From big to big – Msgr. Heße comes to Hamburg

HeßeApparently he did a good job in managing the transition from Meisner to Woelki, good enough to be entrusted with shepherding the flock in the nation’s largest pasture. Msgr. Stefan Heße (pronounced as “Hese”) succeeds Archbishop Werner Thissen as ordinary of Hamburg.

Shortly after Friday’s announcement that Hamburg’s cathedral chapter would name the new archbishop on Monday, the name of Msgr. Heße appeared in rumours, first in the Bild newspaper and later also in various Catholic media. In the past, these rumours have proven to be accurate more often than not, and so in this case. They point to a serious leak in the otherwise secret and complex process of electing a bishop in most of Germany.

464px-Karte_Erzbistum_HamburgThe Archdiocese of Hamburg is the largest diocese of the country, covering the states of Hamburg, Schleswigh-Holstein and the western part of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. In number of Catholics it is, however, among the smallest of dioceses. Its 400,000 faithful are a sharp contrast with the 2 million Catholics in Msgr. Heße’s native Cologne.

Hamburg fell vacant upon the retirement of Archbishop Thissen in March of last year. His successor will be the third archbishop of the see as it was reestablished in 1994.

Msgr. Heße was born in 1966 in a suburb of Cologne. Aged 48, he will be the youngest ordinary of a German diocese, and by far the youngest archbishop. He studied philosophy and theology in Bonn and Regensburg and was ordained a priest in 1993, by Cardinal Joachim Meisner. From 1993 to 1997 he worked in the parish in Bergheim, just west of Cologne, and from 1997 to 2003 he was a tutor at the archdiocesan seminary in Bonn, which was headed at the time by Msgr. Rainer Maria Woelki, the current archbishop of Cologne. In 2001 he became a doctor of theology. He led the pastoral care office of the archdiocese from 2003 to 2005 and was diocesan representative for radio and television until 2012. Msgr. Heße received the honorary titles of Chaplain of His Holiness and 2005 and Honorary Prelate in 2010. He subsequently became substitute to the vicar general and head of the personnel department of the archdiocese in 2006. In 2011 he joined the cathedral chapter. When Dominik Schwaderlapp became an auxiliary bishop of Cologne, Msgr. Heße succeeded him as vicar general. He was confirmed in that office after Cardinal Woelki became the new archbishop of Cologne in 2014.

Reputation, as fickle as that can be, indicates that Msgr. Heße is somewhat liberal, if such a qualification has any merit, and he has been generally praised for his work towards financial transparency of the Archdiocese of Cologne, an example that has since been followed by several other dioceses in Germany. In Hamburg he inherits a diaspora Church where ecumenical contacts are much valued. This is also visible in Hamburg’s best-known sainthood cause: that of the Martyrs of Lübeck, three Catholics priests and one Lutheran pastor, who were beheaded in 1943 for listening to enemy broadcasts, treason and demoralisation. Eyewitness reports state that there blood ran together on  the floor, which has since been seen as a potent symbol of ecumenism, not least by Pope Francis.

Msgr. Heße became known to the wider world when he was elected as diocesan administrator following the retirement of Cardinal Meisner, and it is said that his was one of the names on the final list from which the cathedral chapter elected the new archbishop. An archbishop he eventually becomes, if a bit farther from home than originally intended.

The consecration and installation of the new archbishop will be on 14 March.

As an aside, this is the third Stefan to be appointed as a bishop in Germany in less than a year, following Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau and Archbishop Stephan Burger of Freiburg.

schwaderlapp hesse

^Msgr. Stefan Heße with Cologne auxiliary Bishop Dominik Schwaderlapp, whom he succeeded as vicar general, during the German Bishops’ Conference spring plenary of 2014.

Guessing at the future – what the new Curia may look like

cardinals curiaThere are persistent rumours that the reforms of the Roman Curia will soon enter a new phase as several councils will be merged into two congregations. And the preliminary steps for the new phase have already been taken in recent months.

