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Abeba of the Ethiopics, Ethiopia (see also above)
  • Archbishop Zbignev Stankevics, Archbishop of Riga, Latvia
  • Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, Archbishop of Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, Archbishop of Glasgow, United Kingdom
  • Bishop Jean-Baptiste Tiama, Bishop of Sikasso, Mali
  • Archbishop Alexis Touabli Youlo, Archbishop of Agboville, Côte d’Ivoire
  • Archbishop Fausto Gabriel Trávez Trávez, Archbishop of Quito, Ecuador
  • Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana, Archbishop of Taomasina, Madagascar
  • Patriarch Fouad Twal, Patriarch of Jerusalem
  • Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, Archbishop of Panamá, Panama
  • Bishop Rodolfo Valenzuela Núñez, Bishop of Vera Paz, Guatemala
  • Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas, Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, Philippines
  • Bishop Rodolfo Pedro Wirz Kraemer, Bishop of Maldonado-Punta del Este, Uruguay
  • Gabriel Cardinal Zubeir Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum, Sudan
  • Bishop Joseph Mukasa Zuza, Bishop of Mzuzu, Malawi
  • Archbishop Stanislav Zvolenský, Archbishop of Bratislava, Slovakia

ELECTED BY THE UNION OF SUPERIORS GENERAL

  • Father Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, Superior General of the Society of Jesus
  • Father Mauro Jöhri, Minister General of the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor
  • Father Mario Alegani, Superior General of the Congregation of Saint Joseph

HEADS OF THE DEPARTMENTS OF THE ROMAN CURIA

  • Pietro Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State
  • Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  • Leonardo Cardinal Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
  • Angelo Cardinal Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
  • Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
  • Fernando Cardinal Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples
  • Beniamino Cardinal Stella, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy
  • João Cardinal Bráz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  • Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education
  • Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, Major Penitentiary
  • Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura
  • Stanislaw Cardinal Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity
  • Kurt Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  • Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family
  • Peter Kodwo Appiah Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
  • Robert Cardinal Sarah, President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”
  • Antonio Maria Cardinal Vegliò, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
  • Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers
  • Francesco Cardinal Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
  • Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
  • Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture (see also above)
  • Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications
  • Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation
  • Domenico Cardinal Calcagno, President of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Versaldi, President of the Prefecture of the Economic Affairs of the Holy See

MEMBERS OF THE ORDINARY COUNCIL

  • Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, United States of America
  • Péter Cardinal Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary (see also above)
  • Archbishop Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Italy (see also above)
  • Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, India (see also above)
  • Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa, Congo-Kinshasa
  • Wilfrid Fox Cardinal Napier, Archbishop of Durban, South Africa
  • George Cardinal Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy
  • Odilo Pedro Cardinal Scherer, Archbishop of São Paulo, Brazil
  • Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Wien, Austria (see above)
  • Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc, Ukraine (see also above)
  • Bishop Santiago Jaime Silva Retamalas, Auxiliary Bishop of Valparaíso, Chile, Secretary General of the Episcopal Council of Latin America (CELAM)
  • Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, Philippines (see also above)
  • Donald William Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, United States of America
  • Peter Kodwo Appiah Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (see also above)
  • Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation (see also above)

MEMBERS APPOINTED BY THE POPE

  • Angelo Cardinal Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals
  • Godfried Cardinal Danneels, Archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium
  • Walter Cardinal Kasper, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  • Angelo Cardinal Scola, Archbishop of Milan, Italy
  • Carlo Cardinal Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy
  • Lluís Cardinal Martínez Sistach, Archbishop of Barcelona, Spain
  • André Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, France (see also above)
  • Jonh Cardinal Tong Hon, Bishop of Hong Kong, China
  • Orani João Cardinal Tempesta, Archbishop of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Adrew Cardinal Yeom Soo-jung, Archbishop of Seoul, South Korea
  • Philippe Nakellentuba Cardinal Ouédraogo, Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
  • Fernando Cardinal Sebastián Aguilar, Archbishop emeritus of Pamplona y Tudela, Spain
  • Elio Cardinal Sgreccia, President emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Bertello, President of the Governorate of the Vatican City State
  • Archbishop Giovanni Tonucci, Archbishop of Loreto, Italy
  • Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli, Archbishop Anciona-Osimo, Italy
  • Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, Archbishop of Tlalnepatla, Mexico, President of the Episcopal Council of Latin America (CELAM)
  • Archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto, Archbishop of Delhi, India
  • Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, Rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina (see also above)
  • Bishop Alonso Gerardo Garza Treviño, Bishop of Piedras Negras, Mexico
  • Bishop Edgard Amine Madi, Bishop of Nossa Senhora do Líbano em São Paulo of the Maronites, Brazil
  • Bishop Enrico Solmi, Bishop of Parma, Italy, President of the Commission for Life and Family in the Italian Bishops’ Conference
  • Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, Dean of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota
  • Father Francois-Xavier Dumortier, Rector Magnificus of the Pontifical University Gregoriana
  • Father Antonio Spadaro, Editor of the magazine “La Civiltà Cattolica”
  • Father Manuel Jesús Arroba Conde, Professor of Canon Law at the Pontifical Lateran University

