Although it is pertinently not an Apostolic Visitation but a ‘fraternal visit’, the dispatch of Giovanni Cardinal Lajolo to the German Diocese of Limburg indicates that the standoff between bishop and faithful there is being taken seriously in Rome.
In a letter dated 3 September, Cardinal Marc Ouellet of the Congregation for Bishops expresses his fullest confidence in Bishop Franz-Peter Tebarzt-van Elst and underlines the purpose of Cardinal Lajolo’s forthcoming visit:
“Being very familiar with the situation of the Church in the German dioceses from his time as Apostolic Nuncio, the cardinal will enter into a fraternal dialogue with you, Your Excellence, with the cathedral chapter, but also with other relevant persons, with an alert eye on the needs of your local Church, help to distinguish the spirit and, where appropriate, to fraternally exhort, mainly in order to support and encourage your episcopal ministry towards peace and unity.”
As the above quote points out, Cardinal Lajolo was Apostolic Nuncio to Germany from 1995 to 2003. He was later recalled to Rome to work in the Secretariat of State and was later the President of the Governorate of the Vatican City State from 2006 until his retirement in 2011.
Limburg’s Bishop Tebartz-van Elst met with Cardinal Ouellet on 28 August in Rome and requested that an Apostolic Visitation be made to his diocese. Such a measure would mean an official investigation of, in this case, the finances of the bishop and the diocese, as well as the conduct of the bishop and the parties opposed to him. The visitor would then draft a report to authoritatively identify the root of the problems and recommend solutions. THis visit will not go that far, although Cardinal Lajolo will, as Cardinal Ouellet’s letter says, meet with all parties involved to resolve the situation amicably, so that Bishop Tebartz-van Ekst may continue his ministry in peace and unity.