Rumours are rumours, and we should be careful with them. We don’t know when and if changes will take place,nor do we know what they will look like. But we can guess…

Two recent personnel changes shed some light on possible future changes in the Curia. Cardinal Robert Sarah was moved from the presidency of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” to become Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and Bishop Mario Toso left his position as Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace to become bishop of Faenza-Modigliana. Neither prelate has yet been succeeded in their previous positions, and it may be that there will not be a successor. Both “Cor Unum” and Justice and Peace are rumoured to be merged into a larger Congregation for Justice and Peace, together with the Pontifical Councils for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers.

turksonCardinal Sarah and Bishop Toso have been reassigned, but that leaves several other prelates without a clear place to go. For now at least. Candidates for the position of Prefect of the new congregation would, in my opinion, be Cardinal Peter Turkson (pictured), who now heads the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, or possibly Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, who is now the president of the Health Care council. Both are about the same age (Turkson is 66, Zimowski 65) and about the same number of years in the Curia behind them. The other option for both of them is a return to their native country, something that Pope Francis seems to prefer. In Ghana, Cardinal Turkson’s native country, the only vaguely likely option is a return to the Archdiocese of Cape Coast, where he was archbishop from 1992 to 2009. Cape Coast’s current Archbishop, Matthias Nketsiah, turns 75 in 2017. Not a very likely prospect, in my opinion.

zygmunt_zimowskiIn Poland, where Archbishop Zimowski (pictured) comes from, there is the enticing option of Kraków, which should become vacant very soon. Cardinal Dziwisz, the current archbishop there, turns 76 in April. Solely judging from these options, Cardinal Turkson would seem to be more likely to remain in Rome and head a new Congregation for Justice and Peace.

The third cardinal involved, Antonio Maria Vegliò, president of the Council for Migrants, is already 75, and should retire fairly soon. The various secretaries and undersecretaries of the Councils that are set to merge into the new Congregation will either continue their work or be given new assignments in Rome or in the countries they are from. The most senior of these is Bishop Joseph Kalathiparambil, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care for Migrants. His dicastery serves a role that is close to Pope Francis’ heart, so perhaps we can see him as secretary under Cardinal Turkson?

A second new Congregation that is said to be created is that of Laity and Family, composed of the current Pontifical Councils of the Laity and of the Family, and the Pontifical Academy for Life.

rylkoAgain, there are two most likely candidates to head this new congregation: Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko (pictured), President of the Council for the Laity for the past twelve years; and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Family Council. Again both are the same age (69), but Cardinal Rylko has far more Curia experience (12 as opposed to 3 years). Should Cardinal Rylko be appointed to his native Poland, there really is no other place for him to go than Kraków, and we already have the option of Archbishop Zimowski going there. Two other Polish archdiocese which will fall vacant within the next few years, Warmia and Przemysl, really don’t have the stature and history for an experienced Curial cardinal. Then again, nothing is set in stone in these matters.

The rumoured merger of the Pontifical Council for the Laity into a Congregation for Laity and Family opens another interesting possibility: that the current secretary of the Laity Council, Bishop Josef Clemens, returns to his native Germany, to one of the vacant dioceses there. As we know, Limburg, Hamburg and Berlin are still vacant, and we don’t know who’s on the list for any of them.

The president of the Academy for Life, lastly, Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, is 77 and will likely be allowed to retire without playing a role in a new Congregation.

Just some educated guesses. Reality, as ever, may well turn out radically different.

