Berlin archbishop named after election held

Pope Francis has named a new archbishop for Berlin in Germany, following a local election.

Francis named Bishop Heiner Koch of Dresden-Meissen to the position.

The right to elect their own bishops, from a “terno”, or list of three candidates approved by Rome, is still held by 13 of Germany’s 27 dioceses and archdioceses.

This is under the terms of the Vatican’s 1929 concordat with Prussia, an agreement which was revived after Germany’s reunification in 1989.

The archdiocese of Salzburg, Austria, and the dioceses of Basel, Chur and Sankt Gallen in Switzerland, have the same election rights.

Under the concordat rules, the state governments of Berlin, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern had to be officially notified of Bishop Koch’s election.

This could only be confirmed by the Pope if these bodies raised “no concerns of a political nature”.

Stefan Forner, a spokesperson for Berlin archdiocese, confirmed that the voting is secret and there is no public consultation as in Germany’s Protestant churches.

“There’ve been calls to make the election procedures clearer and more transparent, but this wouldn’t reflect Catholic tradition,” Mr Forner said.

“Nor could our German system be easily reproduced in other countries.”

He admitted that questions are sometimes raised as to whether this system allows for genuine choice or not.

Vatican and church leaders traditionally had been glad to seek government approval, as a means of avoiding conflict, Mr Forner added.

Bishop Koch, 61, was elected on June 2 to succeed Cardinal Rainer Woelki, who was transferred to Cologne archdiocese in July, 2014 after three years as archbishop of Berlin.

Bishop Koch will attend October’s synod of bishops on the family in Rome.

He has said that describing homosexuality as a sin is “hurtful”.

He has also indicated an openness to allowing Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics.

Local media have described Bishop Koch as “a churchman in the spirit of Pope Francis” who would approach his tasks “without ideological blinders”.

Only 10 per cent of Berlin’s population is Catholic.


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