UNDERSECRETARY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS

  • Bishop Fabio Fabene

LIST OF OTHER PARTICIPANTS ACCORDING TO THEIR TITLES

  • Fr. Tony Anatrella, psycho-analist. Specialist in social psychiatry. Consultor to the Pontifical Councils for the Family and for Health Care Workers. France.
  • Fr. Gérard Berliet, professor of Sacred Scripture at the provincial seminary in Lyon. Head of pastoral care for divorced and remarried faithful in the Archdiocese of Lyon, France.
  • Fr. Bruno Esposito, professor of Canon Law at the Pontifical University St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome.
  • Fr. Alfonso Fernández Benito, professor of Moral Theology and the Sacrament of Marriage at the Hugher Institute of Theological Studies “San Ildefonso”, director of the Institute for Religious Sciences Santa Maria di Toledo, Spain.
  • Fr. Arul Raj Gali, National Director of “Holy Cross Family Ministries in India”.
  • Dr. Jeffrey Goh, professor of Systematic Theology at the archdiocesan seminary and judge of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of Kuching, Malaysia.
  • Fr. Maurizio Gronchi, professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical University Urbaniana in Rome, consultor for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
  • Dr. Rodrigo Guerra López, general director of the Centre for Advanced Social Research, Mexico.
  • Dr. Jocelyne Khoueiry, member of the Episcopal Commission for the Family of the APECL, Lebanon.
  • Dr. Helen Kyung Soo Kwon, member of the executive committee of the “Helen Kim Scholarship Foundation at Ewha Womans University”, South Korea.
  • Fr. Sabatino Majorano, professor of Systemic Moral Theology at the Alphonsianum, Italy.
  • Mr. Christopher Laurence Meney, director of the Center for life, marriage and family of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia.
  • Professor Giuseppina de Simone, extraordinary professor of philosophy at the Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in Naples. Married to ∨
  • Professor Francesco Miano, professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, president of Catholic Action, Italy. Married to ^
  • Professor Carmen Peña García, director of Especialista en Causas Matrimoniales, professor at the Faculty of Canon Law of the Comillas Pontifical University, Defender of the Bond and Promotor of Justice at the Metropolitan Court of Madrid, Spain.
  • Fr. George Henri Ruyssen, professor at the Faculty of Oriental Canon Law of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. Belgium.

AUDITORS

  •  Mr. Arturo and Mrs. Hermelinda As Zamberline, officials of the ‘Equipe Notre Dame” in Brazil.
  • Mr. Riyadh Albeer Naoom Azzo and Mrs. Sanaa Namir Ibrahim Habeeb, witnessing of Christian family life in a Muslim environment, Iraq.
  • Mr. León Botolo and Mrs. Marie Valentine Kisanga Sosawe, founders of Communauté Famille Chrétienne, Congo-Kinshasa.
  • Professor Zelmira María Bottini de Rey, director of the Institute for Couples and Family of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, president of the Latin-America Network of the Institute of the Family of the Catholic Universities, Argentina.
  • Mr. George Campos, director of Couples for Christ, Philippines. Married to ∨
  • Mrs. Cynthia Campos, member of Couples for Christ, Philippines. Married to ^
  • Mr. Inácio Amândio Chaúque, educator of young couples, Mozambique.
  • Mrs. Joan Clements, director of the executive committe of the World Organisation Ovulation Method Billings (WOOMB), Australia.
  • Mr. Stephen and Mrs. Sandra Conway, regional officers for Africa of Retrouvailles, South Africa.
  • Dr. Ute Eberl, responsible for pastoral care for marriage and family in the Archdiocese of Berlin, Germany.
  • Mrs. Pilar Escudero de Jensen, member of the vicariate general of the Archdiocese of Santiago, Chile, member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, member of the Family Institute of Schönstatt, Chile. Married to ∨
  • Mr. Luis Jensen Acuña, member of the Bioethics Centre of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, member of the Family Institute of Schönstatt, Chile. Married to ^
  • Dr. Jean Dieudonné Gatsinga and Mrs. Emerthe Gatsinga Tumuhayimpundu, repsonsible for young families of the Focolare movement in Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda.
  • Mr. Jeffrey Heinzen, director of Natural Family Planing of the Diocese of La Crosse, United States of America. Married to ∨
  • Mrs. Alice Heinzen, member of the Natural Family Planning Advisory Board of the Diocese of La Crosse, United States of America. Married to ^
  • Dr. Ilva Myriam Hoyos Castañeda, prosecutor delegate for the defense of the rights of children, youth and family, Colombia.
  • Mr. Sélim and Mrs. Rita Khoury, leading the Office for Pastoral Care for Families of the Patriarchal Curia of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon.
  • Mrs. María Lacalle Noriega, director of the Centre of the Study of the family (Inst. Investigaciones económicas y sociales Francisco de Vitoria), secretary general of the Sociedad Española de bioética y biojurídica, Spain.
  • Fr. Cajetan Menezes, director of the Family Apostolate in Bombay, India.
  • Mr. Giuseppe Petracca Ciavarella and Mrs. Lucia Miglionico, medical doctors, members of the National Council for Pastoral Care of Families, Italy.
  • Sister Margaret Muldoon, Superior General of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux, Ireland.
  • Mr. Francisco Padilla, officer of the Couples for Christ Foundation for family and life movement, Philippines.
  • Mr. Algirdas Petronis, vice president of the International Federation of Catholic Families, director of the Centre for the Family of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, Lithuania.
  • Mr. Romano and Mrs. Mavis Pirola, directors of the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council.
  • Mr Olivier and Mrs. Xristilla Roussy, responsible for the apostolic branch of Amour et Vérité, France.
  • Mr. Steve and Mrs. Claudia Schultz, members of the International Catholic Engaged Encounter, United States of America.
  • Mrs. Michèle Taupin, preident of the movement Espérance et Vie, France.
  • Mrs. Jeannette Touré, National president of the Association of Catholic Women in Côte d’Ivoire.