Bishop in the pub – making the conference more present

dbk logoA month from now, the German bishops will be meeting for their spring plenary in the city of Hildesheim, but on the eve of that meeting on the 23rd of February, seven bishops will participate in debates about various topics in seven pubs throughout the city. Whereas plenary meetings of bishops’ conferences are usually far removed from the daily lives of the faithful, they do influence it and are an arena where important issues and plans are discussed and decided. By holding such pub debates, as it were, both the conference and their topics take a few steps towards the faithful, closing the gap between them. This is, of course, further helped by the fact that entrance is free (although some pubs have a space limit)…

The plan seems to be the brainchild of Bishop Norbert Trelle, host of the meeting and vice-president of the bishops’ conference. The Diocese of Hildesheim celebrates the 1200th anniversary of its foundation this year and its 11th century cathedral has just come out of an extensive renovation.

These are the seven bishops speaking at various pubs: Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier will speak about peace and justice; Bishop Franz-Josef Bode (Osnabrück) about the communication of faith; Bishop Friedhelm Hofmann (Würzburg) about art and religion; Bishop Heiner Koch (Dresden-Meißen) about marriage and family; Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck (Essen) about business ethics; Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki (Cologne) about poverty; and Bishop Norbert Trelle (Hildesheim) about immigration and human rights.

An example worth following by bishops in other countries.

“Sincere, modest and humble” – Cardinal Lehmann congratulates Cardinal-designate Rauber

One of the new cardinals is Archbishop Karl-Josef Rauber, who comes from Germany and has been closely involved with the Church in Belgium and Luxembourg. Reason enough to share the congratulatory message from Karl Cardinal Lehmann on the website of the Diocese of Mainz.

Archbishop Rauber was a priest of the Diocese of Mainz from 1959 to 1982 and will be the eleventh German cardinal (five of whom, including Rauber, will be non-electors). He was the previous Nuncio to Belgium and Luxembourg, succeeded in 2009 by Archbishop Giacinto Berloco. In some circles Archbishop Rauber is seen is somewhat of a liberal, but in difficult situations, such as the commotion that followed comments by Pope Benedict XVI that condoms are not the resolution to the AIDS epidemic in Africa (which Rauber experienced firsthand as Nuncio in Uganda), he was able to explain the meaning of what happened correctly and underlined the importance of quotations in context and understanding the subject matter. But Archbishop Rauber has not always been careful: he spoke about the preparatory work he did for the appointment of the new archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels in 2010, and revealed that the general consensus was that Bishop Jozef de Kesel was to be appointed. Pope Benedict XVI instead chose André-Joseph Léonard. Some saw this openness as a sign of Archbishop Rauber’s frustration that his work was for naught. Likewise, his transfer from Switzerland to Hungary in 1997 was seen as a result of his role in the conflict surrounding then-Bishop Wolfgang Haas of the Diocese of Chur.

In Belgium and Luxembourg, Archbishop Rauber also oversaw the appointment of Bishops Guy Harpigny of Tournai, Patrick Hoogmartens of Hasselt and Johan Bonny of Antwerp.

lehmann rauber“Congratulations to the Apostolic Nuncio Karl-Josef Rauber
on the occasion of his elevation to cardinal by Pope Francis

Among the (arch)bishops that Pope Francis has appointed as cardinals is – as one of the five gentlemen over the age of 80 – the German-born former Apostolic Nuncio Dr. Karl-Josef Rauber. He is a priest of the Diocese of Mainz.

Archbishop Rauber was born on 11 April 1934 in Nuremberg, went to school at the Benedictine gymnasium in Metten in Bavaria and studied Catholic theology at the then new University of Mainz. On 28 February 1959 he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Albert Stohr in Mainz cathedral. He worked for three years in Nidda, where he got to know well the diaspora situation in Oberhessen.

In 1962, the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, he started his PhD studies in canon law in Rome and attended the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. From 1966 to 1977 he worked as one of the four secretaries of Archbishop Giovanni Benelli, the later cardinal from Florence, who was very influential in the Secretariat of State and the Curia. He and especially Pope Paul VI had a lasting impact on Rauber. In those eleven years in the Curia, and in close proximity to the Pope, he received a comprehensive experience of the Church.

