From the courts, a new archbishop for Freiburg

Eight months after Archbishop Robert Zollitsch retired as archbishop of Freiburg im Breisgau, and was immediately appointed as Apostolic Administrator of that see, a successor has been found. In the case of Freiburg, which was never part of Prussia and is therefore not bound by the concordat between that former state and the Holy See, the cathedral chapter is the sole party to select candidates. The Apostolic Nuncio has the duty to investigate the candidates and what he finds is used by the Holy See to make a list of three names, of which at least one must be that of a native priest of the archdiocese. The cathedral chapter then elects one of the three priests on that list. The Pope subsequently confirms the election by appointing the new archbishop.

dsc_0205_burger_hThis entire process has now resulted in the 15th archbishop of Freiburg im Breisgau: Msgr. Stephan Burger. At 52 he is by far the youngest metropolitan archbishop of the country – the next youngest is Berlin’s Cardinal Woelki, at 57. Until now, Archbishop-elect Burger was the judicial vicar of the archdiocese, representing the archbishop in legal matters and leading the ecclesiastical court. Notable in this context is that the judicial vicar is also responsible for marital matters, most especially deciding on the validity of a marriage.

Archbishop-elect Stephan Burger was born in Freiburg, but raised in nearby Löffingen. He was ordained in 1990, after having studied philosophy in Freiburg and Munich. He spent his first years in parishes in Tauberbischofsheim, in the far north of the archdiocese, and in Pforzheim, halfway between Karlsruhe and Stuttgart. In 1995 he was appointed as parish priest in Sankt Leon-Rot, north of Karlsruhe. At the same time, between 2004 and 2006, he studied canon law at the University of Münster, completing it with a licentiate in canon law. From 2002 onwards, he was also active as defender of the bond in the ecclesiastical court, and since 2006 he was promoter of justice. A year later he took on the function he held until today. Upon the appointment of Bishop Michael Gerber as auxiliary bishop last year, Archbishop Zollitsch made some changes to the cathedral chapter, and Msgr. Burger joined in 2013.

Msgr. Stephan hails from a strongly Catholic family, with his parents having been active as Church musicians. His brother Hans took the religious name Tutilo when he entered the Benedictine Order, and he is now the Archabbott of Beuron Abbey. He will assist his brother at his consecration.

Stephan Burger
^The ladies of Freiburg are already fond of their new archbishop.

The new archbishop’s appointment was received very positively in the Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau. Mr. Alfred Gut, chairman of the parish council of Vogtsburg, where Archbishop-elect Burger has been active as a priest for the past ten years, said,”I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. I think it’s great. Stephan Burger is incredibly nice, open, sociable and has a ready ear for everyone.” While the news was welcomed, the new archbishop will be missed in the parishes of Kaiserstuhl, Burkheim and Vogstburg.

Although his work as the ecclesiastical courts was potentially dry, strict and serious, Msgr. Stephan has always seen it as pastoral work in the first place. Marriage annulments took up the major part of his work, but he saw it as his duty to “offer people in difficult situations an opportunity to talk in addition to the legal aspets. These people are part of our Church!” As archbishop, Msgr. Burger will obviously work from Freiburg, but he intends to be on the road when he can, to meet the people where they work and live.

Msgr. Burger’s consecration is planned fairly soon: on 29 June, the same day that the archdiocese is hosting a diocesan day,for all volunteers active in the churches, in the square in front of the Cathedral of Our Lady. Expect a major turnout of faithful, then. His predecessor, Archbishop Zollitsch, will be the main consecrator, while Bishop Uhl and Gerber, the archdiocese’s two auxiliaries, may be expected to serve as co-consecrators.

For his motto, the archbishop-elect took a line from the Letter to the Ephesians as inspiration: Christus in cordibus (Christ in the heart), from “s0 that Christ may live in your hearts through faith” (3:17).

Not only does this appointment continue the rejuvenation of the German episcopate, it also indicates that the appointments under Pope Francis seem to continue in the vein of those under Pope Benedict XVI. Archbishop-elect Stephan Burger is, it would seem, liturgically quite sound and well educated in canon  law. He also has pastoral experience, maintained ever since his first years as a priest.