FRATERNAL DELEGATES

  •  Archbishop Athenagoras, Metropolitan of Belgium. Ecumenic patriarchate.
  • Archbishop Hilarion, President of Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow.
  • Metropolitan Bishoy, Metropolitan of Damietta, Kafr Elsheikh and Elbarari, Egypt. Coptic Orthodox Church.
  • Mar Yostinos, Archbishop of Zhale and Bekau, Lebanon. Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.
  • Bishop Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, England. Anglican Communion.
  • Dr. Ndanganeni Petrus Phaswaha, Bishop-President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa. World Lutheran Federation.
  • Dr. Benebo Fubara-Manuel, President of the Nigeria Communion of Reformed Churches. World Communion of Reformed Churches.
  • Dr. Valérie Duval-Poujol, professor of Biblical Exegesis at the Catholic Institute of Paris, France. World Baptist Alliance.

woelkiWhen it comes to bishops, the foremost issue in the minds of many in Germany is that of finances. That’s certainly so for Cardinal Rainer Woelki as he prepares to move from Berlin to Cologne. In what has been presented as his farewell interview in Berlin, the cardinal was asked about his new living arrangements. Exchanging a rented house for an episcopal palace, he said:

“The Bishop’s House in Cologne is a giant box from the 1950s. It was built for an archbishop who lives there with a court, with religious sisters and a secretary. For me the house is far too big. To have to live there is no reason for pleasure. I have had a wall built where in the past the religious sisters used to live, in order to create a somewhat separate living space. That way another apartment is created on the other side.”

You can house a refugee family there.

“That has been suggested. I will consider these and other ideas with my staff in Cologne this autumn.”

While refurbishing and restoration work has been ongoing, reporters were invited to come and take a look at Cardinal Woelki’s living arrangements in the building which also houses several  offices of the archdiocese. In the Aachener Zeitung we find a lighthearted report, which starts with considering the cardinal’s bathtub: “The bathtub, always the bathtub. It is white, a bit creme-coloured, quite a small bathtub. [The cardinal] himself is quite tall, but this is the one he wanted,” said Achim Schmitz, head of the construction office.

seminary cologne^The central square of the seminary of the Archdiocese of Cologne. Cardinal Woelki will live in an apartment behind these buildings.

The name of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, whose allegedly luxury bathroom was part of the problems that led to his leaving the Diocese of Limburg for a rented home in Regensburg, surrounds these considerations. So when it became clear that Cardinal Woelki will have a swimming pool in his basement, expectations of unwarranted luxury appeared. But reality is far more sober. The pool was built in the 1950s for the adjacent seminary and today it is being used for swimming classes by local schools, and to teach a group of Muslim women how to swim.

Still, the renovation is not cheap at 1.45 million euros (1.9 million dollars). But financial director Hermann-Josef Schon is quick to explain that these costs cover long-overdue work as the building has not seen any renovation in 25 years and it covers such necessary things as heating, electricity and water.

So while Cologne is known to be one of Germany’s richest dioceses, little beyond the necessary will go to the daily needs of its new archbishop. Cardinal Woelki is pleased to have what he needs and little more. He will run his own household, without a secretary, housekeeper and only a modest bathtub.