In 1977 Rauber began his extensive diplomatic work at the Nunciatures in Belgium, Luxembourg and Greece, and later as Nuncio in Uganda. In 1983, on 6 January, the feast of the Epiphany, he was consecrated as a bishop by Pope John Paul II.

In 1990 Nuncio Rauber was tasked with the governance of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome. In 1993 he once again returned to diplomatic service as Apostolic Nuncio in Switzerland and Liechtenstein (1993-1997), in Hungary and Moldova (1997-2003) and in Belgium and Luxembourg (2003-2009), where he had begun his foreign diplomatic career in 1977. Aged 75, Rauber retired in 2009 and has served the Schönstatt sisters in Ergenzingen in the Diocese of Rotternburg-Stuttgart both pastorally and spiritually.

As Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Rauber was faced in some situations with difficult challenges for the Church: in Uganda he encountered the beginning of the AIDS epidemic among the population; in Switzerland he had to help resolve the conflicts in the Diocese of Chur; in Hungary it was the long-term consequences of the relations between Church and state in the Communist era; in the political landscape of Belgium the Church did not have an easy time; in Brussels the Holy See also established its diplomatic mission to the EU: Rauber was the right man for a sensible coordination and division of work for both missions in one place.

So we may be glad that Pope Francis chose to include, from the ranks of former papal diplomats, Karl-Josef Rauber among the especially honoured emeriti in this creation of cardinals. He has especially excelled in service to the world Church and the Pope in the second half of the twentieth century: by incorruptibility and independent judgement, candor and sincerity in dealing with others and modesty and humility in his actions. Through more than a few conversations over the past decade in Rome I know that many of his colleagues think highly of him and are happy to see him in Rome and elsewhere. True to his overall program Pope Francis has highly honoured a selfless diplomat in service to the Church. One may certainly see this is a somewhat belated recognition.

In the years of his high-level work in Rome and for the world Church, Nuncio Rauber has always maintained an active relationship with his native Diocese of Mainz, and the diocese has always accompanied him on his way. That was especially visible in his participation in many happy but also painful events in the diocese. On 13 April 2014 we celebrated his 80th birthday in Mainz.

On Sunday 4 January I congratulated him with his appointment: we are happy with and for him. We thank him for his great service and pray for him for God’s blessing for body and soul.”

Photo credit: Bistum Mainz/Blum

For Red Hat 2, Pope Francis looks even further beyond the expected

Well, at least I guessed one new cardinal right… With Pope Francis, it turns out that it is exceedingly difficult to see who he wants to see as new cardinals. Today, he appointed 20 new cardinals, the majority of whom will come from places few people will be familiar with, let alone associated with the red hat. In his first consistory he appointed only one cardinal who was not an archbishop, but this time around there are four. This consistory class is perhaps even more peripheral than the previous one, in the good and Franciscan sense of the word. And one of the new cardinals hails from Germany, and has links to Belgium and Luxembourg.

Some interesting facts that appear with a glance at the list of names. But who are the new cardinals? First, a list of those who are below 80 and can thus participate in a future conclave and will hold offices in the Curia:

