A bit lost amid all the news about the beatification of Venerable John Paul II, as well as (especially in English blogs) the ordination of three former Anglican bishops to the Catholic priesthood in Westminster Cathedral today, is the news that yesterday, completely according to expectation, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop Ad van Luyn of Rotterdam, “upon having reached the age limit”, as the official words are.
The see of Rotterdam is now officially vacant, although Bishop van Luyn still acts as Apostolic Administrator until the appointment and installation of his successor. That is standard procedure, and the bishop continues to have all the rights and duties of a diocesan bishop until a new bishop takes over.
The procedure that has now begun includes the creation of a so-called terna, a list of three candidates nominated by the chapter of the diocese, a discussion of that terna by the conference of bishops (who als have the right to nominate candidates), and the nuncio sending the names of the candidates and the judgement of the bishops to the Congregation for Bishops in Rome, who will then tasks the nuncio with an investigation into the proposed candidates. The Congregation will then make a decision and present that to the pope, who will have the final say in the appointment.
Bishop van Luyn is also the chairman of the Dutch bishops’ conference and the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE). These bodies will likely elect a successor without waiting for a new appointment to Rotterdam. The COMECE is currently led by two vice-presidents: Reinhard Cardinal Marx (München und Freising) and Bishop Piotr Jarecki (auxiliary, Warsaw).
Bishop van Luyn was the fourth bishop of Rotterdam, a diocese established in 1955 from the Diocese of Haarlem. He was ordained a priest for the Order of the Salesians of Don Bosco in 1964 and in 1993 he was appointed to Rotterdam. He was consecrated in February of 1994. He has been bishop of Rotterdam for almost 17 years, making him the longest-sitting bishop of that diocese.