Continue as before?

Continue as before?

Vitus Huonder © Georges Scherrer (KNA)

In Switzerland there is confusion about a decision of the Pope. This is because the latter did not accept the age-related request for resignation of the Bishop of Chur Vitus Huonder. So, everything continues as before with the Confederates?

Interviewer: Bishop Vitus Hounder is one of the more controversial bishops in the Catholic Church. The bishop of Chur in Switzerland has been urged to resign by social groups for years now. Two years ago he was denounced by a homosexual association in Switzerland for allegedly inciting violence against gays.

Vitus Hounder has now turned 75, retirement age for a bishop. But the pope has decided that the head of the diocese of Chur will remain in office for at least two more years. Leaving aside the political dimension, it is already a problem from an organizational point of view if you are prepared to have a new bishop and then he doesn't come after all.

Josef Annen (vicar general for the cantons of Zurich and Glarus, which belong to the diocese of Chur): I did not anticipate that the new boss would be at the door so quickly. But I am surprised that there has been such a quick response from the Pope to the request for resignation. Bishop Huonder is on 21. April 75 years old. Today we have the 4. May. So this answer must have been prepared for some time. It is one of the three possible options after the resignation of a bishop.

There is an extension until a certain date, there comes a diocesan administrator or there comes an apostolic administrator. Now the solution has been made that we already had with his predecessor. He also stayed two years longer. Then a bishop election has been held relatively quickly. So this is within the possibilities that are given.

Interviewer: Do you see a political significance in the decision?

Annen: I cannot interpret what all this means. I can only say that the apostolic nuncio in Switzerland has told us that an election will come quickly. Either already in autumn this year or then at the latest in spring 2018.

Interviewer: Now, what the apostolic administrator told the assembled priesthood just a few weeks ago is also not true. What does it mean?

Annen: It means that the succession of bishop Vitus is really carefully prepared. After Bishop Vitus we want a constructive personality who can create unity in the diocese again.

Interviewer: Bishop Huonder polarizes. It is said that he never succeeded in reconciling the conservative and liberal forces in the diocese of Chur. What does that mean for the diocese now – seen over the next two years??

Annen: The next two years will continue as it has been so far. That means I do not expect a new direction now. Of course, I do not know what is written in the letter of the Pope to Bishop Vitus. We don't know all that. He simply told us that he would remain in office for two more years and that the Pope's confidence pleased him very much. Everything else we do not know. That's just conjecture then.

The interview was conducted by Renardo Schlegelmilch.

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