Photo credit: [2] Rita Eggstein

“Two hands reaching out” – the consecration of Bishop Michael Gerber

“It is God who enters into a relationship with us, who holds out his hand to us, and therefore invites us to open ourselves to Him and enter into the covenant with Him.”

Words from Archbishop Robert Zollitsch’s homily on the occasion of the ‘last Sunday’s consecration of Bishop Michael Gerber, the new auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau. The image of God extending His hand to His people is also illustrated in Bishop Gerber’s staff, as shown below:

gerber

The archbishop further expounded on the covenant of God, which is in essence a partnership.

“Dear sisters and brothers, both partners are needed in a covenant. We are not just the ones who receive God’s kindness and love. We are also in a position to respond to it and pass this love of God further and shine it out in our surroundings and environment! In the Gospel we have heard this promise from the mouth of Jesus: “You are the salt of the earth! […] You are the light of the world!” (Matt. 5:13,14). Yes, we may confidently say that we have something to give to the world! We may share our faith boldly and aggressively with the world! Because we know ourselves to be sustained in God’s covenant, we ourselves can support others who need our support! If we get involved in this covenant and make ourselves part of it, we can give the Church a human face and show the effect of God’s love!”

Bishop Michael Gerber, himself not adverse to physical exercise, drew a picture of two mountaineers, one going ahead , the other following. “Our Church needs both types of mountaineers and at times – as in true climb – the roles may also be reversed. Those who climb ahead and those who stand securely on solid ground.”

Bishop Gerber, who had pilgrimaged on foot from his hometown of Oberkirch to Freiburg’s Cathedral of Our Lady, a distance of some 75 kilometers, was consecrated by Archbishop Zollitsch and Freiburg’s other two auxiliaries, Bishop Rainer Klug and Bernd Joachim Uhl.

Photo credit: Roger Köppe/Erzbistum Freiburg

Erstwhile host of the Pope appointed as bishop in Freiburg

gerberIn the year that two of its current three bishops (the ordinary and of two auxiliaries) will turn 75 and are thus obliged to tender their resignation, the Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau in southwestern Germany sees the groundwork being laid for the future of its curia, with the appointment of Msgr. Michael Gerber as auxiliary bishop.

At 43, Bishop-elect Gerber is part of the Church’s youngest generation of bishops: those born in 1970 or later. Another member of that group is his fellow countryman Bishop Florian Wörner, auxiliary of Augsburg, who was consecrated in July of last year.

Until today, Bishop-elect Gerber was the president of the Collegium Borromaeum, the archdiocesan seminary. During that time he was the host of Pope Benedict XVI, who stayed at the Collegium during his visit to Germany in September of 2011.

“Mit dir im Bund” (Latin: tecum in foedere) will be the bishop’s motto, which is an indication of his theological thought and pastoral approach, as the official announcement explains:

“In the Old and New Testament, “Bund” refers to the basic relationship of God with His people. “Mit dir” implies the answer that people have given to this call of God. “Many people feel that the task that we are faced with is actually overwhelming. This experience is also true for a bishop. The trust in God gives us the strength to taker the next step,” Michael Gerber explains about his motto.

Bishop-elect Michael Gerber is a Doctor in Theology and has been involved with the diocesan seminary since 2001. As bishop he will retain his function as president, at least for the time until a successor has been found. Whether he will succeed retired Auxiliary Bishop Paul Wehrle as episcopal vicar for higher education remains to be seen.

The consecration is scheduled for 8 September at Freiburg’s Cathedral of Our Lady. Archbishop Zollitsch will undoubtedly be the main consecrator, and Auxiliary Bishops Rainer Klug and Bernd Uhl will most likely serve as co-consecrators. Archbishop Zollitsch and Bishop Klug will reach the retirement age of 75 in August and December respectively, so the Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau can expect its share of episcopal appointments, consecrations, and installations in the near future.

