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His episcopal motto, taken from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, was “Christ is Yes”. Two days ago, Bishop Bernhard Rieger returned to that eternal positive confirmation, as he passed away in the quiet of the small town of Kressbronn on the shores of Lake Constance, south Germany, the place where he retired to in 1996.
Bernhard Rieger was born in 1922 in central Baden and reached adulthood as World War II broke out. This marked his late teens and early twenties, as he was drafted into the Labour Service, and later into the Wehrmacht. Until the end of the war, Rieger served as soldier and wireless operator on both the Eastern and the Western Fronts, and was taken prisoner of war by the Allies in France. There, he entered the so-called “barbed wire seminary” in Chartres. There he met the Nuncio to France, Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, who would later become Pope John XXIII. Returning to Germany, Rieger studied theology in Tübingen and was ordained to the priesthood in 1951 by Bishop Carl Joseph Leiprecht of Rottenburg.
For most of his years as priest, Father Rieger worked as a parish priest throughout the Diocese of Rottenburg, and also as teacher of religion, advising the bishop on matters of education. In 1975, Fr. Rieger was appointed to the cathedral chapter and the priest council, and from 1977 onward, he held the title of Monsignor.
In 1984, Msgr. Rieger was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart (the diocese had had a change of name in 1978), with the titular see of Tigava. Within the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Rieger was a member of the media commission.
In 1996, Blessed Pope John Paul II accepted his resignation, and Bishop Rieger retired to the shores of Lake Constance.
Photo credit: Wolfgang Kirchherr
In 2011, Cologne sent one of its auxiliary bishops to Berlin to become archbishop there. Today, history repeats itself as another of Cologne’s auxiliaries is appointed to head one of Berlin’s suffragan dioceses: Heiner Koch succeeds Joachim Reinelt as Bishop of Dresden-Meißen.
Dresden-Meißen, which covers virtually all of Saxony and eastern Thuringia and is home to some 140,000 Catholics, has been a vacant diocese since February of 2012 and with today’s appointment only Erfurt and Passau remain vacant among Germany’s 29 circumscriptions.
Bishop Koch was born in 1954 in Düsseldorf and ordained to the priesthood in 1980. Since 2006 he has been auxiliary bishop of Cologne, with the titular see of Ros Cré in Ireland. As priest he worked in pastoral care for both youth and adults, and he was also attached to the University of Düsseldorf as university chaplain. In 2002, he became vicar general of the Archdiocese of Cologne. As general secretary, he was responsibly for the organisation of the 2005 World Youth Day, which took place in Cologne.
Bishop Koch will be the 8th bishop of Dresden-Meißen since it was established as a diocese in 1921, and the 49th since this area of Saxony was first organised as an ecclesiastical territory. He will be installed on 16 March, in a Mass at Dresden’s Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. On 23 January there will be a press conference in which the new ordinary will be introduced.
Search queries on my blog sometimes give an indication that something has happened that hasn’t come to my attention. So was it today as well, as a rise in searches for Bishop Wilhelmus Joannes Demarteau was explained today by the news of his passing.
95-year-old Bishop Demarteau hailed from the Diocese of Roermond, but became a priest and bishop of the mission in Indonesia. Ordained a priest for the Congregation of Missionaries of the Holy Family in 1941, Wilhelmus Demarteau left for Indonesia after his first Mass in his hometown, and was appointed as Vicar Apostolic of Banjarmasin, in the south of the Indonesian island of Kalimantan, in 1954, at the age of 36. A few months later, he was consecrated as bishop. As Banjarmasin became a diocese in 1961, Bishop Demarteau became its first bishop, until his retirement in 1983. He remained in his former diocese after his retirement and will be buried there as well. His native Diocese of Roermond will remember his passing in a special memorial at the end of January.
Bishop Demarteau was one of the last living bishops appointed by Pope Pius XII and the second oldest bishop of Dutch decent. Only Bishop Andreas Sol, emeritus of Amboina, also in Indonesia, is older.
As the rumours had it with an increasing level of certainty culminating in a confirmation, a new bishop for the Bavarian Diocese of Regensburg is announced today, five months after the previous ordinary, Gerhard Müller, was called to Rome to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The new bishop is Rudolf Voderholzer, a 53-year-old theologian who was a close collaborator of now-Archbishop Müller and can therefore be considered to belong to the ‘school of Ratzinger’.
Bishop-elect Voderholzer (pictured above with Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the pope’s brother) studied under Müller and worked as his assistant while the latter taught at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. Since 2005 he taught Dogmatics and Dogmatic History in Trier and he has led the Benedict XVI Institute, established by Müller to collect and edit the writings of the pope, since 2008.
Bishop-elect Voderholzer was considered a likely successor to Müller, although nothing was certain in a Germany that had four vacant dioceses until Regensburg was filled today.
The 78th bishop of Regensburg was ordained to the priesthood in 1987 by Munich’s Cardinal Wetter. He worked as a parish priest until he earned in decree in Dogmatics under then-Professor Müller. Next to his academic career, he continued working in the parishes near Trier.
In the words of Fr. Wilhelm Gegenfurtner, who led the vacant diocese as Apostolic Administrator in the past five months:
“We are grateful for his Yes, by which he agreed to the decision of the Holy Father. The time of his consecration to bishop and the acceptance of his office will be announced in the coming days. But I already invite all the priests, deacons, members of religious orders and lay people, the ecclesial institutes and associations of the entire diocese to celebrate this festive day with us. The celebration of the bishop’s consecration will be a witness of th shared faith in Christ the Eternal High Priest, a confession of the unity of the diocese and a sign of the loyalty and unity with the new chief shepherd.”