Photo credit: [1] dpa, [2] wdr

They were 50,000 strong, coming from 26 dioceses in Germany and beyond, filling all of St. Peter’s Square for an encounter with Pope Francis yesterday. Young altar servers, accompanied by some of their bishops, on a pilgrimage to Rome. To their great surprise Pope Francis addressed them in German. In my translation:

“The words from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians that we heard, make us sit up and listen. The time is right, Paul says. God is serious now. What God has always told the people through the prophets He now shows us with a striking example. God explains us that He is a good father. And how does He do so? By the fact that He made His Son man. Through this concrete human being Jesus we can understand what God really means. He wants human beings, who are free but know themselves always to be secure as children of a good father.

To release this, God needs only a man. He needs a woman, a mother, to bring His Son into the world as a human being. That is the Virgin Mary, whom we honour with these Vespers tonight. She was completely free. In her freedom she has said yes. She has done what is good for all time. That is how she has served God and the people. Let’s keep her example in mind when we want to know what God expects from us as His children.”

pope francis altar servers

After the Vespers, four altar servers asked questions to Pope Francis. The first question was about how young people could play a bigger part in the life of the Church, as suggested by the Holy Father in Evangelii Gaudium, and also what the Church expects from altar servers? The second server asked for advice in how to respond to friends who do not understand why anyone would want to be an altar server at the expense of other passtimes. Question three dealt with freedom, and how to experience, understand it in a life which has so many rules.

Pope Francis answered:

pope francis“Dear servers,

I thank you for this encounter on the occasion of your pilgrimage to Rome and I want to give you some food for thought related to the questions that your representatives have asked me.

You have asked me what you can do to  contribute more in the Church and what the Christian community expects from you as altar servers. Let’s first remember that the world needs people who attest to others that God loves us and that He is our father. Everyone in society has the obligation to serve the common good by contributing to what is essential: food, clothing, medical care, education, information, the legal system, and so on. As disciples of the Lord we have an additional task, namely to be the “channels”, the lines which pass the love of Jesus on to others. And in this duty you, youth and young adults, have a special role: You are called to tell your contemporaries about Jesus – not just in the parishes or organisations, but especially outside them. That is a task which has been especially entrusted to you, because with your courage, your enthusiasm, your spontaneity and your sociability  it is easier to reach the thoughts and hearts of those who have drifted away from the Lord. Many people of your age have an enormous desire for someone who tells them, with their lives, that Jesus knows us, loves us, forgives us, shares our problems and supports us with His mercy.

But in order to speak with others about Jesus, we must known and love Him, experience Him in prayer and in His Word. You have the advantage in that respect, because of your service in the liturgy, which allows you to be near to Jesus, the Word and the Bread of Life. Let me give you some advice: The Gospel reading you hear in the liturgy, read it again for yourselves, in silence, and apply it to your lives. And with the love of Christ, which you have received in Holy Communion, you will be able to put it into practice. The Lord calls each of you today to work in His field. He calls you to be happy players in His Church, willing to share with your friends what He has shared with your, especially His mercy.

I understand your problems of combining your service at the altar with your other activities, which are necessary for your human development and cultural formation. So you must organise a bit, plan things in a balanced way… but you are German, so that should be easy! Our life consists of time, and that time is a gift from God, so it must be used for good and fruitful things. Perhaps many young people waste too many hours with useless things: chatting on the Internet or on your mobile phone, but also with television programs. The products of technological progress, which should simplify life or increase its quality, are sometimes distractions from what is really important. Among the many things which are part of our daily routine, those that remind us of our Creator, who gives us life, who loves us and accompanies us on our journey through life, should have priority.

Because God has created us in His image we have also received from Him this great gift of freedom. But when we don’t use this freedom properly it can move us away from God, can let us lose that dignity which He has given us. That is why guidance, rules and regulations are necessary – both in society and also in the Church – to help us do the will of God and to live in this way according to our dignity as human beings and children of God. When freedom is not influenced by the Gospel it can turn into slavery, the slavery of sin. Adam and Eve, our first parents, moved away from the will of God and so fell into sin, and also into a bad use of freedom. Dear young friends, do not use your freedom wrongly! Do not waste your great dignity as children of God, which has been given to you. When you follow Jesus and His Gospel, your freedom will bloom like a flower and bear good and rich fruits. You will find true joy, since God wants us to be completely happy and fulfilled. Only when we immerse ourselves in the will of God, we can do what is good and be both the light of the world and the salt of the earth!

The Virgin Mary, who understood herself to be the “handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38), is your example in the service of God. She, our mother, will help you, young people full of hope and courage, to be workers for good and labourers for peace in the Church and in society.”

