Shepherd with a sense of humor and a penchant for thinking differently

Shepherd with a sense of humor and a penchant for thinking differently

Bishop Franz-Josef Bode turns 65 © Jens Wolf

He was present at practically all important church decisions in recent years: Osnabruck's Bishop Franz-Josef Bode. On Tuesday he will be 65 years old.

His speech on the occasion of his 20th anniversary as bishop of Osnabruck in November bore the motto "Actually, I'm quite different, it's just that I so rarely get to be". Many hope that Franz-Josef Bode will remain exactly as he is: a shepherd with a sense of humor and the courage to think differently. On Tuesday the popular church man becomes 65 years old.

Bishop in the Osnabruck diocese for more than 20 years

Bode has repeatedly made a name for himself with initiatives for a contemporary church that is oriented toward the people. For more than 20 years, the native of East Westphalia has been available to the approximately 570.000 Catholics in the diocese of Osnabruck before. When the then auxiliary bishop of Paderborn on 26. When he took the helm of the Lower Saxony diocese in November 1995, he was Germany's youngest diocesan bishop at the age of 44.

Bishop by measure

Bode exercised his office as Catholic "youth bishop" for 14 years with humor and great appeal; among his target group, he was simply "BiBo". In the meantime, he is chairman of the pastoral commission of the German Bishops' Conference and also shows himself to be open and open to discussion, able to listen and attaching importance to regular contact with the "everyday world". For many, the calm and modest theologian is a bishop made to measure.

Bode was born on 16. He was born in Paderborn on February 1, 1951, and grew up in the village of Etteln, together with four older sisters – a circumstance he likes to emphasize with gratitude. After studying theology in Paderborn, Regensburg and Munster, he was ordained priest in 1975. As a prefect in the Paderborn theological seminary, Bode accompanied the candidates for the priesthood. The title of his dissertation "Communion with the Living God" is still a valid motto for Bode today.

Participant in the 2015 Synod on the Family

Bode is by no means a "loudspeaker" within the Bishops' Conference. But he gained respect beyond German borders through his tasks and his courageous actions in crucial places. Thus he was instrumental in the success of the 2005 World Youth Day in Cologne. And when the diocese of Essen withdrew its role as host before the Katholikentag 2008 for financial reasons, he stepped into the breach. He also worked in the steering group of the dialogue process of the Bishops' Conference and was an elected member of the German language group at the Vatican Synod on the Family last October.

Appreciation for the laity

His unagitatedly open attitude is repeatedly made clear by gestures: in Advent 2010, for example, Bode, who at times seems almost shy, offered his apology for the cases of abuse in his diocese during a penitential service in the cathedral. In 2002, he was the first bishop in Germany to entrust a woman with the leadership of the pastoral office. And of appreciation for the laity he speaks not only. He actually gives them a lot of leeway by letting them participate in key decisions.

In parts of the church, however, the bishop's manner occasionally causes offence: For example, when he brings up the ie of the diaconate for women. His regret that the "confession of guilt" proposed by the German language group did not find a majority for the final text of the Synod on the Family may have irritated some as well. It was about an admission of guilt of the church because of unmercifulness in the interpretation of the Catholic moral teaching among other things against single mothers, homosexuals, divorced and remarried people. Bode's enduring credo: Church must take into account reality of people's lives.

Birthday during bishops' conference

Bode spends his birthday in the company of his fellow bishops at the spring plenary meeting in Schontal Monastery. At the celebration of his 60th birthday. Five years ago, the concern of Osnabruck Catholics for the whereabouts of their popular chief shepherd was clearly expressed.

In fact, there is hardly a bishop vacancy in Germany for which Bode has not been or will not be acted upon. And due to pending age-related retirements of colleagues, job openings for bishops remain respectable. It remains to be seen whether Bode will spend the last ten years until his mandatory retirement in Osnabruck. He has what it takes for "greater things," many attest to him.

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