One-time papabile, youngest surviving Council father and one of Africa’s most famous and well-liked prelates, Francis Cardinal Arinze reached his 80th birthday on 1 November. With this, the number of cardinal electors drops to 115 out of 205 members.
Born in an agrarian town in the Nigerian state of Anambra, located in the Niger delta, Francis Arinze converted from African traditional religion at the age of nine. His family later followed suit. At the age of 15, young Francis entered the seminary in nearby Onitsha, from which he graduated with a degree in philosophy in 1950. He stayed on as a teacher at the seminary until 1953. Two years later, he continued his studies at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome. From here, he graduated summa cum laude with a doctorate in sacred theology. Francis Arinze was ordained to the priesthood in 1958, at the chapel of the university.
Father Arinze spent the first years of his priesthood in Rome, earning a master’s degree in theology in 1959, followed a year later by a doctorate. He then went back to Nigeria, to teach at seminary, after which he was appointed as regional secretary for Catholic education in the eastern part of the country. Following that position, he studied at the Institute of Education in London. He graduated from there in 1964.
In 1965 Fr. Arinze became the world’s youngest bishop, when he was appointed as coadjutor archbishop of his native Archdiocese of Onitsha. As such, he also became the youngest Council father of the Second Vatican Council, when he attended its final session. He succeeded Archbishop Charles Heerey upon the latter’s death in 1967. Archbishop Arinze was the first native archbishop of Onitsha.
The start of his episcopate was marked by the outbreak of the three-year Biafra War, with the Archdiocese of Onitsha located completely within the breakaway republic of Biafra. The fighting forced the archbishop to flee from Onitsha, only to return in 1970. During his forced exile, Archbishop Arinze worked for the relief of refugees, as well as his priests and faithful who could not flee. The war’s aftermath was also a challenge, as the region was devastated and deeply impoverished, and the Nigerian government decided to expel all foreign missionaries, leaving only the native clergy, who were still few in number.
In 1979, Archbishop Arinze was appointed as pro-president of the Secretariat for Non-Christians next to his duties as Onitsha’s archbishop. When the secretariat became the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, he resigned as archbishop of Onitsha.
Two months after his resignation, Pope John Paul II created the archbishop a cardinal in the consistory of 1985. He became the first cardinal-deacon of San Giovanni della Pigna. Two days after the consistory, Cardinal Arinze became the president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue. He performed several other high-profile tasks in that period, as a member of the Committee for the Great Jubilee of 2000, and before that as chairman of the Synod of Bishop’s special assembly on Africa. In 2002, he was appointed as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
An active catechist, Cardinal Arinze promoted faith education across the world, often travelling far and wide. In this period, the final years of the life of Blessed John Paul II, he was considered by many to be a possible future pope. In the end, he was not elected, although continued to be held in high esteem, evidenced by the fact that Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as Cardinal-Bishop of Velletri-Segni, the titular diocese that the new pope himself had held until his election.
In late 2008, Cardinal Arinze retired as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.
Cardinal Arinze was a member of many Curial departments: The Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, Oriental Churches, Causes of the Saints, and Evangelisation of People; the Pontifical Councils for the Laity, Christian Unity, and Culture; the Committee for the International Eucharistic Congresses; and the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.
The Diocese of Roermond reports the passing of Bishop Joseph Willigers, the Mill Hill missionary who was born within the diocese and rose to become the first bishop of Jinja in Uganda. He was 81 years old and had been living in the Mill Hill house in Oosterbeek, near Arnhem, since his return from Uganda earlier this year.
Joseph Bernard Louis Willigers entered St. Joseph’s Missionary Society of Mill Hill when he was 19. In 1955, aged 25, he was ordained in London by Cardinal Bernard Griffin and sent to Rome to study Canon Law. Upon his graduation in 1958 he left for Africa to work in the mission. He worked in education and basic pastoral care in Uganda and Kenya and in 1965 as vicar general of the Kenyan Diocese of Kisumu, under the Dutch bishop Jan de Reeper. In 1967 Msgr. Willigers was appointed as the first bishop of the Diocese of Jinja, east of the Ugandan capital of Kampala. His consecration was performed by Uganda’s first cardinal, Emmanuel Nsubuga. For an impressive 42 years, Bishop Willigers led the faithful of his diocese, until he retired in March of 2010. As bishop, Msgr. Willigers was inspired by the spirituality of Blessed Charles de Foucauld and was characterised as intelligent, hospitable and warm.
In 2009, he participated in the Synod of Bishops’ Assembly on Africa. His contacts with his native diocese of Roermond continued through the years, as Roermond financially supported projects in Jinja, and as Bishop Willigers had family back home.
Returning to the Netherlands in ill health, Bishop Willigers took up residence in the Vrijland mission house in Oosterbeek, where he passed away in the early morning yesterday, in the presence of his sister. His funeral will also take place from there, on 5 October.
Photo credit: Missionaries of Mill Hill
Today my bishop, Msgr. Gerard de Korte, marks the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Not something I should let go by unmentioned, so let me take the opportunity to offer my heartfelt congratulations and prayerful wish for many blessed years to come.
Bishop de Korte will mark the occasion with a Mass in the cathedral of St. Joseph, with Cardinal Simonis and several other bishops attending. Afterwards, Cardinal Simonis, who is something of a spiritual father to Bishop de Korte - he was ordained by him to deacon, priest and bishop – will receive the first copy of a collection of the bishop’s writings on four general themes: the future of the Church and Christianity in general in our country, Catholic spirituality, the place of the Church in society and the liturgy.
In October, the bishop will also be leading a pilgrimage to Rome for the faithful in his diocese.
Being a bishop is a hard and often thankless life. Keep your bishop in your prayers, support him however you can in his work as successor of the Apostles, so that he in turn may strengthen you in your faith.