Cologne may have been given a new archbishop only four months after the retirement of its previous archbishop, this latest appointment does not do anything to decrease the number of vacant sees in Germany. Cologne is off the list, but Berlin is back on it, only three years after it last appeared.

vacant sees in Germany

Indicated in the above map, joining Berlin are Hamburg in the north, and Limburg and Erfurt in central Germany. While the former two have been vacant for only four months, Erfurt stands out. It has been 19 months since Bishop Joachim Wanke retired for health reasons, and to all appearances, Erfurt has been passed over several times. Of course, reality is different, as the needs of one diocese are not necessarily the same as another, and a bishop who may be a good fit for one diocese, need not be so for another.

HaukeReinhard130In his congratulatory message for Cardinal Woelki’s new appointment, Bishop Reinhard Hauke (pictured), auxiliary bishop and Apostolic Administrator of Erfurt, notes: “And I pray and hope that the remaining vacant dioceses in Germany may also soon be able to rejoice about the appointment of a new bishop. Certainly we in the Diocese of Erfurt have been waiting for a long time.” In western Europe, only the Diocese of Leeds has been vacant for longer.

The expectation is that Hamburg won’t get a new archbishop before the year is over, and Limburg is a special case in itself. The selection of its new bishop will be a careful one. Berlin is only getting started with the entire process, but Erfurt has been waiting long enough, it would seem. The next new bishop in Germany should be going to Erfurt.

Double duty for the German bishops today, as they have two consecrations of new bishops today to choose from.

wilhelm zimmermannIn Essen, the diocese of the Ruhr, Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck will consecrate Bishop Wilhelm Zimmermann as auxiliary bishop of that diocese. Essen’s other auxiliary, Bishop Ludger Schepers, and retired auxiliary Bishop Franz Vorrath will be co-consecrators. Also present will be Hong Kong’s bishop, John Cardinal Tong Hon.

The Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau will see the consecration of its new archbishop, Msgr. Stephan Burger. Promising to start using Twitter after his consecration, the new archbishop, Germany’s youngest at 52, has been received generally very positive, although his perceived orthodoxy has ruffled the usual feathers.

burgerConsecrating him is his predecessor, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, with the ordinaries of the Province of Freiburg’s other two dioceses, Karl Cardinal Lehmann of Mainz and Bishop Gebhard Fürst of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, as co-consecrators. The consecration is embedded in Freiburg’s “Diözesantag”, which began esterday with a concert and choral evensong, and continues today with midday prayers, a live program in the square before the cathedral, with music and interviews. After the Mass in which the new archbishop will be consecrated, the festivities close with a “feast of encounter”. The cathedral itself has remained closed due to the preparations for the live television broadcast, and will open only in the early afternoon, about 90 minutes before the Mass starts at 14:30.

As today is the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the traditional date new metropolitan archbishops come to Rome to receive their pallia to signify their shepherd’s duty, Archbishop Burger will receive his today from the hands of the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic. This is an unusual action, but does mean that Archbishop Burger doesn’t have to wait a full twelve months to receive his pallium.

Eight months after Archbishop Robert Zollitsch retired as archbishop of Freiburg im Breisgau, and was immediately appointed as Apostolic Administrator of that see, a successor has been found. In the case of Freiburg, which was never part of Prussia and is therefore not bound by the concordat between that former state and the Holy See, the cathedral chapter is the sole party to select candidates. The Apostolic Nuncio has the duty to investigate the candidates and what he finds is used by the Holy See to make a list of three names, of which at least one must be that of a native priest of the archdiocese. The cathedral chapter then elects one of the three priests on that list. The Pope subsequently confirms the election by appointing the new archbishop.

dsc_0205_burger_hThis entire process has now resulted in the 15th archbishop of Freiburg im Breisgau: Msgr. Stephan Burger. At 52 he is by far the youngest metropolitan archbishop of the country – the next youngest is Berlin’s Cardinal Woelki, at 57. Until now, Archbishop-elect Burger was the judicial vicar of the archdiocese, representing the archbishop in legal matters and leading the ecclesiastical court. Notable in this context is that the judicial vicar is also responsible for marital matters, most especially deciding on the validity of a marriage.

Archbishop-elect Stephan Burger was born in Freiburg, but raised in nearby Löffingen. He was ordained in 1990, after having studied philosophy in Freiburg and Munich. He spent his first years in parishes in Tauberbischofsheim, in the far north of the archdiocese, and in Pforzheim, halfway between Karlsruhe and Stuttgart. In 1995 he was appointed as parish priest in Sankt Leon-Rot, north of Karlsruhe. At the same time, between 2004 and 2006, he studied canon law at the University of Münster, completing it with a licentiate in canon law. From 2002 onwards, he was also active as defender of the bond in the ecclesiastical court, and since 2006 he was promoter of justice. A year later he took on the function he held until today. Upon the appointment of Bishop Michael Gerber as auxiliary bishop last year, Archbishop Zollitsch made some changes to the cathedral chapter, and Msgr. Burger joined in 2013.

