He’s been moved around a bit within the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels, but now the news breaks that Bishop Jozef De Kesel will be the new Bishop of Bruges. Only in March did Archbishop Léonard name him vicar general for the vicariate Flemish Brabant and Malines. With this appointment, Léonard is left with no auxiliaries, despite his express desire to have a third one appointed. But then Bishop Vancottem was sent to Namur and now Bishop De Kesel goes to Bruges.
Seen from the archdiocese, it looks like stages in a new start. First the most orthodox bishop in the Church province is sent there and now the former auxiliaries are sent off to head their own dioceses. That certainly leaves Archbishop Léonard free to suggest his own candidates for the episcopate.
As for Bruges, it went unexpectedly fast. The previous bishop, Msgr. Roger Vangheluwe, resigned in April and the expectation was then that it would take at least a year before a new bishop was appointed. In the end it took almost exactly two months. Bruges has been left in shock by the unexpected news of Vangheluwe’s abuse history, so I can imagine the diocese will benefit greatly with having a new bishop so soon. After all, a clear head of the diocese provides a sense of stability.
Msgr. De Kesel, then, was quite popular in his time in Malines-Brussels. He has been auxiliary bishop there since 2002. His recent appointments, first to a new vicariate and now to Bruges, may also show some measure of confidence in him from Brussels and Rome.
Some facts about the bishop-elect: Msgr. De Kesel is 63, born in Ghand, where he was also ordained a priest in 1972. His uncle was Bishop Leo De Kesel, auxiliary bishop of Ghand from 1961 to 1990. Between 1980 and 1996, Msgr. De Kesel was rector of the seminary in Ghand, where he also taught dogmatic and fundamental theology. He also taught at the Diocesan Religious Institute in that city, and taught Christology at the Catholic University of Louvain. An educated man, it would seem, with his theological roots firmly in the very basis of theology.
Despite all the bad news from Belgium today and yesterday, this is a reason to be glad, especially for Bruges.