  • mambertiArchbishop Dominique François Joseph Mamberti: Appointed by Pope Francis as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and President of the Supreme Court of the Vatican City State. This office is traditionally held by a cardinal. Cardinal-designate Mamberti was born in Marrakech, Morocco, but has French nationality. He was a priest of the Diocese of Ajaccio, and has a diplomatic career behind him as Apostolic Nuncio in Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea, followed by six years as Secretary for the Relations with States (something like the foreign secretary of the Holy See).
  • macario do nascimento clementePatriarch Manuel José Macário do Nascimento Clemente: Also a recent appointment and a traditional cardinalatial see, Patriarch Manuel has been the archbishop of Lisbon in Portugal since May of 2013. Before that he was an auxiliary bishop of Lisbon from 1999 to 2007, and Bishop of Porto from 2007 to 2013. He is a prolific author and early adopter of social media in Portugal.
  • souraphiel20Church1[1]Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel: The Archdiocese of Addis Abeba, which is part of the Ethiopic Rite of the Catholic Church, gets his second cardinal in this 66-year-old Lazarist bishop. Archbishop Souraphiel has been archbishop of the Ethiopian capital since 1999. Before that he was Provincial Superior of his order from 1990 to 1994, Vicar Apostolic of Jimma-Bonga from 1994 to 1997 ad Apostolic Administrator of Addis Abeba from 1997 to 1999. He is also the Chancellor of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.
  • JohnDewArchbishop John Atcherley Dew: The archbishop of Wellington in New Zealand stands in a tradition of cardinals: his three immediate predecessors were all cardinals as well. Archbishop Dew was Auxiliary Bishop of Wellington from 1995 to 2004, Coadjutor Archbishop of the same see from 2004 to 2005 and ultimately Archbishop.
  • menichelliArchbishop Edoardo Menichelli: The archbishop of Ancona-Osimo since 2004 is not the first cardinal from this see, but he is the first in 110 years. Before this, he was Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto between 1994 and 2004.

 

  • nguyen van nhonArchbishop Pierre Nguyễn Văn Nhơn: Sure to have an influence on the relations between the Holy See and Vietnam, the appointment of the Archbishop of Hanoi gives the Vietnamese capital its fourth cardinal and Vietnam as a whole its second. Before his appointment as archbishop of Hanoi, Archbishop Nguyễn (Pierre is his Christian first name, Văn Nhơn his Vietnamese, which comes after the family name) was Coadjutor Bishop of Đà Lat from 1991 to 1994, Bishop of the same diocese from 1994 to 2010, and Coadjutor Archbishop of Hanoi in 2010.
  • suárez indaArchbishop Alberto Suárez Inda: The first Archbishop of Morelia in Mexico to be made a cardinal, Archbishop Suárez Inda has held the office since 1995. Before that he was Bishop of Tacámbaro since 1985. Morelia, west of Mexico City, is an area marked by drug violence, which may be an indication for why Pope Francis chose to make the bishop there a cardinal.
  • maung boArchbishop Charles Maung Bo: The Catholics in Myanmar are slowly winning more freedom, and see this recognised by the Archbishop of Yangon being made a cardinal, the first in the country’s  history. Archbishop Bo has been Archbishop of Yangon since 2003. Before that, he was Bishop of Lashio from 1990 to 1996 and Bishop of Pathein from 1996 to 2003.
  • kriengsakArchbishop Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij: Neighbouring Myanmar, Thailand also gets a cardinal, its second one. Arcbishop Kriengsak Kovithavanij was Bishop of Nakhon Sawan from 2007 to 2009, after which he was made Archbishop of Bangkok.
  • montenegroArchbishop Francesco Montenegro: In an apparently clear reference to the Mediterranean refugee crisis, the Archdiocese of Agrigento in Sicily gets its first cardinal since the 17th century. The archdiocese includes the island of Lampedusa, where many refugees from Africa first arrive. Archbishop Montenegro was Auxiliary Bishop of Messina-Lipari-Santa Lucia del Mela between 2000 and 2008, before coming to Agrigento.
  • sturla berhouetArchbishop Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet: The Archbishop of Montevideo was appointed by Pope Francis in February of last year and will be the second cardinal of the Uruguayan capital. He was Auxiliary Bishop of Montevideo between 2011 and 2014. It is said that one Fr. Jorge Bergoglio was involved in protecting Sturla Berhouet from the dictatorship in Uruguay.
  • blazquezperezricardoArchbishop Ricardo Blázquez Pérez: The first Archbishop of Valladolid to be made a cardinal in almost a century, Archbishop Blázquez Perez  is the current President of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference. He was Auxiliary Bishop of Santiago do Compostela from 1988 to 1992, Bishop of Palencia from 1992 to 1995, Bishop of Bilbao from 1995 to 2010, and Archbishop of Valladolid since then.
  • lacunza maestrojuanBishop José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán: Only the third bishop and first cardinal from the Diocese of David in Panama. He will also be the first Panamanian cardinal. His diocese is located in the west of Panama, near the border with Costa Rica. In all senses a peripheral appointment, except for the fact that Bishop Lacunza Maestrojuán is the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Panama. Before coming to David, he was Auxiliary Bishop of Panama from 1985 to 1994, and Bishop of Chitré from 1994 to 1999.
  • gomes furtadoBishop Arlindo Gomes Furtado: From the island nation of Cape Verde, off the western African coast and closely connected to former coloniser Portugal, comes this bishop, the first cardinal in the country’s history. Cape Verde is largely Catholic, and Bishop Gomes Furtado is the Bishop of Santiago de Cabo Verde, the oldest of the nations two dioceses.
  • Bishop MafiBishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi: In the Pacific lies the island nation of Tonga, home to some 16,000 Catholics in one diocese. That diocese’s bishop is now being made the nation’s first cardinal. He is the President of the largest bishops’ conference in the world by territory, that of the Pacific, which covers almost all populated islands of the southern Pacific. Bishop Mafi was Coadjutor Bishop of Tonga from 2007 to 2008, and Bishop since 2008.