Photo credit: Robert Eberle

2013 – the great German turnaround

2013 will be the year of one of the largest shakeups of the German episcopate, at least for the foreseeable future. No less than four bishops, including two archbishops, will reach the mandatory retirement age of 75, while a further three are already 75 or older. Additionally, two dioceses remain without a bishop. There is of course no guarantee that all, or even any, of these bishops will retire this year, or the sees be filled, but the odds are large enough to warrant a look at what the exact changes may be.

eb_zollitsch_juli2003_700On 9 August, the first episcopal 75th will be marked by the president of the country’s bishops’ conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch (pictured) of Freiburg im Breisgau. He will be followed on 13 December by one of his auxiliaries, Bishop Rainer Klug. In the southern German archdiocese, that will leave only 66 year-old auxiliary Bishop Bernd Joachim Uhl of the current diocesan curia.

In between these two bishops, on 13 August and 3 December respectively, Bishop Werner Radspieler, auxiliary of Bamberg, and Archbishop Werner Thissen, of Hamburg, will mark their 75th birthdays.

Both Freiburg and Hamburg are significant archdioceses, the first by population (some 5 million Catholics) and the second by sheer size, being Germany largest circumscription.

meisnerThese four milestones are in addition to three bishops who are still serving despite being past the age of 75. The first is Bishop Franz Vorrath, auxiliary of Essen, and the other two are both cardinals: Karl Cardinal Lehmann, bishop of Mainz, and Joachim Cardinal Meisner (pictured) of Cologne (who will mark his 80th birthday on Christmas Day, and may then become one of those rarest of cardinals: no longer eligible to vote in a conclave, yet still serving as a diocesan ordinary).

Over the course of this year then, we may see two dioceses (Dresden-Meißen and Passau) being filled and between two and four becoming vacant. If the maximum of four do indeed become vacant, we will witness another fairly unique situation: three of Germany’s seven metropolitan archdioceses and historically significant Mainz, after Trier and Cologne the German diocese with the longest pedigree, and held by cardinals since the 1960s, will be empty.

Photo credit: [1] Hartmut W. Schmidt, [2] Harald Tittel (c) dpa – Bildfunk

In Germany, auxiliaries come and go

Over the past week, there has been something of a changing of the guard in southern Germany, or at least the start of one. As the country’s youngest bishop was consecrated on 27 July, two senior prelates retired on the 30th and the 31st.

Bishop Florian Wörner was consecrated in Augsburg by Bishop Konrad Zdarsa (Wörner pictured at left at the closing of the consecration Mass). He is now one of Augsburg’s two auxiliary bishops. In his homily, Bishop Zdarsa addressed the new bishop:

“Dear brother!

As a direct representative of the bishop you will have the special responsibility to ensure the promotion of the new evangelization in our diocese. The Lord also calls you, like the prophet: Fear not!

God’s word is not only placed in your mouth and heart, but you are similar to the Incarnate Word in Baptism and Confirmation, and in conformity to your ordination as a bishop, you will act and speak in persona Christi.

You are chosen from the people for the people, not to rule for your personal honor, but to serve. Yes, perhaps not even to have appeal and success, but rather to lose them.

However it may be – if this you may be certain: you are chosen by God to help people to get to know God and be saved by the foolishness of preaching the word of the cross.”

Elsewhere in Germany’s south, two veteran auxiliary bishops retired. In Freiburg im Breisgau Bishop Paul Friedrich Wehrle did so after 31 years, and in München und Freising Bishop Engelbert Siebler finished 26 years as auxiliary bishop.

72-year-old Bishop Wehrle retires for health reasons. The archdiocese will be requesting a successor, as it tries to maintain three active auxiliaries in lieu of the dioceses size.  Auxiliary Bishop Rainer Klug and Bernd Uhl remain to assist Archbishop Robert Zollitsch. Both Zollitsch and Klug are 73, so this retirement heralds an almost complete change in diocesan leadership over the coming years.

Bishop Engelbert Siebler retires for reasons of age, having turned 75 in May. He has been active as a teacher, leading the Commission on Schooling and Formation in the bishops’ conference from 2001 to 2006. Upon his retirement, Bishop Siebler receives both the Federal and Bavarian Order of Merit.