After Woelki, the Kölner curia returns to full force

Since the rather impressive rise of Cardinal Rainer Woelki (from auxiliary bishop of Cologne to archbishop of Berlin to cardinal in the space of some eight months), the ancient Archdiocese of Köln, as the Germans calls it, has been missing an auxiliary bishop of its northern pastoral area (including cities such as Düsseldorf and Wuppertal). Today, that situation changed, as Pope Benedict XVI appointed the vicar general of Köln as auxiliary bishop.

Bishop elect Dominik Schwaderlapp is almost 45, and will be youngest bishop in northwestern Europe, and the second youngest in the German-speaking world*. He has been serving as vicar general of Köln since 2004, although, if the official announcement is any indication, in that archdiocese this is an office not typically associated with a bishop. The new bishop was ordained a priest in 1993, and in 2002 he became in Doctor of Theology with a dissertation on the personal, sacramental and ethical dimensions of marriage in the teaching of Blessed Pope John Paul II.

Bishop elect Schwaderlapp will join Archbishop Joachim Cardinal Meisner and auxiliary bishop Heiner Koch and Manfred Melzer in the archdiocesan curia. The relative short time in which the archdiocese of 2 million faithful went without three auxiliaries may have something to do with the fact that Cardinal Meisner is well over the mandatory retirement age of 75. Having turned 78 on Christmas Day, the cardinal is three years beyond that age.

As auxiliary bishop, Msgr. Schwaderlapp will hold the titular see of Frequentium in southern Italy. He will be consecrated on 25 March.

*Bishop Anton Leichtfried, auxiliary of Sankt Pölten in Austria, is 26 days younger.

Photo credit: Erzbistum Köln

Morning reflection: broken hearts

“Sacrifice gives you no pleasure, burnt offering you do not desire.

Sacrifice to God is a broken spirit, a broken, contrite heart you never scorn.”

Two lines from Psalm 51 (16-17) which we will be hearing rather frequently during Lent. In poetic words they indicate what lies at the heart, if you’ll pardon the pun, of our Lenten sacrifice. Not outward signs of piety and sacrifice, but our offering of our broken, contrite hearts. In other words, ourselves.

This goes well with the reading from the Gospel of Matthew (6:1-6,16-18) that we heard on Ash Wednesday. Here too, Jesus tells us not to make a show of your piety: give alms quietly,  pray in the privacy of your room, fast with a cheerful face. By actively preventing showing how well we give alms, pray and fast, we are looking inward, confronting ourselves, our “broken, contrite hearts”.

We are what we are. Imperfect people, with all our good or bad intentions, our good or bad tendencies, sins and virtues. And that, however strange it may seem to us, is the offering that God will accept. We give ourselves to Him, willingly, in the knowledge that we are imperfect, and with the desire to change, to better ourselves. And for that, we need the Lord’s help.

Give yourself to God in Lent, so that we may rise with Christ at Easter.