Belgium, Czech Republic

Belgium: the resignations of the bishop of BrugesBenedict XVI accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Bruges (Belgium), presented by Msgr. Roger Joseph Vangheluwe. The Vatican Press Office released the news past April 23rd. A press conference on the issue took place in Brussels attended by Msgr. Vangheluwe and by the new archbishop of Malines-Bruxelles, Msgr. André-Mutien Léonard. “When I served as a simple priest and for a certain period at the beginning of my episcopate – admitted Msgr. Vangheluwe in a written statement posted on the website of the Belgian bishops’ conference – I sexually abused of a young man in my own environment. The victim still bears the scars. During the past decades I repeatedly admitted my culpability to him, to his family, and pleaded forgiveness. But he was not pacified. And nor am I”. The past weeks’ media tempest, he added, has “further worsened the trauma. This situation cannot continue. I am deeply ashamed for what I did and I present my sincere apologies to the family, to the entire Catholic community and to society as a whole. I presented my resignation as bishop of Bruges to pope Benedict XVI” and since they have been accepted “I will withdraw”. During the press conference archbishop Léonard said: “This is a very serious situation. Our thoughts go to the victim and to the family first of all”. “The decision of the bishop of Bruges and the organization of this press conference respond to the wish for transparency that the Catholic Church in Belgium rigorously wishes to apply to the subject”. “It is evident that this event will cause much pain to Belgium’s Catholic community, especially since bishop Vangheluwe was considered generous and dynamic, and was deeply appreciated in his dioceses and in the Belgian Church”. “We, his confreres, are aware of the crisis in faith that this will cause to numerous persons – he added -. However we rest assured that wisdom will prevail and that the bishops and especially the priests of this Country will not be discredited, since the great majority lead a life that is conform to their vocation”. The issue has not been pacified and the media reported the accusations of a Flemish priest, the curate of Buizingen Rik Devillé, against card. Godfried Danneels, at the lead of the Church of Belgium from 1979 to 2009. Devillé claims that in the years 1992 to 1998 some 300 cases of sexual abuse by priests were filed to the archbishopric but only fifteen were followed through, and most were not reported to the police. The alleged ignored cases – according to the ‘dissident priest’ – include those regarding Vangheluwe. In a written statement Cardinal Godfried Danneels firmly denied that he deliberately covered up the case and assured that “he learned about the abuses only at the beginning of April, and by Msgr. Vangheluwe in person”. “I never took initiatives to conceal or silence these cases. I feel hurt by the accusations and the doubts regarding that meeting, as if I had wanted to cover up the crimes. I tried to help and be of service to the bishop and to the family”. Czech Republic: Msgr. Duka, President of the bishops A few days ago the 80th plenary meeting of the Czech bishops conference closed in Prague. During the meeting Msgr. Dominik Duka, archbishop in Prague, was elected President of the Bishops’ Conference. Msgr. Jan Graubner, archbishop of Olomouc and former head of the Czech Catholic Church serves as vice-President. The bishops opened the meeting with a Mass co-celebrated with apostolic nuncio Msgr. Diego Causero as a token of appreciation for the fifth anniversary of the pontificate of Benedict XVI. During the meeting, in a reflection on the Church in contemporary society, the president-elect of the Bishops’ Conference said, “The media campaign against the Church and the Pope is deeply rooted”. Msgr. Duka underlined the “unacceptable sexual abuses” and recalled the measures adopted by the Church during the pontificate of John Paul II and of Benedict XVI, and quoted from the Pope’s recent letter to the Catholics of Ireland. During the plenary the bishops discussed the ratification of the treaty between the Czech Republic and the Holy See, the resolution of the State-Church dispute on property and the titularity of the Saints Wenceslas, Vitus and Adalbert Cathedral. Msgr. Duka presented a proposal based on the reconciliation with the local authorities to end the yearlong dispute over the restitution of the symbol of Prague.

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