Msgr. Stephan hails from a strongly Catholic family, with his parents having been active as Church musicians. His brother Hans took the religious name Tutilo when he entered the Benedictine Order, and he is now the Archabbott of Beuron Abbey. He will assist his brother at his consecration.

Stephan Burger
^The ladies of Freiburg are already fond of their new archbishop.

The new archbishop’s appointment was received very positively in the Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau. Mr. Alfred Gut, chairman of the parish council of Vogtsburg, where Archbishop-elect Burger has been active as a priest for the past ten years, said,”I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. I think it’s great. Stephan Burger is incredibly nice, open, sociable and has a ready ear for everyone.” While the news was welcomed, the new archbishop will be missed in the parishes of Kaiserstuhl, Burkheim and Vogstburg.

Although his work as the ecclesiastical courts was potentially dry, strict and serious, Msgr. Stephan has always seen it as pastoral work in the first place. Marriage annulments took up the major part of his work, but he saw it as his duty to “offer people in difficult situations an opportunity to talk in addition to the legal aspets. These people are part of our Church!” As archbishop, Msgr. Burger will obviously work from Freiburg, but he intends to be on the road when he can, to meet the people where they work and live.

Msgr. Burger’s consecration is planned fairly soon: on 29 June, the same day that the archdiocese is hosting a diocesan day,for all volunteers active in the churches, in the square in front of the Cathedral of Our Lady. Expect a major turnout of faithful, then. His predecessor, Archbishop Zollitsch, will be the main consecrator, while Bishop Uhl and Gerber, the archdiocese’s two auxiliaries, may be expected to serve as co-consecrators.

For his motto, the archbishop-elect took a line from the Letter to the Ephesians as inspiration: Christus in cordibus (Christ in the heart), from “s0 that Christ may live in your hearts through faith” (3:17).

Not only does this appointment continue the rejuvenation of the German episcopate, it also indicates that the appointments under Pope Francis seem to continue in the vein of those under Pope Benedict XVI. Archbishop-elect Stephan Burger is, it would seem, liturgically quite sound and well educated in canon  law. He also has pastoral experience, maintained ever since his first years as a priest.

Photo credit: [2] Rita Eggstein

katholikentag logo

In a message to the organisation and participants of the German Katholikentag, it’s 99th edition starting in Regensburg today, Pope Francis takes on the events motto to write about what it means to imitate Christ in His building of bridges between people and between God and people. Classic Francis:

“My honourable brother Rudolf Voderholzer, Bishop of Regensburg!

In heartfelt unity I greet you and all our brothers in the episcopate, the priests, the deacons and laity who have come from all parts of Germany, and also from the Czech Republic, Austria and other countries to the time-honoured “City of Bridges” Regensburg on the occasion of the 99th Catholic Day, taking place from 28 May to 1 June. Under the motto “Building bridges with Christ” you wish to celebrate together in these days, to learn from each other and pray from one another, bearing witness of our faith, through the means of the Catholic Day, as builders of bridges in Church and society.

We Christians have the standing commandment to build bridges of relationships, of maintaining a dialogue about the questions of life with other and not to lose sight of the care for the margins – be they those of society, of religion or human relationships. Christ is the foundation upon we start building; for it is he who has broken down the dividing wall between people and between God and people (cf. Eph. 2:14). Through His death on the Cross and His resurrection he builds for us the bridge of life. In his Ascension into Heaven he became the bridge builder between God and people, as a bridge between time and eternity. He calls us through Baptism and Confirmation to follow Him in building bridges.

History teaches us that dialogue is not an easy task. Just one hundred years ago it was negatively shown how people tear down bridges and refused dialogue. The terrible First World War broke out. Many more terrible wars and conflicts followed – altogether a bloody century. In the hearts of people the walls of distrust, of anger and hate for the other grew. In such a way man isolates himself in his resentment. Walls are raised, first in the heart and then between houses. How difficult does reconciliation then become. In your country, you have bitterly experienced this – with the Berlin Wall. How much pain, how much division did this wall cause. But then people came together in Churches, to pray for peace. And in the power of prayer they went out into their city, week after week. Increasing numbers of people joined them. And finally the wall was torn down – this year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of this event. There we see the mission of Christians: to pray and the go out and bring to others the Good News, for which people yearn most deeply.