In addition to these cardinals, Pope Francis has also named five non-electors, cardinals over the age of 80 who are created in recognition of their work. They are:

  • pimiento rodriguezArchbishop José de Jesús Pimiento Rodriguez: Archbishop emeritus of Manizales in Colombia. He is the first cardinal to come from Manizales and the fourth living Colombian cardinal overall. He participated in all session of the Second Vatican Council. An Auxiliary Bishop of Pasto from 1955 to 1959, Bishop of Monteriá from 1959 to 1964, Bishop of Garzón from 1964 to 1975, and Archbishop of Manizales from 1975 to 1996.
  • De-MagistrisArchbishop Luigi de Magistris: Pro-Penitentiary of the Apostolic Signatura from 2001 to 2003, after having been Regent of the same tribunal since 1979.

 

  • rauberArchbishop Karl-Josef Rauber: The German retired diplomat whose last position, from 2003 to 2009, was that of Apostolic Nuncio to Belgium and Luxembourg. Archbishop Rauber was involved with preliminary investigations into the succession of Cardinal Danneels as archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and was almost called to explain to the Belgian government what Pope Benedict XVI meant with his comments about condom use in Africa to combat AIDS. Before coming to Belgium and Luxembourg, Archbishop Rauber was Nuncio in Uganda, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, Moldova and Hungary. He is currently residing in the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, where he is active in administring the sacrament of Confirmation.
  • villalbaArchbishop Luis Héctor Villalba: From Pope Francis’ native Argentina comes this retired Archbishop of Tucumán, which has never before had a cardinal. He was an auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires from 1984 to 1991 (before Pope Francis was archbishop there), Bishop of San Martín from 1991 to 1999 and Archbishop of Tucumán from 1999 to 2011.
  • Bishop Julio Duarte Langa:  Only the second native son of Mozambique to be made a cardinal, he was bishop of Xai-Xai from 1976 to 2004.

It seems that Pope Francis’ focus when it comes to cardinals is on the local situation: he does not feel limited by tradition, but appoints cardinals where he thinks they’ll do good. Of course, the contribution they can make to the Roman Curia is also an important factor, but that body in itself does not warrant the creation of cardinals except where necessary.

In this list, several appointment seem to support this: The archbishops of Hanoi, Yangon, Morelia and Agrigento all come from areas where the Church is in some situation of struggle or confronted with pressing social needs, such as drug violence in Morelia and the Mediterranean refugee crisis for Agrigento.

And the list of new cardinals is highly representative of the world Church: Africa, Asia, Latin America and even Oceania set the tone, with Europa represented with two Italians, and no North Americans on the list.

