“We wanted him”

The religious priest Heiner Wilmer becomes the new bishop of Hildesheim. Representatives from the Church and politics congratulate the clergyman on his appointment. "We wanted it", the diocesan administrator is pleased.

The 56-year-old religious priest Heiner Wilmer is to be consecrated bishop in September in the Mariendom, the Vatican and the diocese of Hildesheim announced Friday. The former Superior General of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart priests moves from Rome to the Lower Saxon bishop's city and succeeds Norbert Trelle, who had been at the head of the diocese for eleven years.

Marx: Religious experience a good prerequisite for the office of bishop

The chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, congratulated Wilmer. The experience as a superior in the order and the many years of pastoral work are good prerequisites for the leadership of the diocese, said Marx. Wilmer is prepared for the new office in the best way.

Especially in northern Germany, it is essential that the new bishop promote the togetherness of all Christians, said Diocesan Administrator Nikolaus Schwedtfeger, who will lead the diocese until the new bishop is inaugurated. The appropriate handling of victims of sexualized violence also remains a decisive task.

"My hopes find a strong resonance in Heiner Wilmer" said Schwerdtfeger. "We have wanted him."That Wilmer comes to Hildesheim, makes him glad and grateful with all his heart.

Well suited in many respects

The German Province of the Priests of the Sacred Heart has reacted with joy to the appointment of a bishop for its religious superior. The diocese in Hildesheim receives a very good bishop, said the German provincial, Father Heinz Lau. Father Wilmer is in many respects well suited for the episcopate – humanly, spiritually, pastorally, and in leadership tasks.

The Archbishop of Hamburg Stefan Hebe welcomed his new brother priest. With Wilmer, an expert in theology, education and with great leadership experience will become bishop, he said.

"I am pleased that the new bishop of Hildesheim comes from our diocese, from Schapen," said Osnabruck Bishop Franz-Josef Bode. He had long led the Gymnasium Leoninum in Handrup with ideas and prudence.

Malteser: "To everything God's blessing"

Also the Malteser in the diocese of Hildesheim congratulate Father Dr. Heiner Wilmer SCJ cordially to the appointment as bishop of Hildesheim. "For his episcopal ministry, we Maltese wish the newly appointed a seeing eye, an open ear, good judgment and, above all, God's blessing," reads an official statement.

"We will faithfully stand by Father Wilmer, as we did his predecessors, in service to others, in accordance with our motto: 'Tuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum – witnessing to the faith and helping those in need'."

Evangelical Lutheran Church: important impulses for ecumenism

For the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover, Bishop Ralf Meister expressed congratulations. He was very pleased that Wilmer had already mentioned his anticipation of ecumenical solidarity in his introduction, said Meister's letter published on Friday. He, too, is looking forward to continuing and deepening the "trusting relationship.

The churches are facing common challenges, said the regional bishop. Especially social questions need ecumenical answers. It is the common mission of all Christians to help the poor and needy. "I am sure that you will bring important impulses into our cooperation from your spiritual path and your solidarity with Lower Saxony."

Congratulations from the government of Lower Saxony

The government of Lower Saxony also congratulated the priest Heiner Wilmer on his appointment as bishop of Hildesheim. "I am very much looking forward to a continued good and constructive cooperation with the Catholic Church and the diocese of Hildesheim," said Minister President Stephan Weil (SPD) on Friday in Hanover.

With Wilmer, the state government now has a competent contact person again who can show an impressive curriculum vitae that is also influenced by Lower Saxony. "In addition to his religious expertise, his extensive pedagogical experience will help make him an important interlocutor for us," Weil said.

From the farm in Emsland to Rome

Wilmer was elected on 9. Born April 1961 in Schapen in Emsland and grew up on a farm. After graduating in 1980 from the Leoninum in Handrup, a high school run by the Sacred Heart priests, he entered the order's novitiate in Freiburg.

From 1981 to 1986, he studied theology in Freiburg and Romance languages and literature in Paris. He was ordained a priest in 1987. He then went to Rome to the Pontifical Gregorian University to study French philosophy.

After earning a doctorate in theology and a teaching degree in history, Wilmer went to the U.S. in 1997 for a year to teach at a Jesuit high school in New York's Bronx.

"Hunger for freedom" – book about Christian roots

Wilmer became provincial of the German Province of the Sacred Heart Priests in 2007, and since 2015 has served as superior general in Rome, heading the order, which is involved in education and other areas. In 2013, he published the book "God is not nice" about his faith and his life decision to become a priest.

In March, he published "Hunger for Freedom" about the Christian roots of the Occident. Numerous challenges await the new bishop in Hildesheim. Among other things, he will have to restore the credibility of the church there after several allegations of abuse. The diocese counts about 610.000 Catholics and stretches from the Harz Mountains to the North Sea.

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