Building bridges with Christ means, in particular, to pray. Prayer is not a one-way road. It is a real dialogue. Christ answers and helps us. We must pay attention, because Jesus often speaks very quietly. He speaks to us through the Gospels and through our encounters with our fellow human beings. It is important to be watchful and to often read the Gospel. Entrust yourself to the Lord and His good guidance! At the Catholic Day you give a sign for true dialogue: dialogue with Christ and with each other. In this way you become true witnesses and capable bridge coworkers with Christ in “building bridges” for peace and eternal salvation. With this in mind I gladly give all participants of the Catholic Day the Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 23 May 2014

Pope Francis”

Msgr. Klaus Metzl called it the most beautiful day of the year so far, and well he might. The Diocese of Passau, located where Germany meets Austria and the Czech Republic, had been without a bishop for 18 months, so the appointment of a new shepherd on Friday was indeed what both he and the faithful had “waited, hoped and prayed for”.

In october of 2012, Bishop Wilhelm Schraml retired after almost eleven years at the helm of the almost 1300-year-old diocese, but stayed on for one more year as Apostolic Administrator, after which Msgr. Metzl took over.

der-neue-bischof-von-passau-stefan-oster

And now the choice has fallen on Bishop-elect Stefan Oster to be the 85th bishop of Passau. The new bishop is a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco (an order which boasts an additional 124 bishops and cardinals among its members) and will be the youngest ordinary of Germany upon his consecration on 24 May. There are five German bishops younger than him, but they are all auxiliaries.

The appointment of Bishop-elect Oster has been welcomed almost everywhere, which seems to be generally due to his unassuming yet communicative personality. A former journalist, the 48-year-old future bishop never held positions of power, either within or outside the Salesians. The fact that he was chosen must therefore be due to his person qualities, or, as the case may be, those which he exhibited in his life before joining the Salesians, when he was a journalist, student of philosophy, history and religion in Germany and the UK, and ultimately theology before ordained in 2001.  After an award-winning dissertation at the University of Augsburg, he joined the future bishop of Regensburg, Rudolf Voderholzer, in Trier. In recent years he has been mainly active as a teacher. And he also juggles.

A trained dogmatist, Bishop-elect Oster has the ingredients for a long and fruitful occupation of the see that was first established by Saint Boniface: communication, an unassuming and fraternal personality and theological acumen.

The number of vacant dioceses in Germany is now back to five – Erfurt, Freiburg im Breisgau, Cologne, Limburg and Hamburg.

Photo credit: DPA

franz-peter tebartz-van elstReports that the Vatican would make a statement regarding Limburg’s Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst started breaking this morning, to the effect that he will not be returning to his diocese.

Awaiting the official statement, which Domradio has announced to be commenting on at noon, we can only guess at the details. We can, however safely assume that the heart of the decision will be either that Bishop Tebartz-van Elst has indeed mismanaged the funds of the Diocese of Limburg, especially those related to the reconstruction and rebuilding efforts of the diocesan complex, which includes his own apartment (and it is likely that his lies under oath about his traveling to India will also play a part in it), or that the atmosphere in Limburg and Germany as a whole is such that his return is unwise. With the amount of hostility against his person, warranted or not, his work as ordinary of a diocese would have been almost impossibly difficult.

There are also reports that the bishop’s mental health has suffered in the past months, which can also be a determining factor in this decision.

If Bishop Tebartz-van Elst will indeed not return, the Diocese of Limburg is the sixth diocese in Germany to fall vacant.

This is the text of the decision as released by the Holy See today, in my translation:

Regarding the administration of the Diocese of Limburg, in Germany, the Congregation for Bishops has studied in detail the report of the Commission, that was established according to the desires of the bishop and the cathedral chapter, to investigate in detail the responsibilities regarding the construction of the Diocesan Centre “St. Nicholas”.

Given that a situation exists in the Diocese of Limburg which prevents the fruitful exercise of the episcopal office by Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the Holy See has accepted the resignation as offered by the bishop on 20 october 2013 and has appointed an Apostolic Administrator in the person of Monsignor Manfred Grothe.

The outgoing bishop, Msgr. Tebartz-van Elst, will be given other duties in due time.

The Holy Father asks the clergy and the faithful of the Diocese of Limburg to accept the decision of the Holy See willingly, and strive for a return to a climate of compassion and reconciliation.

The full report of the German bishops on this matter is set for publication at 3:30 this afternoon.

Grothe_webThe new Apostolic Administrator of Limburg, who will work in conjunction with Bishop Thomas Löhr, auxiliary bishop of the diocese, and Msgr. Wolfgang Rösch, the vicar general appointed as Bishop Tebartz-van Elst began his leave of absence, is Bishop Manfred Grothe (pictured). He is the senior auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Paderborn, which borders Limburg to the north. He led the bishops’ investigation into the whole affair.