With the new cardinals, the total College of Cardinals will number 228, with 125 electors among them. That slightly exceeds the maximum of 120 set by Blessed Pope Paul VI, but that is the Pope’s prerogative. Barring any deaths, the limit of 120 will be reached again in February of 2016.

The upcoming consistory will include both the youngest and one of the oldest cardinals: Bishop Soane Mafi of Tonga is 53, more than 2 years younger than Cardinal Thottunkal, who is the youngest now; Archbishop José Pimiento Rodriguez is 95 and there are only two cardinals older than he is: Giovanni Canestri and Loris Capovilla.

Titles and deaconries

Of the twenty new cardinals, there will be one Cardinal-Deacon (Mamberti), while the rest will be Cardinal-Priests. As ever, the Pope si free to create new titles and deaconries for new cardinals, but in practice most will be given churches that are currently vacant. Among the deaconries there are 11 vacancies, while there are only 5 vacancies among the cardinal title churches. So we will undoubtedly see new title churches being created or cardinal deaconries being elevated to title churches. Anything’s possible, but still, some guesses:

  • San Antonio in Campo Marzo was the title of Cardinal Policarpo, the previous Patriarch of Lisbon, so the title may be given to his successor, Patriarch Macário do Nascimento Clemente.
  • San Marco has been the title of the Patriarchs of Venice since 1933, so it will probably remain vacant for now.
  • Santa Maria in Vallicella has previously been held by two cardinals from Oceania, so it is possible that this tradition will continue and it is given to Archbishop Dew of Bishop Mafi.
  • San Girolamo della Carità is a deaconry that may be elevated to a title church and given to Archbishop Villalba, as it was previously also held by an Argentinean, the recently deceased Cardinal Mejía.

Looking ahead to some future appointments

With the start of the new year, we can look ahead to some changes that may come up over the course of it. There will undoubtedly be plenty of surprises, but when it comes to bishops’ appointments, we can expect a few, and again most of them in Germany, although an important one will take place in Belgium.

lehmannThere are two active prelates in Germany who are over the age of 75. One of them is Cardinal Karl Lehmann (pictured), the bishop of Mainz, who will turn 79 on 16 May. He may retire this year, but it is also entirely possible that he will stay on until his 80th birthday, much like Cardinal Meisner in Cologne. We can’t judge if there is any recent tradition of late retirements in Mainz, as five of Cardinal Lehmann’s six immediate predecessors died in office, well before retirement age. The only exception is Cardinal Hermann Volk, who retired on his 79th birthday in 1982.

The other active prelate is Bishop Manfred Grothe, auxiliary bishop of Paderborn and Apostolic Administrator of Limburg. He will be 76 on 4 April. As a new bishop for Limburg is expected sometime this year, it is very likely that Bishop Grothe will retire from both his offices.

werbsTwo other German bishops will reach the age of 75 this year, and thus tender their resignation. Bishop Norbert Werbs (at right), auxiliary bishop of Hamburg, will reach the retirement age on 20 May, and Bishop Heinrich Mussinghoff of Aachen will do so on 29 October. For Hamburg, the retirement of Bishop Werbs will be the second step in the full changeover of the archdiocese’s bishops. Archbishop Thissen already retired last year, and the last auxiliary bishop, Hans-Jochen Jaschke, will follow late next year. A new archbishop and one or more new auxiliaries appear to be on the books this year.

The final, and perhaps biggest change this year, will be retirement of Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Mechelen-Brussels (pictured below). Even for this blog this will be a landmark, as his appointment back in 2010 marked one of the first major blog posts here, one that was copied and read by thousands of people.

léonardWho will succeed Archbishop Léonard is anyone’s guess, but if the tradition in Belgium is an indication, he will be from Flanders. Since 1832, the office of archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels has been alternately held by a Flemish and a Walloon prelate, and Archbishop Léonard hails from Namur. The bishops of Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp or Hasselt are possibilities, as are one of the three auxiliaries bishops of Mechelen-Brussels. If the successor already is a bishop, that is, and the whole idea of tradition may be ignored and another Walloon priest of bishop may be appointed. Whoever it will be, it will certainly be interesting.

And then, lastly, there will be new appointments. Berlin, Hamburg and Limburg are extremely likely, but we have seen that sometimes the waiting period is long. Still, Berlin and Hamburg are important and large sees, and for Limburg a new bishop will be a good step forwards towards permanency and a new beginning.

The Nuncio speaks – Archbishop Eterović on the state of the Church in Germany and abroad

eterovicArchbishop Nikola Eterović has been the Apostolic Nuncio to Germany since November of 2013. Katholisch.de interviewed him about a variety of subjects. I share some of his comments.

About his impressions of the German Church, which has been viewed critically across the world, he says:

“I consider the Catholic Church in this country to be very dynamic and involved. That is not easy, as Germany is very secularised, especially in major cities like Berlin. But the Church is well organised and wants to live according to the Gospel. That is seen, for example, in her role in society, by which she gives witness of Christ. In addition, the Church in Germany and also across the world, provides real aid, for example through Caritas and the relief agencies like Adveniat, Renovabis, Misereor, Missio, Church in Need, Bonifatiuswerk and others.”

Of course, as a diplomat the Nuncio needs to speak carefully. But that does not mean that the efforts of the Church in Germany are negligible. But there is always more than just the laudable work she does in the fields of charity, peace and justice, which becomes clear when Pope Francis’ recent comments that Europe is old and tired appear. Archbishop  Eterović says,

“In Germany the Church shows a decline in active faithful. And recently events have led to people leaving the Church because they no longer want to pay the Kirchensteuer [“Church tax” – ed]. I think that is quite problematic, and we need a new dynamic in catechesis, pastoral engagement, a new evangelisation. On the other hand I also see a certain passivity in individual faithful across Europe. In the end, more than 70 percent of the citizens of the European Union belong to a Christian confession. We must make use of that to better participate in society, for example to influence legislation when proposals do not meet with Christian ethics. In that way the “fatigue”, that the Holy Father spoke about, can be overcome.”

The Church tax, I have come increasingly to believe, is more than just problematic. Although the financial revenue may be used for good, it is a burden in the Church’s pastoral activities, as well as the faithful’s  access to the sacraments. The new dynamic mentioned by the Nuncio is the same “new evangelisation” that has been promoted by Pope Benedict XVI, and which now seems to have snowed under a bit. But we can’t allow it to be: we must take it up and make it happen.

The Nuncio also plays in important role in the selection and appointment of new bishops. In Germany, three dioceses – Berlin, Hamburg and Limburg – are awaiting a new bishop. Archbishop Eterović remains – rightly so – close-lipped about the state of these appointments:

“We follow the canonical rules and the respective concordats. The processes are ongoing, and I hope that the dioceses of Hamburg and Berlin will get new bishops in the coming year. The situation in Limburg is somewhat different. There is an Apostolic Administrator there, who is doing good work.”

Worldwide the Church is involved with politics, especially when it comes to peace, justice and development, as we have seen recently in the easing of relations between Cuba and the United States. But what about the influence of the Church on the regular faithful?

“We must in any case work on our pastoral care. Especially young people want to know what the Christian faith really means. With his charisma Pope Francis continuously manages to clarify the actuality of the Gospel and the message of Jesus. And I believe that the people out there are only waiting to rediscover this message: fraternal love and the love, justice and solidarity of God”.

Archbishop Nikola Eterović was born in Croatia in 1951 and ordained a priest of the Diocese of Hvar in 1977. In 1999 he was consecrated as Titular Archbishop of Sisak, and appointed as Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine. From 2004 to 2013 he was Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, and in 2013 he returned to the diplomatic service as Apostolic Nuncio to Germany. In 2009, he was given a new titular see, Vinkovci, as Sisak was re-established as a proper diocese in Croatia.