Paderborn’s Archbishop Hans-Josef Becker sees the appointment of Bishop Grothe as a “great sign of confidence” from Pope Francis. He said, “I am certain that Auxiliary Bishop Grothe will be a good companion for the Church of Limburg on the road they start today. His decades-long experience, his great knowledge and above his factual nature, which is yet directed towards the people, make him ideal for the task before him.”

It is interesting to note that the Holy See does not expound much on the reasons for accepting Bishop Tebartz-van Elst’s resignation. But what it does say is interesting. The communique does refer to the investigation conducted by the German Bishops’ Conference and studied by the Congregation for Bishops, but merely notes that “a situation exists in the Diocese of Limburg which prevents the fruitful exercise of the episcopal office by Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst”. These are very factual statements. Regardless of whether or not the bishops concluded that Bishop Tebartz-van Elst has made grave mistakes, it is by now virtually impossible to be a diocesan ordinary. This is as much due to the situation created by himself (of which only the lying under oath is proven and admitted, which is serious enough), as to how he has been portrayed in the media. In many cases this portrayal has been objetive and necessary, but in a fair number of cases it has not. The words of support from, for example, Cardinal Lehmann, but also those of Cardinal Müller and Archbishop Gänswein, should therefore not automatically be construed as an error of judgement on their part, but, together with the Holy See statement, as an acknowledgement of the fact that Bishop Tebartz-van Elst’s resignation will not be solely due to what he did or did not do wrong.

The full report from the bishops’ commission, published this afternoon, is a lengthy tome, and while I am able to make a working translation of short German texts, this, I have to be honest, is a whole different animal. Summaries and analyses of what exactly went wrong are therefore better left to others. The fact remains that things went seriously wrong and while the intentions of Bishop Tebartz-van Elst may have been good and honest, the execution of the entire construction project most certainly was not. It is, however, good to remember that he inherited this whole affair to a certain extent, as the initial plans, with a number of inherent financial miscalculations, were drawn up by the cathedral chapter in 2004, a full three years before Bishop Tebartz-van Elst was appointed as ordinary of Limburg. But he did authorise new plans and their execution, and made sure that he was the sole responsible party.

In a very ill-advised move, Bishop Tebartz-van Elst has now issued a statement denying a number of conclusions from the commission’s report, stating that he was, from the very start, dedicated to ensure “quality and sustainability”, especially in the context of unfortunate experiences with other construction projects in the diocese. In my opinion, this is a counterproductive and unwise move. For the Diocese of Limburg and its faithful, and also for its former bishop, a period of trial and uncertainty has ended. As Bishop Manfred Grothe indicated, now is a time to look ahead. Bishop Tebartz-van Elst may consider his intentions to have been righteous and his efforts to have been all he could do, the fact remains that things went wrong, or so the commission concludes. In denying these conclusions, the bishop is not only fighting the commission and his brother bishops, but also the opinion of the world. And that last one is a difficult opponent, which can not be changed or defeated by full-on assault and denial. It only becomes stronger. The bishop had better chosen another approach, of penance and regret, instead of this. Nothing good will come from it.

About this blog

I am a Dutch Catholic from the north of the Netherlands. In this blog I wish to provide accurate information on current affairs in the Church and the relation with society. It is important for Catholics to have knowledge about their own faith and Church, especially since these are frequently misrepresented in many places. My blog has two directions, although I use only English in my writings: on the one hand, I want to inform Dutch faithful - hence the presence of a page with Dutch translations of texts which I consider interesting or important -, and on the other hand, I want to inform the wider world of what is going on in the Church in the Netherlands.

It is sometimes tempting to be too negative about such topics. I don't want to do that: my approach is an inherently positive one, and loyal to the Magisterium of the Church. In many quarters this is an unfamiliar idea: criticism is often the standard approach to the Church, her bishops and priests and other representatives. I will be critical when that is warranted, but it is not my standard approach.

For a personal account about my reasons for becoming and remaining Catholic, go read my story: Why am I Catholic?

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IN PROGRESS

[Dutch] Internationale Theologencommissie - Sensus Fidei in het Leven van de Kerk.

30 June: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Boodschap voor het Katholieke Jongerenfestival.

19 June: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Interview in La Vanguardia.

18 May: [English] Pietro Cardinal Parolin - Homily at the consecration of Archbishop van Megen.

15 May: [English] Ane Hähnig - Interview with Michael Triegel.

3 May: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Boodschap voor de Wereldgebedsdag voor Roepingen 2014.

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Pope Francis

Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province of Rome, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the Servants of God

Bishop Gerard de Korte

Bishop of Groningen-Leeuwarden

Willem Cardinal Eijk

Cardinal-Priest of San Callisto, Metropolitan Archbishop of Utrecht

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